Joe Rogan is a comedian, podcaster and UFC color commentator, yet somehow, he is a polarized figure. As a fan, I am confused by the politicization of someone who is not political.
I am confused by the attempt to treat his Spotify exclusive show “The Joe Rogan Experience” as if it’s a major news show. I am also confused by the people who have turned him into a free speech hero. He is doing something that he has always done since the show’s inception: long form conversations with a variety of people and perspectives.
Rogan is not a journalist. He is not right or left wing. He has never claimed to be a scientist or a political expert — listeners will know that he admittedly calls himself an idiot often. He platforms experts and talks to them. Sometimes the experts have views inside the establishment and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes he has crazy people on his show, and sometimes everyone is high/drunk. This is the “Joe Rogan Experience.”
I just don’t understand the Spotify controversy. I don’t understand why Neil Young and several other musicians are leaving Spotify because of him and not over how Spotify distributes money to music artists. If they want to leave due to the “problematic” behavior of this company by platforming Rogan, they should not promote their music on problematic companies like Amazon and Apple.
Let’s get back to Rogan, and his podcast.
“The Joe Rogan Experience” started on Dec. 24, 2009, with the original co-host, producer and comedian Brian Redban. It was a small online show with low audio and video quality. The idea was simple: His comedy friends showed up and they talked, sometimes high/drunk.
As the show grew so did the quality and guests. Soon scientists, philosophers, businessman, politicians, musicians, actors, writers, painters and even porn stars were billed as guests. It was a wild show. Two to four hours of conversations with no commercial breaks and no conversation prior as to what they would talk about; it’s improv interviews.
That’s what made the show popular. It didn’t feel like regular media where guests have five minutes to explain their theories on capitalism. There was time for people to lay out their ideas and have their ideas questioned. Guests along with Rogan have made mistakes while speaking and changed their perspective on the show.
His show is beyond popular — larger than Rogan expected it to be. He has 9.74 million subscribers on his YouTube account, and it reaches 11 million people per episode. In 2020, Rogan signed a $100 million deal to give Spotify exclusive rights to his show. The decision was made after his YouTube channel was demonetized due to some of his guests.
I started watching in 2014 after I graduated high school. Kid Cudi, a music artist I love, was on his show. My first time listening to the podcast was an experience. I never heard something so raw. It didn’t feel planned or scripted as the conversation just kept on going even if they went off topic.
And it continued. I listened to every guest he had. There were conservatives, liberals, socialists and conspiracy theorists. Everyone had their time. I learned more about my own views and the nuances of the perspectives with which I’ve disagreed.
Besides the comedic episodes where he and his friends get high/drunk and joke irresponsibly (my favorite episodes), the show’s strength comes from its willingness to have difficult conversations with sometimes difficult people.
We can’t have it both ways as a society. We can’t tell people that they should listen to different perspectives and then get upset when a show promotes those different perspectives.
I know someone will argue that I’m downplaying Rogan’s views on the COVID-19 vaccine and his refusal to get it. But Rogan has platformed doctors like Sanjay Gupta who disagree with him; there’s even a popular clip where he admits in real-time with a guest that he was wrong.
Paying attention to the one episode with Dr. Robert Malone — a virologist who is now against the mRNA technology that he helped create — is disingenuous. Having multiple experts with a variety of views is good for a free society. It is not harmful to people as we all can tune in and listen to these different perspectives.
It’s like pointing out that Rogan had Senator Bernie Sanders on and claiming his show touts socialist talking points without mentioning conservatives he’s had on: Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson.
The point I made at the beginning is the same. Rogan is not an expert nor is he a political figure. He has no responsibility to be either. His only responsibility is to continue to have interesting voices on his podcast.
There needs to be a place where people can talk freely, work out ideas and come to better conclusions. Attempting to stop this from happening is a fascist tool. Also, Rogan apologized and promised to do even better with the variety of guests. What else are you complaining about?