Tragic Details About Joe Rogan

The following article includes allegations of domestic violence, murder, suicide, and substance abuse.

There are many celebrities and comedians out there who aren't controversial. Joe Rogan cannot count himself as one of them. The polarizing comic has risen through the standup ranks to become one of the most successful podcasters in the world. He got there through hard work, plenty of criticism, and an ability to interview people from all sides of politics and whatever controversial issue was in pop culture at the time.

It's easy to think of celebrities like Rogan and think they've got it made. After all, he secured a $200 million deal from Spotify, and his podcast dominates the marketplace. While it's natural to place him on a pedestal, the truth is that Rogan is just like the rest of us, and he's had plenty of ups and downs throughout his life. Just because he's at the top of his game now doesn't mean that he hasn't experienced tragedy through the numerous struggles he overcame.

Like many people around the world, Rogan has experienced everything from abusive relationships to coming from a broken home. He's lost more than a few friends to accidents, substance abuse, and even murder. Through it all, he's built up a media empire around his unique brand of comedy and willingness to step into any and all hot-button topics his guests want to discuss. Rogan's life experiences include several tragic details, and he's made it through all of them.

He had an abusive father

Joe Rogan grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where his father, A. Joseph Rogan worked as a police officer. Rogan didn't spend much time with his dad, who he's described as abusive toward his mother, and was supportive of Rogan's violent outbursts. Rogan told Rolling Stone that he once punched a cousin in the face, and instead of getting angry, his father asked if he cried. When he said he hadn't, his dad only said, "Good, don't ever cry."

That was a minor incident in the Rogan household, and these days, Rogan doesn't like talking about his father. He described his childhood with his dad as confusing, calling his father violent and scary. Without much elaboration, he explained in his Rolling Stone interview the scant memories he has of his father: "All I remember of my dad are these brief, violent flashes of domestic violence. But I don't want to complain about my childhood. ... I don't hate the guy."

Rogan became estranged from his father and hasn't seen him since he was little. Since he's got a platform and word of his father's violent behavior became public, his dad spoke out in his defense. He took to YouTube and called his son a "Punk a**," denying his allegations and calling him out for his comments. His sister joined in and also refuted Joe's accusations, explaining how he was taken away from the home at a young age and didn't really know their father.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

His parent's divorce significantly impacted his childhood

Joe Rogan had a turbulent childhood due to his father's violent behavior. He was only five years old when his parents divorced, and the way he's described them, they couldn't be any more different. While his father was an abusive, violent man, his mother was more of a free spirit. After the divorce, she remarried to a man "with hair down to his a**," who gave Rogan marijuana to try when he was eight.

Rogan remembers his mother embracing the hippie counterculture of the time, telling Rolling Stone, "My mom would go over [to the neighbors] and get naked with them and play the bongos and smoke pot." When the family split up, Rogan remained with his father for a bit but went on to live with his mother full-time. He stopped speaking to his father and effectively severed the relationship, and it remains estranged to this day.

The divorce and his calamitous upbringing weighed heavily on Rogan, and it significantly impacted his upbringing. His mother moved them around for a bit, first to San Francisco and then to Gainesville, Florida when he was 11. After that, the family settled in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts, where Rogan attended high school. It was in school that he went through a difficult time after one of his friends died tragically.

A tragic drunk driving accident left an impression

Joe Rogan went to Newton South High School in early '80s Massachusetts, and while he was there, a friend of his tragically killed another student in a drunk driving accident. During one of his podcasts, Rogan spoke about the tragedy and had a frank discussion with Chris Williamson about drunk driving. Rogan explained how drunk driving destroyed people's lives, and he had an example from his childhood ready to back up his point. Rogan spoke about how drunk driving destroyed people's lives, and he had an example from his childhood ready to back up his point

"I went to high school with a kid, and he's a good guy. I knew him from the time I was 14. And then, when I guess he was a senior in high school, he was drunk and crashed his car and killed his friend." Rogan explained that he bumped into him a short time later on the street and got the impression that his friend felt that his life was over and things would never go back to how they were.

"It's like he was done. His life was over, man. He wasn't, you know, a regular kid anymore. He was a kid who killed his friend ... He was a good, normal guy, people liked him. And then all of a sudden, a pariah, everyone knew what he did." Because of his experiences, Rogan is very outspoken about the dangers of drunk driving. He doesn't hold back in sharing what happened in high school to serve as a warning to others.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He had to stop competing in martial arts due to worsening medical problems

Joe Rogan's childhood was a bit unconventional. When he was 14, he found an escape in martial arts, focusing on taekwondo. Rogan worked hard and trained to compete, and he was pretty good. He won the U.S. Open Taekwondo Championship when he was 19 and looked to be on the fast track to becoming a professional martial artist. Unfortunately, his plans were derailed when he was 21. 

Rogan started experiencing headaches, and the condition worsened with time. As things progressed, he became concerned about his health. He was forced to stop competing, ending his career in martial arts shortly after it began to pick up steam. Of course, while he couldn't compete, Rogan didn't abandon martial arts altogether; he is a self-described martial arts fanatic. In an interview with Black Belt magazine, Rogan explained how important martial arts is in his life:

"I wouldn't have achieved anything in life without martial arts. Martial arts was definitely the best vehicle for me to develop my human potential. I developed so much discipline and so much insight about life that I don't think I really would have learned otherwise. You can learn some of those lessons from regular sports, but I don't think you have the same heightened sense of danger and the reward for winning. ... I just don't think I would have been the same person had I not done martial arts."

He dropped out of college, finding it pointless

After graduating from Newton South High School in 1985, Joe Rogan set out to do what many kids do at that age: he attended college. Rogan enrolled at the University of Massachusetts and attended school for a few years. Rogan didn't enjoy his time in college and left school before graduating. He explained this on X, formerly known as Twitter, in 2010, saying, "UMASS Boston for 3 years, but it was mostly so people wouldn't think I was a loser. I just read a lot and talk for a living" (via Umass Media).

While he didn't follow through with his education, Rogan never forgot his time at UMass and even had the school's mascot, Bobby Beacon, appear on "The Joe Rogan Experience." After introducing the mascot from "the school I dropped out of way back in the day," the two discuss Rogan's career before moving on to a more serious discussion by broaching the topic of student loan forgiveness.

The two had a back-and-forth over the topic, with Beacon taking the pro stance and Rogan arguing against student loan forgiveness, at least in the way Beacon discussed. The conversation continued for a few minutes before Rogan kicked Beacon out for repeatedly calling him Joey, but it was all in good spirits. It's unclear what Rogan studied while he attended UMass, and he's made no mention of returning to complete his education.

He befriended Phil Hartman and lost him soon after

Joe Rogan never intended to become a comedian, but that's the direction his career took as he honed his craft. He gained some success early in his career and landed a few TV show appearances in the 1990s. His big break came playing Joe Garreli on 96 episodes of "NewsRadio" from 1995 to 1999. While on the show, Rogan befriended Phil Hartman, and they became very close.

The friendship Rogan and Hartman developed was strong, and Rogan saw the terrible situation Hartman had at home with his wife, Brynn Hartman. He spent a lot of time trying to convince Hartman to leave Brynn, but he stayed for their children. Rogan spoke at length about Hartman during an appearance on the Nerdist Podcast and called Hartman's wife "a failed actress who deeply resented his [Hartman's] success" (via Pajiba). Rogan explained that Phil and Brynn's relationship worsened over time, and all he could do was watch from the sidelines.

On May 28, 1998, Brynn found Phil in bed and shot and killed him. After this, she turned the gun on herself, dying by suicide. Hartman's death was mourned by millions, but for those close to him, like Rogan, it was devastating. Rogan said the death "Opened my eyes up to the actual real dangers of bad relationships."

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He's lost friend Anthony Bourdain to addiction

Joe Rogan's professional life and success make him appear untouched by tragedy, but that's sadly not the case. Over the years, Rogan has lost several close friends to substance abuse, including celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. The two became so close that Rogan's wife, Jessica Ditzel, referred to Bourdain as her husband's "boyfriend." Bourdain was filming an episode of "Parts Unknown" in Strasbourg, France, where he was found to have died by suicide.

News of Bourdain's death hit Rogan hard, and he took to "The Joe Rogan Experience" to talk about his friendship and sadness over Bourdain's passing. The former "Fear Factor" host explained that he had trouble moving on and kept an old phone charged, not because he wanted to use it, but because it still had some text messages he received from Bourdain on it. Rogan sometimes scrolls through the old texts and pictures to remember his friend.

What pained Rogan most about Bourdain's death was that he believes he could have prevented it had he only been there to help. Bourdain spoke about his relationship with Rogan on occasion. In a Reddit AMA, he told a fan about Rogan, writing, "So as much as I love the guy, I'll do anything with him; shoot animals in the brain, canoe trip, hot tubbing, whatever. But I'm not rolling with the guy."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).