The world’s most popular podcaster, UFC pundit, and supplement salesperson has put together a stand-up rally for his first UK arena gig that will energize his base while heroically tilting at the windmill of critical condemnation.
Although Joe Rogan’s audience doesn’t quite fill The O2, the price of the nosebleed seats—a group of podcast friends in sharp matching suits who were brought together by their unsettling obsession with trans athletes—means that Rogan can probably afford the return flights for himself and his three support acts.
The audience has invested. They have a particular bond with Joe, therefore they don’t mind traveling to the worst arena in the nation to see him. Joyful clouds of berry-flavored vape smoke float above the enormous arena like bog gas. It’s not as purely male as you might anticipate; there are perhaps 15% women in the audience, and while they initially speak up loudly, they gradually get quieter as the comedians introduce their material.
American-Korean comic The first speaker is Hans Kim, who playfully declares that he is gender fluid to jeers from the audience. He starts off by using a couple of mid-level slurs to set the tone before quickly moving on to topics like Asian stereotypes, trans athletes, and the distinctions between men and women. He appears to play a kind of beta-male position in the group, or at the very least, he is the only comedian who portrays anything resembling low rank.
In The O2, where laughter is typically reduced to a type of ambient wind, Brian Simpson comes dangerously close to bombing. His rambling narration and strangled delivery are ineffective with this audience.
He makes a telling self-correction to the R-word when he starts to state something is “crazy.” Even when he goes into “the three reasons why I’d punch a woman in the face,” he seems the least comfortable in front of this crowd and is a milder presence than the situation warrants.
Reviewers and sensitive viewers are prodded throughout the presentation to take offense and to misinterpret quotes, like I just did. Therefore, for the sake of fairness, the context is that they’re being a little sardonic about it.
The terribly bleak final argument Tony Hinchcliffe was grinning more than you may assume was healthy. He refers to his return after being “cancelled” a year earlier for racist remarks made toward an Asian comic by declaring that “The Comeback Era has begun.” When he makes a reference to Liz Truss, he receives the loudest laugh of the evening, but his unique perspective on trans athletes casts a shadow over everyone who is still on the fence.
Rogan finally enters, getting up and yelling, saying, “The problem with humor these days… It turns out that the things he says are being recorded by reviewers. Rogan is skilled and certain, technically sound, and comfortable in the character of the obnoxious overbearing uncle. The crowd, which is made up of hundreds of present and prospective overbearing uncles, responds favorably to his performance.
There is an intriguing conflict between his totally poisonous masculinity and the part of him that enjoys taking mushrooms and professing his love for all people, despite the fact that these are common personality traits.
He claims that because of his love, he could never be homophobic, but in spite of his protestations, he practices homophobia in an oddly literal sense, going through rituals that appear to be based on a genuine concern for gay men, what they might do to him, and the possibility of him coming out as gay. He might be less paranoid if he used less marijuana, but that’s probably the only thing that might still potentially harm his reputation.
It does make one wonder why he cares so much about whether people believe he’s homophobic, sexist, or racist. He is definitely all three, according to the majority of people, but it doesn’t seem like it should matter to him. It’s fascinating that he keeps referring back to the critics and what he is or is not permitted to say from his enormous $200 million platform given how strongly individualist and careless his entire stance is.
He frequently challenges us to complain on Twitter about the numerous “unsayable” things that are uttered on stage, much like his support acts, which would feel more courageous if they weren’t so stringent about making sure our phones were in secured bags.
He makes a valid point when addressing the complex problem of scientific misunderstanding when he claims that it is your fault if you are getting your vaccine information from him. However, that plainly disregards the likelihood that thousands of people may have done just that, presumably at great personal expense in many instances.
He’s funniest when he’s portraying a stoner who’s too high at the airport or giving us interesting hyena statistics, but it’s hard to leave those crucial talking points alone, so we’re back to trans athletes once more.
It’s theoretically close to the bone, like nearly every routine this evening, but what a battered and tasteless bone we’ve been left with by this time. You’d hope that by the time he jokes, “Did you just assume my gender?” (in 2022!) we can all agree that it’s time to stop talking about some subjects.
The most you can do is keep it in some sort of terrifying dome where the content can appeal to its intended audience, but the hunger for this stuff won’t ever completely disappear.
Visitors could want for a little more variety, perhaps a single surprise or giggle now and again, but if you’re anything like me, it’s not for you.
Date of review: 23 October 2022 Tim Harding wrote a review analyzed at: The O2