Joe Rogan’s Main Memories of His Father Were ‘Brief, Violent Flashes of Domestic Violence’

Joe Rogan reminds us of squeamish evenings spent on our couches, cringing while we watched contestants do horrifying things at the chance to put some cash in their pockets. Aside from Fear Factor, Rogan is also an accomplished comedian and has been a UFC commentator for years. He’s led a very successful career, despite a rocky childhood and a strained relationship with his father. 

Who is Joe Rogan?

Joe Rogan at a live performance.
Joe Rogan | Getty Images

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Rogan is well-known for hosting the popular reality show, Fear Factor. For six seasons, Rogan dared brave contestants to face their fears, like climbing into boxes full of scorpions or stuffing buffalo testicles down their throats. The show originally ran from 2001-2006, and then Rogan returned to host two more seasons in 2011. The show was later revived by MTV and hosted by Ludacris. 

Rogan’s big break came before Fear Factor, however. In 1995, he landed the role of Joe Garelli in the NBC sitcom, NewsRadio. Garelli was the handyman at the fictional radio station, a role that originally was supposed to go to Ray Romano. Romano only made it through one audition, however, and was replaced by Greg Lee for the first episode. Lee was then replaced by Rogan, who stayed in the role until 1999. 

In 2002, Rogan put his talents to use as a color commentator for the UFC. He also has an impressive career as a stand-up comedian, not afraid to push the envelope with vulgarity and taboo subjects. In 2003, Rogan began hosting The Man Show on Comedy Central. He’s also had roles in several films, including Zookeeper and Here Comes the Boom

What was his childhood like? 

Joe Rogan
Joe Rogan | Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images

Rogan was born in Newark, New Jersey. His parents divorced when he was five years old. He and his mother moved to California two years later, where his mother remarried. They lived in San Francisco until Rogan was 11, when they moved to Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts. 

Rogan attended Newton South High School, and began practicing martial arts when he was 14. He quickly found that he had a knack for it, winning the U.S. Open Taekwondo Championship at 19 years old. The intense training and fighting took a toll on his health, and he stopped competing when he was 21 due to head injuries. 

The next stop on his journey was UMass, but Rogan eventually learned that college life was not for him. He dropped out after a couple years, and began to pick up odd jobs around Boston. He worked as a newspaper delivery man, a driver for a private investigator, and a martial arts teacher. That’s when he began to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. 

Rogan’s relationship with his father

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In a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Rogan mentions how he felt like an outsider as a kid. He wasn’t bullied or picked on, but he worried that he was a weird loser who didn’t fit in. He had friends, but was in constant fear of being suddenly ditched by everyone. Those worries probably had something to do with the relationship (or lack thereof) that he had with his father. 

Rogan’s father was a police officer, and before his parents divorced, he remembers a childhood marked by violence. He described his dad as a “very violent, scary guy.” After they moved to California, he never heard from his father again.

Rogan remembers one incident from his childhood that defines the type of person his dad always was, “when I was five, I had a fight with one of my cousins — punched him in the face over something stupid — and his mother was screaming to my parents, ‘Your son’s a little monster. He punched my kid in the face!’ My dad pulled me aside and I told him the truth of what happened. He said, ‘Did you cry?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Good, don’t ever cry.’ I mean, he was happy that I punched my cousin.”

His father is now retired, and still living in New Jersey. He seems to want nothing to do with the allegations against him, only saying “I don’t talk about people the way they talk about me. That’s not in my DNA. What’s gone is gone.”