Joe Rogan, the modern-day renaissance man—a podcast and TV host, stand-up comedian, actor, and martial arts commentator—has achieved widespread success in recent years.
So did one of the most well-known podcast hosts go to college? Let’s see.
The Early Years
Growing up as a child outside of Boston during the 80s, Rogan has publicly stated he was “terrified of being a loser.” He sought out to master a skill he perceived as being difficult, that would give him the confidence to excel.
The height of his martial arts success came at age nineteen when he claimed the U.S. Open title in taekwondo.
After graduating from Newton South High School outside of Boston, Rogan enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Boston. In a tweet, he alluded that the purpose of his time in college was, “mostly so that people wouldn’t think I was a loser.” He reaffirmed this on a segment of his show when he told his guest,
I just wanted to let people know I was doing something. I was scared of people thinking I was a loser.
Rogan’s college career ultimately only lasted three years before he dropped out. He has never addressed what the focus of his studies was during the three years but does acknowledge that he fooled around and barely paid attention. “All I was thinking about was martial arts competition and stand-up,” he said,
And once I realized people made money doing stand-up, I quit.
The Comedian and Actor
Joe Rogan left college with an unclear path to success. But the man who once claimed in an interview that “the only way to make steel is to throw iron in the fire,” did not struggle for long. Around the same time he left school, his martial arts career came to an end after he became concerned about its impact on his long-term health.
Instead, he began teaching martial arts at local schools to get by during the early stages of his career as a stand-up comedian. In 1990, Rogan relocated to New York City, with no money, to fully pursue comedy.
His grandfather in Newark offered to let Rogan move in temporarily, and he stayed there for six months until he had enough money saved for his own place.
After performing a series of small-gigs, Joe Rogan moved to Los Angeles in 1994 to increase his exposure. He landed his first television spots that year on MTV’s Half-Hour Comedy Hour and the film Hardball.
In Los Angeles, he also continued to pursue stand up, becoming a paid regular at The Comedy Store. His biggest break as an actor came in 1995 when Rogan secured a role on the sitcom NewsRadio.
Rogan’s popularity grew during his stint on NewsRadio, and it led to a commentating gig for the UFC. He was given a platform to tap into his passion for martial arts and his talent for stand up.
In 2001, Rogan accepted a job hosting the television show Fear Factor that further worked to increase his national exposure. He was at the helm of the show for six seasons until it ended in 2006.
Following Fear Factor, Rogan spent time continuing to build his name recognition in comedy and television. After becoming well-established as a commentator, actor, comedian, and TV host, Rogan launched his eponymous podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, in 2009.
The fans he worked hard to accrue over the decades flocked to the podcast, and today it is downloaded approximately 190 million times per month.
Did Rogan Ever Go Back to College?
Since dropping out of the University of Massachusetts Boston, Rogan has not looked back. He claims what he got instead of a degree was a nonsense education, “where you read things you are interested in but never really get a real base education… or a degree in anything.”
He views higher education as a whole as being a “weird business,” and is confused as to why the cost of tuition is so high today, leaving many graduates with a debt they may struggle to pay off. Rogan argues,
The “college is not for everyone” thing is more true now than ever before.
But he does agree that there are certain professions, such as doctors and lawyers, where a degree is required. He claims,
What college should be is education, but what it really seems to be is prepping you for the job force.
At his most extreme, Rogan views colleges and universities as a means to socially indoctrinate kids, and finds it fascinating that people are consistently looking to influence another person’s behavior.
These days he avoids college and university campuses in his professional life as much as his personal life. He does not perform at colleges because he views the potential audience as not having had enough life experience. He says,
I don’t want to have to explain everything.
When he does stand up, he aims to be talking to people who have lived—those who have had affairs, had jobs and been fired, and have had an education.
So, Joe Rogan did go to college—at least for a short time. That is not to say that his time at the University of Massachusetts Boston ultimately had any impact on his future success. His perspective on higher education has not changed much since he decided to leave school.
Instead, Rogan built continued success from skills he started acquiring as a young teen in Boston. After decades of hard work, this transformed into the podcasting empire he runs today.