Boston comic Joe Rogan learns his craft by its downfalls

| Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When Joe Rogan gets aggravated — which is most of the time — his gruff voice will oscillate into the upper register, where it's not hard to hear the outraged cadences of the late screamer Sam Kinison.

Some comics have a chip on their shoulder, but Rogan, who performs Saturday at Carnegie Library Music Hall in Munhall, seems to carry a surfboard. This is the guy who confronted Carlos Mencia onstage at the Comedy Store in 2007 and accused him of stealing other comedian's material.

Maybe it's because he grew up in Boston, home of verbal Beantown brawlers such as Denis Leary and Louis C.K.

"Boston is a pretty combative town," he says. "It's cold, the women are ugly, everybody is angry. It's a no-nonsense town. Some of the best comics you've never heard of came out of Boston in the '80s."

During his stand-up act, he's likely to take a verbal blowtorch to topics such as suicide bombers, our dependence on technology and "Fear Factor," the reality show he hosted from 2001-2006. NBC announced earlier this month that it is reviving the show, but whether Rogan will return as host is unclear.

Beneath Rogan's bluff, burly exterior is a nimble and curious mind.

"I think a lot about (stuff)," he says. "I have a lot of time. That's one of the most important things for a comic, is curiosity, and time and writing."

Rogan first tried stand-up in 1998 at an open-mic night. He wanted to see whether he could win over audiences with the same kind of bantering and badgering that made his buddies laugh. He says he was encouraged when he saw how awful the other comics were.

"Once you see amateurs at open-mic night, it gives you courage," he says.

He would need it after he committed to comedy full time and endured the purgatory of bombing onstage.

"It's emotionally devastating," he says. "You think it's the end of the world. It's like losing a dog."

But he's nothing if not tenacious.

"Your have to bomb," he says. "If you don't feel that pain, you don't feel the urgency to develop and learn."

Rogan also played electrician Joe Garrelli in the hit NBC sitcom "News Radio" from 1995 to '99. But he says he'll always stick with stand-up, which he calls, "The main plot line through my entire life."

"The focus is always on putting together a great show. I don't want it to be a means to every other point of success, to get on a sitcom or to get on a movie. I just want my set to be funny. I want it to be well-written."

Additional Information:

Joe Rogan

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Carnegie Library Music Hall, 510 E. 10th Avenue, Munhall

Admission: $25-$32

Details: 412-368-5225 or website

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