Joe Rogan's a busy guy. He just released a new live comedy CD, Shiny Happy Jihad. On the 19th, his first hour comedy special premieres on Showtime. He's got an ongoing gig as a UFC color commentator, an upcoming DVD, and somehow he still finds time to police the comedy world. I recently spoke to Joe about the difference between fighting and comedy, getting high before Fear Factor, and Carlos Mencia.

A lot of people who know you primarily from shows like NewsRadio and Fear Factor don’t realize how long you’ve been doing stand-up.

August 7th, 1988 was the first time I got on stage at Stich’s Comedy Club in Boston. The more I did other stuff, the more I realized what I really enjoy is stand-up. I like going to see a great stand-up more than anything else. I saw Blades of Glory last night – great movie, hilarious movie – but it’s never as funny as going to see a Dave Chappelle concert. Stand up comedy is the most rewarding art form both to perform and to watch.

Even less people realize you were a Tae Kwan Do champion. How does being a fighter translate to comedy?

I’ve been doing martial arts most of my life, longer than comedy, longer than anything. It was my whole life. One of the more positive aspects of martial arts is that it’s a vehicle for developing your human potential. You learn a lot about yourself in fighting. It translates through clarity. Learning martial arts early in life gives you a certain amount of clarity, a different way of looking things.

How does the fighting compare to going on stage?

Going on stage scares me more. The first time I didn’t think I was going to be that nervous. I had already fought a bunch of times in full contact tournaments where people were getting knocked out all the time, but it still wasn’t as scary as doing stand-up.

I’ve talked to fighters that are pretty funny guys and I say “have you ever thought of doing standup” and they’re like “fuck that, that shit’s scary.” People can accept fighting – the idea of people getting up there and throwing bombs at each other – but the idea of standing on your own with a microphone in front of a bunch of people who are judging you is frightening. The hate people have for you when you suck as a comedian is very difficult to describe. It feels like sucking a thousand dicks in front of your mother. It’s a horrible feeling, the energy is very real

If you weren’t funny, would you have kept fighting?

Before the UFC, there wasn’t really a venue. There was no money. If the UFC was around back then, for sure I would have done it. 100%. That’s why I have such a connection to it. There’s something very pure about competition as opposed to even comedy. In fighting, there’s a very definitive ending. When a guy kicks your ass, there’s no getting around it. That’s the end. It’s not like “the crowd wasn’t good tonight.” It’s very cut and dry.

On Shiny Happy Jihad you talk about getting high before taping Fear Factor. Did you ever freak out watching someone bob for rats?

I would freak out whether I was stoned or not. What I say on the CD about not believing it was a real job is true. Fear Factor was a freak show. I had to deal with these people all day long, and when you’re with these knuckle-heads eight hours a day sometimes you want to fucking kill them. They’re the type of people I avoid at all costs in real life, and I’m hanging out with them for long stretches of time. That’s why pot made it way easier, I was much more relaxed in dealing with them. I just didn’t take it as seriously.

We’ve posted some of the videos of your feud with Mencia on CollegeHumor, and every single comment was supportive of you…

You know why? ‘Cause it’s college humor. That implies people who are smart. The only people that aren’t behind me on this are people who are so stupid they don’t care if someone steals someone else’s artwork, and people that don’t have an internet connection.

So why does Comedy Central keep the show on?

It’s commerce. They are selling advertising revenue and there’s a lot of money in playing the race card. That’s what he does. His whole schtick is about race and it’s the most hackneyed obvious bullshit. And that’s fine! If you want to do hackneyed obvious bullshit, I don’t care. The real problem is he’s a plagiarist. I’ve heard people get angry at Larry the Cable Guy or Carrot Top, and that doesn’t make sense to me. The real problem is plagiarism, and that’s where Comedy Central is fucking up. At this point, it’s very clear that they represent a plagiarist. And the fact they didn’t do anything about that, that they didn’t step up and yank that guy, that sends a very dangerous message.

Joke stealing is an old problem, but by tackling it publicly and using the Internet, you’ve brought it into the spotlight. Do you regret taking up the fight?

No, I don’t regret it. The beautiful thing about the Internet is that if you feel you’re being misrepresented, you can go online and write a blog entry. You say, “this is what I think.” The problem with the past was there was no outlet like that. When Robin Williams was stealing people’s shit in the 80’s, what are you going to do? There was no Internet back then. Are you going to get on the Johnny Carson show and use your five minutes to complain about Robin Williams? There’s no greater tool for distributing the truth than the Internet. There are guys like the Dennis Learys and Robin Williams who have made success off other people’s backs and gotten away with it – those days are over. The Internet has changed the rules.

Were you two ever friends?

Yeah, we were friends when I first moved to LA. In 1994, he was just another comedian at the Comedy Store. Just a guy nobody had ever of. He went on stage as Carlos, but he would tell you his real name is Ned.

Doesn't accusing someone of joke stealing make people more likely to spend time finding stolen material? Isn't it kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

If you went over 100 different comedians’ acts, you might find a few similar premises and a few similar switcheroo jokes where it’s like “you think it’s this, but it’s like gradma, get out of there!” But that’s parallel thinking. What’s not parallel thinking is when you see one guy who has fifty other guys’ shit.

Without a doubt there is parallel thinking. I’ve been on both sides of it. I’ve had it with my friends, but I know they just came up with a very similar premise. But when you see it happen over and over, and when you see it happen from someone who isn’t an intelligent person, that’s how you know you’re being duped.

When you see someone who makes their living off selling creative people’s work, whether it’s Comedy Central or the Comedy Store, and they actually support the person who is stealing because that person can get them more money than the artist, that’s when things get fucking crazy. And that’s when someone needs to step up and do something. And that’s where we are now.