Fans of Joe Rogan's podcast will not be surprised to find that the comedian and former reality show host turned UFC announcer begins his special, Triggered, with a bit about the far-out effects of edibles. And much like his podcast, Rogan doesn't pigeon-hole himself to one topic for too long; instead he fluidly examines a wide range of popular topics while offering an equally diverse set of conservative and progressive insights.
What is refreshing about watching Rogan perform is the unpredictability about the direction he will take a bit, or the opinion he is trying to convey on any given subject. Appearance-wise, Rogan looks like the imposing man that is paid to cover the most brutal and violent sport in the world. Personality-wise, he speaks like the marijuana advocate whose other profession is to interview fascinating and often alternative thinkers.
Superficially, these two facets of his life present an incongruous dichotomy. In reality, Rogan reconciles these opposing personalities effortlessly, which adds to the intrigue of the set; beyond the standard of simply riffing on any one thing, Rogan makes it difficult to determine where he stands on any topic when he begins. That is why when he starts a rant concerning Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump or Mormons, you can never be entirely certain of his intention to either build the subject up or tear it down.
The dichotomy of his persona is also reflected in his physicality during performance. It must be reiterated that Rogan is a large man that trains in Mixed Martial Arts, yet he bounces and hops around the stage like a playful kid, at one moment mimicking the inquisitive nature of dolphins, the next moment pretending to break into the White House. To judge by appearances, Rogan doesn't come across as someone who takes himself lightly, yet one of his best lines — when arguing that it isn't regressive to think Caitlyn Jenner is unsightly — is that he can't insult anyone's attractiveness because he looks like a big thumb with two thumbs. But even more vital to Rogan's intention during this bit is his acknowledgment of the daily plights of transgender people. Despite the sympathetic declaration, he knows he will be scrutinized for the statement being perceived as being politically incorrect and impersonates a smug hypothetical critic scolding that "what you're saying is horribly transphobic and regressive. It's embarrassing. You're only doing this to get laughs" and Rogan answers this possible detractor with "Maybe!"
What must be appreciated in Rogan's efforts to shed an alternative light on popular culture is that he is well-researched, sympathetic, aware of various discourses, and acknowledges the opinions of others. Comparably, he reaffirms that, in an increasingly polarized society, we don't have to implicitly subscribe to all the opinions of any one ideology, be it liberal, conservative, or otherwise. Rogan is a genuinely bi-partisan comedian that willfully admits that living with three daughters and a wife is slowly softening him and deteriorating his manhood, but he's never been happier; he will also tell you that our world is upside down because "you give kids participation trophies for getting their ass kicked in soccer games."
This is large risk to take when taping your special in front of a primarily liberal San Francisco crowd, but it works for Rogan because his bits are equal parts challenging, unique and silly.
Exclaim! 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.