Say what you will about Joe Rogan, but the man has had a damn successful career. From his beginnings in standup to the hit sitcom NewsRadio, becoming a face of the UFC and hosting Fear Factor, not to mention nine comedy specials and 12 years’ worth of The Joe Rogan Experience, one of the biggest podcasts on the planet — yeah, he’s had a good run.
Rogan has the right to be proud of all he’s done, even if the notion of listening to him banter for three hours about martial arts and psychedelic drugs is extremely unappealing to some of us. However, there is a stain on his record that he must answer for. It’s worse than his misinformation on vaccines and his coziness with fringe-right conspiracists like Alex Jones. I speak of an artifact that predates all the controversies of recent years, back during a simpler time: the year 2000. This was the year Rogan dropped his first comedy album, I’m Gonna Be Dead Someday, which combined two live shows into 16 spoken word tracks. And one song.
I assure you that the title alone is worse than anything you could have anticipated.
Yes, Joe Rogan actually wrote and recorded a song called “Voodoo Punanny.” He did so at the behest of his label, Warner Bros. Records, where some psycho in a suit decided that the album should include a single fit for radio play. And hit the airwaves it did, with promotional spins from none other than Howard Stern. But I’m Gonna Be Dead Someday — and its foul musical interlude — isn’t easy to come by in the streaming era. Spotify, where Rogan has his exclusive podcasting mega-contract, offers only two of the standup tracks, which appear on other compilations. You can nab the CD from Amazon if you feel like spending $50. For the thriftier listener, the promo disc, including a few “Voodoo Punanny” remixes, costs under $20 (with shipping included). The true connoisseur will, of course, opt for the vinyl 12”, a steal at $4.
Well, I’ve put off describing the content of the song for as long as I could, so here it goes. Over four and a half excruciating minutes, “Voodoo Punanny” relays a warning to men: Beware the mind-bending influence of good pussy. Half-whispering his lyrics to the bluesy swing of a lounge trio, Rogan first narrates a sexual encounter with a woman named Eileen after one of his shows, and the discovery that, “She had the ultra hot fox mammy jammy / Nuclear high-powered voodoo punanny.” Ever since, he tells us, he’s thought of Eileen when masturbating (with Vaseline). Next, we hear a similar tale about a guy named Sam, who, bewitched by the “voodoo” of a woman named Lola, abandons his illustrious career so he can screw her all night, every night.
Finally, it’s revealed that Rogan’s character is addressing his son, explaining that “voodoo punanny” is the sole reason why men buy women flowers and end up married to “bitchy” wives. He also tells the child that “if it wasn’t for voodoo, you wouldn’t be here.” Apparently, the boy’s mother also wields genitalia of hypnotic allure — for the man claims he had never wanted kids. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s the track on YouTube:
The song’s sexism is too lazy to be all that offensive; it is very much in line with those “here’s the difference between men and women” routines that every comic had at the time. Certain couplets are outstandingly cringey, and painfully constructed to boot: “Straight to the top, that’s where Sam was destined / But that was before he saw Lola’s breast and / Touched her thigh her skin was creamy / Kissed her lips so moist and dreamy.” Were this a single released in 2021, it might have drawn the most fire for its casual identification of “voodoo” as a kind of evil magic, or the appropriation of the slang term “punanny,” which comes to us by way of Jamaican patois, and could be a loan word from Indians who immigrated to the island generations earlier.
The true measure of the tune’s godawful vibes, though, is the polarized opinion among Rogan’s normally sycophantic audience. In the YouTube comments, you can read reactions from podcast fans just now discovering this earlier work, and while some think it’s a fun little rarity, others aren’t as sure. “I really Really REALLY hope that he is embarrassed by this now,” wrote CDKJ 85. “This just does NOT fit in with my image of JR (not that that should mean shit to him). I named my cat Rogan so im invested man. cant be havin shit like this coming out HAHAHAHA.”
That caps-lock “laughter” reads to me like the unease of a man forced to rethink his choice of role model. And that raises a fascinating counterfactual: What if “Voodoo Punanny” was our last chance to halt Rogan’s rise to millionaire guru status? Is there another universe where he was so ridiculed for it, and so dogged by embarrassment, that he faded into obscurity instead? It feels like a hinge in history, the moment that could have swung him either way. With all the DMT trips Joe has embarked upon, he knows exactly what sort of cosmic rift I’m talking about.
Alas, we’re stuck in the reality where Rogan can alter the course of presidential elections and persuade God knows how many people to treat COVID-19 with ivermectin. That being the case, he could at least apologize for “Voodoo Punanny” — not because it’s insensitive, but because it profoundly sucks. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that the Mephisto Odyssey Voodoo Club Mix, a seven-and-a-half-minute version of the song, has been scrubbed entirely from the web.
The minute someone reuploads it, there will be no way to deny that civilization has fallen at last.