Published Jun 01, 2016Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.
In 2006, Joe Rogan still didn't quite get the respect he deserved as a comedian, even though he'd been touring as one for 15 years. It was a polarizing time to be a standup fan for sure, with Dane Cook's Retaliation going platinum (and subsequently becoming the most successful comedy album debut since Steve Martin's A Wild and Crazy Guy in 1978), ushering in a whole new era of angry, white male humour for frat bros across the continent.
And here was Rogan, a former martial arts champion-turned-News Radio star-turned-host of Fear Factor, a show in which competitors were forced to face their fears through embarrassing challenges (with many episodes, for some reason, ending in people scarfing down bull testicles). You'd be forgiven if you thought he was an idiot, or, at the very least, a sick fuck who took pleasure in inflicting punishment on people.
But from the outset of Live, his second standup special, it becomes abundantly clear that Rogan is no knucklehead and probably one of the more self-aware comedians — of himself, of his place in his surroundings — around (even though he plays dumb from time to time).
"If you're a Fear Factor fan don't get to used to it, because we are running out of shit to do to these fucking idiots," he says in his first bit. "I thought it was going to be cancelled immediately. That's why I was willing to do it in the first place."
The intro acts a strong example of the line that runs through his 2007 special: how stupid people are (including, sometimes, himself). His bits run from the political (George W. Bush, then in his second term, was a test to see just how dumb Americans really were) to the sexual (he flails around like Pingu high on Spanish fly multiple times to demonstrate people having sex) and is mostly concerned with how far society has fallen as it's evolved over time.
At one point, he lays down some knowledge about the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and says their creation must have been due to some master race that got out-fucked by all the dumb people in the world, and went extinct. The film even starts with Rogan delivering a monologue in the back of a limo while shots from a plane flying over Los Angeles flash across the screen and he describes how the human race is more like a bacteria that will one day be wiped from the earth. These riffs on the decline of civilization are the strongest; his jokes about men getting penis enlargement surgery to such a grotesque extent that women have to get tendons at the back of their jaws surgically removed so they can fellate them… less so.
But for every needlessly bawdy bit, there's one about the sorry state of the world that will make you think, in a sitting around a dorm room smoking pot kind of way. And although some of the jokes haven't aged well (references to Punk'd and cell phones definitely place it in the mid-aughts), Live is worth a watch for any fans of his podcast, or those who want to see what he was like before being widely known as some sort of blue-collar, psychedelic warrior.