"Fear Factor" is back (premieres Mon., Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET on NBC) and I realize that you might think what I've thought all along: original host Joe Rogan is kind of a tool. But after chatting with him for quite a while -- about everything from the show's revamp and his own fears to Miley Cyrus, "Toddlers & Tiaras" and Anthony Bourdain -- I can safely say that this quote-machine of a man might be one of the most entertaining hosts on TV.
As for "Fear Factor," the redux, the rumors of everything being more intense after their five-year hiatus are true. "It is bigger and crazier than it ever was before," Rogan confirms. "I hope the show lives up to fans' expectations ... I think it will."
Keep reading for more scoop on these bigger, crazier challenges and Rogan's thoughts on fame, the old celebrity guest episodes (warning: he's really not a fan of "Diff'rent Strokes" star Todd Bridges) and why he doesn't think any celebrities, no matter how C-list, will be coming on the show this time around.
So much has changed since "Fear Factor" went off the air. More reality shows, HD technology ... how has that affected this reboot?
It is bigger and crazier than it ever was before, so if people enjoyed the old show, this one's gonna be nuts. It's truly over the top.
Do you have any examples of this bigger, crazier stuff?
The biggest example, I can't tell you unfortunately because they haven't even decided whether or not they're gonna air it. It's really that crazy. I got there and they told me what we were gonna do, and I just started laughing like, "There's no way. That's not really gonna happen. Wait, is that really gonna happen?" [Laughs] I wish I could tell you. NBC's still looking at the footage going, "Uhhhh, can we do that?" There's gonna be a lot of people that are going to be upset -- it really is ridiculous.
Is it a matter of safety?
No, no, no ... it's just completely foul and offensive. I really wish I could tell you! As far as the physical stunts, they're much more spectacular. We usually do an A-B-C format, where the A stunt is the initial stunt, the C stunt is the big grand finale, and the B one is, of course, the most disgusting one. But now the A stunts look like the C stunts from the old show. And the C stunts ... some of them are just insane.
Did you have any reservations about coming back to the show?
Yeah, definitely. I had to think about it because I'm really busy, and I have kids and I like spending a lot of time with them. And the things I do, I really enjoy -- whether it's doing stand-up comedy or working for the UFC, I'm gainfully employed. It's not like I needed to do it, but I really enjoyed doing the show with the people I'd worked with in the past, and they were all the same people [this time]. I would've really hated to see it with somebody else hosting it, so that was ultimately a lot of the motivation. Besides money. Money was the biggest motivation. [Laughs]
But really -- was there a Plan B in case you said no? Who else could you even imagine hosting the show?
Mario Lopez. [Laughs] There's an inside joke on the show -- I always play around like, "Fuck this show, I'm done. Call Mario Lopez!" [Laughs] But I think he's at The Grove. I just saw him there yesterday interviewing Carlos Mencia. Mario's a very nice guy, actually.
The show used to try to play on your fears as well. What do you fear the most?
I'm afraid of heights. Not unreasonably, but rationally afraid of heights. I think everyone is. There were quite a few things we did off the tops of buildings that were pretty freaky. I don't have anything crazy like arachnophobia ... no snakes or spiders or anything like that.
That's good because those people are so screwed on this show ...
Yeah, they are, and they come on the show hoping there's no spider thing. We actually had one couple on the show doing a swimming stunt, and the woman literally could not swim. She put in her application that she's "not the best swimmer." Well, she is telling the truth! She's not the best swimmer -- that is accurate -- but the fact that she couldn't swim at all and we had her drive a car into a pool ... It was bad.
The old celebrity episodes were so epic. Did you have any celebrity cameos shooting this season?
We did not. We didn't do any celebrity editions or have anybody come on that's a celebrity, but I think NBC is very interested in that. So if we bring it back ... but you know what? It's gonna wind up being Snooki or someone like that. [Laughs] It won't be like ... legit celebrities.
When I talked to executive producer Matt Kunitz, he was saying he hopes the Kardashians might come on ...
Well I don't even think they're gonna want to do it. They probably don't want to be on a show with me. I don't think legit celebrities are going to be interested in touching this thing with a 10-foot pole.
I remember it was always more C-listers and blasts from the past, like Todd Bridges ...
Yeah, he was a really weird one. He's an angry dude. I think he murdered somebody. Didn't he get away with manslaughter? I'm serious -- you should print that, because I think he got in some sort of fight in a crack house and wound up killing someone. Hold on, let me fact-check that right now. Yeah, Todd Bridges: attempted murder and attempted voluntary manslaughter charges in a shooting. He shot somebody. Five gunshots and a knife wound. The jury acquitted him though. That was 1989, he was 23 years old. But yeah, I didn't enjoy being with him. He was a weird, angry guy, blaming his losing on the producers, like they wanted to get rid of him. There's some people who just think that the world is out to get them, and he felt like that in a big way. It was interesting from a psychological standpoint.
Jesus. Aren't you happy you weren't a child star, or ever really at that level of fame?
Oh yeah. I really feel like it's a travesty to make a child famous. I really do. I had a very slow introduction to fame. I was on a bunch of things that never went anywhere, that were not well-received, before "NewsRadio," which a lot of people didn't know about, but it actually became popular after it was canceled. But then there was "Fear Factor," and by the time I got that job, I was already in my 30s, I'd already had a lot of failures. I had a sense of who I was before I got famous. When you see kids and you think about the developmental process of going from a child to an adult, and then think about these kids doing that while being famous and on television, in front of millions of adoring fans ... it's really a travesty. You're never going to develop like a normal human being with real character.
I watch Miley Cyrus talk in interviews -- I really study her, from a psychological standpoint. This poor fucking kid! What kind of a life is that? Sure, she's got a ton of money. Yes, she's not going to have to deal with the financial problems that a lot of people have. But my god, her character! Her mind! She's delusional. Her perception of reality must be so twisted. They really do think that what they have to say is more important than what a "regular" person has to say. The reason you hear a lot of famous people say a lot of really egotistical things or do really stupid shit ... your whole life is series of actions and reactions. "I show up at work everyday, and everyone kisses my ass." They develop thinking that is a normal part of life.
So I take it you're not a fan of shows like "Toddlers & Tiaras"?
Oh, I was once at a hotel in Dallas where they had this convention or contest, whatever the hell it was, and it was one of the creepiest goddamn things I've ever witnessed in my life. The hotel was filled with little girls with fucking make-up on and high heels. I have daughters, so it creeps me out even more. I looked at those people like, "This is sick. You're turning these little girls into sex symbols." Those parents ... what fucking social misfit freaks they are.
So you think becoming famous later in life has made you less of an asshole? Because some people still think you're kind of a dick.
[Laughs] Well, I look like an asshole. I look like a meathead. I lift a lot of weights ... I'm very meathead-like. I mean, I do cagefight commentary in my spare time. A lot of signs point to the fact that I'm a dickhead. It's easy to categorize people ... when you see some Italian-looking guy who likes to lift weights. You're like, "Wow, what a dick." [Laughs] It's normal. But I try to be as nice as possible, to everybody I meet.
You kind of have to be if you're famous ...
Yeah, because people think they already know you before they meet you. People feel weird about meeting people they know from television or wherever ... it's weird for me! I met Anthony Bourdain recently -- I love that dude -- and fortunately for me, his wife is really into mixed martial arts, and that was my in. I ran into him at a restaurant, and I was like, "Holy shit, I'm sitting here talking to Anthony Bourdain!" And if he was a dick, I would be devastated. I would've walked away like, "Fucking Anthony Bourdain's a dick, man. Shit!" But if someone's nice, like he was, you get to say, "Wow he's cool."
Beginning Dec. 12, check out "Fear Factor" on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.