Back in L.A. at the House Cafe, Rogen has had a sudden change of heart. The last time he smoked pot was an hour or two ago, and he wants what he wants. To hell with what he said before. He plucks the e-joint from the table and takes a nice, satisfying hit. He smiles. He's happy. "I once got to smoke weed with Snoop Dogg and his guys, and it was actually like a dream come true," he says. "I was like, 'I'm going to keep smoking no matter what,' and I did it for five or six hours. At the end of the night, one of the guys looks over at me and says, 'Seth, you can really smoke, man!' and it was like the greatest compliment ever."
He honks out one of his great honking laughs, he hands us the joint, we take a drag and pass it back, he hits it again, then puts it down, not too far from the clutches of his meaty left hand.
Where once we were psyched to think he's a new man, able to resist the temptations of his beloved weed, now we're worried that he really may be soft as baby shit. With that in mind, as the waiter delivers beer and steak tartare, we ask Rogen if he's ever behaved poorly in a crisis situation.
"In high school, we would do stupid things a lot, and one time we tried to buy tons of weed off these guys and they robbed us with butcher knives. As they were robbing us, I suddenly got defiant and was like, 'I don't want to give them anything!' And then I just ran, and I kind of left my friend there. But then I realized that and went back: 'Let's run! Let's run!' It was a complete shitshow. Then sometimes I'd get mugged in high school and panic, but as I got older, I'm a little bit better at dealing with stuff like that." He takes a sip of his beer, frowning. "Yeah, but, well, I was once eating lunch with Jason Segel, sitting outside with our trays of food, when a homeless guy started accosting these two rich ladies on the street. Jason looks at me and says, 'Let's go!' I'm like, 'Yeah, let's go,' so I stand up with my tray, and he's like, 'What are you doing?' He's ready to spring into action. I go, 'Oh, I thought we were going to go sit over there.' My instincts were bad. I remember thinking, 'Oh, Segel is a lot more noble than I am.' But that was 10 years ago, and I hope I learned from the experience."
We bet that he has. We like Rogen. We like how single-minded he has been his entire life. Raised in Vancouver, the son of radical Jewish socialists (his words), from the age of 13 on, he had no other careerlike interests but comedy; earned his first paycheck writing gags for a local mohel, $50 an hour (sample bit: "Think how cool he'll be. He'll be the only kid in the nursery who's been in a knife fight!"); dropped out of high school and moved to L.A. at the age of 16 to join the cast of Apatow's Freaks and Geeks; persuaded best friend Evan Goldberg to leave Canada and come join him; continued to work for Apatow in movies, which culminated in his starring performance in 2007's Knocked Up; and, out on his own, reached another kind of apogee with Superbad, which he started co-writing with Goldberg when they were 13 and is one national treasure of a filthy funny movie. Sure, he's had bombs (The Green Hornet), but more often than not, his pothead instincts have served him well (Pineapple Express, 50/50), and we have no doubt that these days he would come to the aid of rich ladies in distress.
On the other hand, he says he has no survival skills whatsoever, nor do any of his friends. "Very few people I know actually know how to chop wood and shit like that. We grew up doing theater shit!"
Here's another thing about Rogen: He's the kind of guy you can't help but want to see succeed. What about starting a fire with a magnifying glass? He must be able to do that, right?
"Yeah," he says. "I could probably do that. I smoked weed with a magnifying glass once." OK. And he must have played some sports in high school, right? He shrugs. "Well, I earned a brown belt in karate, so I could beat the shit out of people, but that's hypothetical, since it hasn't been tested in a long time. Also, I played rugby, so I guess I could scrum, if that came up in an apocalyptic situation."
We grin and add a few more check marks to his plus column.
And if you like talking about jerking off, Rogen, as advertised, has got to be your man. First of all, the movie has tons of it, including an argument between Franco and McBride about McBride's jizz habits that seems to go on forever. "Who doesn't love that?" Rogen says, enthusiastically. "We're trying to bring it to a new level. You just say it more and louder!" And then there's his own personal masturbation history, which he is more than happy to share. "If I have a busy schedule, I can go a couple of days without sex, but I'll still jerk off regularly." He holds up his cellphone. "See? I have a phone with a big screen." He scratches his neck. "Actually, I jerk off more frequently than anyone has sex with their wife." He searches the past for more. "When Evan and I were roommates, we were very open about jerking off. 'I'm going to go jerk off now, so don't fuck with me.' We wrote together and would wake up, write and write until we fell asleep. We'd just fucking write all day. At some point, we realized it was a better use of our time if we actually jerked off at the same time – in our own rooms, obviously – but the idea was, 'OK, you're going to jerk off? I guess I'll go jerk off too, so we aren't taking turns jerking off. We'll get more done that way.' It was synchronized jerking off. We'd share our porno stash, too. It was a communal stash. Now there's the Internet for porn, so now you share passwords for sites – VideoBox, for one – with your friends."
This is all good to know and accrues to his benefit. Plus, despite his inability to resist weed today, he does have a history of being able to change. "For years, I used to wear my socks inside out, but then six years ago, I was like, 'Why the fuck are my socks inside out?' and I stopped." So there's that. And furthermore: "My dad was diagnosed with very minor Tourette's syndrome, which I have, too. I used to shake my head all the time. No outbursts, just twitching. I'd flare my nostrils. It was superweird. But my parents were kind of into hippie shit, so they had me cut out sugar, wheat, dairy, all this stuff, and it helped. I mean, I still get twitchy sometimes, but not in a major way." Finally: "I don't get drunk that often anymore. When I was younger, I'd just drink a ton at those fucking parties and do stupid shit sometimes. Every once in a while, I'll encounter someone who clearly thought I was an asshole the last time they met me. But then, one time, after one of those fucking stupid MTV awards shows, I went out drinking with the cast of the Jersey Shore, and I actually don't remember a large part of what happened in the second half of that night. The next day, I had the worst hangover of my entire life. It lasted several full days. It was unbelievable. I was dead, and that was the most fucked up I've gotten in the past few years."
We ask if any of his castmates are particularly obnoxious farters.
"I won't out them," he says, which allows us to add yet another mark to his plus column, "but I will say I'm a pretty bad farter from time to time. I have a Japanese toilet at home that cleans my ass for me – it's great. I only like to shit at home, so I get some pretty bad farts during the day." He stops, ponders this, continues. "Actually, when I'm abroad or something, I sometimes bring toilet paper with me. I brought toilet paper when I went to Mexico with my wife. Charmin Ultra Strong. A good, manly toilet paper."
Rogen takes another hit of the e-joint. We ask him for his opinion, whether it's safe to fly with one of these things. "Just stick it in your bag," he says. "TSA doesn't give a shit. They're looking for bombs and shit. They don't even know what this is." That makes sense, and we decide to become drug smugglers for the first time ever. Only, at the meal's end and after the last beer is gone, Rogen holds the e-joint up in the air, says, "Do I keep this? I'm taking it!" pockets the thing and vanishes. He's permanently bogarted our e-joint! It happens so fast, we hardly have brains enough to object, but then we realize he is only keeping us from a lifetime of painful post-arrest Midnight Express jailhouse bunghole blues. We want to thank him for his kindness, but it's too late. We are delirious anyway. We can think of no one better to share a global meltdown with. McBride has that smelly-underwear issue, Franco that inability-to-be-here-now issue, Hill that I'm-a-serious-actor issue, but there's nothing off-putting about Rogen. He's such a cool guy that we wish we could hang around him until the end of days. Plus, we're huge fans of Charmin Ultra Strong and anyone who shares his porn-website passwords. Seriously. Need we say more?
This story is from the June 20, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.
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