Fear Factor returns to NBC tonight after one of the longest hiatuses in TV history. Below, host Joe Rogan takes our questions:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you first hear about Fear Factor coming back and what was your reaction?
JOE ROGAN: They have been trying to bring it back for awhile now. [Executive producer] Matt Kunitz emailed me several times over the past several years saying they were trying to do a special, and that never came to fruition. Then he contacted me and said they were bringing it back. It just seemed really odd. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a show going away and then coming back after six years with the same host. I got to go right back to the old work environment and hang out with my friends.
You’ve mocked the show in your stand-up routines. Did producers ever have a problem with that?
ROGAN: I’m sure they rather me not make fun of it. But as a comic I would be a fraud if I didn’t make fun of it. How can you be the host of that f–king show and not make fun of it? It is comedy.
How much of your own personality and perspective can you bring to the show vs. playing the role of the enthusiastic host? Are there ever conversations about that?
ROGAN: There are a lot of people I root for; there are a lot of moments when it’s absolutely legit. You also get a lot of knuckleheads. Whenever it’s reality TV in a competition form you’re going to get some goofy people. But without them it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting and fun and have as much depth to it — if that’s a word you can use with a show like Fear Factor.
When the news broke it was coming back, an NBC executive suggested the new show is less gross than the original.
ROGAN: I don’t know why they said that. That’s an outright lie. They should go to jail for that lie. It’s way grosser. But it’s also much more spectacular. The stunts are much bigger. The evolution of the stunt technology allows us to do a lot of crazy stuff. The way to bring this show back is to make it bigger and crazier and that’s what they’ve done. We have an A, B, C format — where the A stunt is the opening, the B stunt is the gross one, and the C stunt is the spectacular stunt where they win the money. Now the A stunt look like C stunts and the C stunts look like giant scenes in an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie.
What’s an example of a stunt that’s more gross than what we’ve seen before?
ROGAN: The one I want to give you, I can’t. It’s so over the top and ridiculous. When they told me, I thought they were joking. NBC is not sure if they’re going to air it. I used to joke around about the old Fear Factor that we’re “three seasons from The Running Man” — you know The Running Man?
The Stephen King novel [about an oppressive future with deadly televised game shows].
ROGAN: I think he wrote it as Richard Bachman, a pseudonym. This is a stunt that would not have been in The Running Man because it’s too f–ked up. They let us do a lot of the stuff that we do because [the gross item] is often a food source. It’s gross and disgusting, but [somewhere in the world] people eat it.
What’s the craziest non-gross stunt?
ROGAN: One of them we film it in a gigantic rock quarry and [contestants] get flown suspended by cables to helicopters. As soon as they touch the ground, they start running toward this box with a lever inside. They pull the lever and it activates a remote controlled pickup truck that starts rolling toward an ammo dump. And in the back of the pickup truck are these barrels. They have to run, catch up to the truck and pry open the barrels and get flags. And it’s all about how many flags can they get before the pickup truck crashes through a barrier and they have to get yanked to safety [before the explosion]. We’re observing this from 700 yards away because of the explosion and you feel the impact on your face. It was ridiculous.
NBC has been struggling in the ratings. How do you think Fear Factor will do?
ROGAN: I don’t understand ratings. I never have. I don’t know why people watch what they watch. I don’t understand the Nielsens, how 2,000 houses or something can be representative of 300 million people. I don’t get it. I hope it does well.