Eleven million listeners a month tune in to hear Rogan’s impromptu discussions with an eclectic mix of comedians, fighters, politicians, celebrities, and commentators, making his one of the most influential platforms in online media.
In a world of short-form content, episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience seem almost impossibly long, each running for three, sometimes four, hours of unscripted conversation between Rogan and each episode’s guest. And people listen.
Started by Rogan in 2009, The Joe Rogan Experience has been published by Spotify since a 2020 distribution deal reported to be worth US$100 million between its creator and the streaming media giant. That relationship was thrust into the spotlight this week when musician Neil Young pulled his catalog of songs from Spotify in protest, describing the service as “the home of life-threatening COVID misinformation”, and he was soon joined by other musicians and content creators.
While Young didn’t mention Rogan or The Joe Rogan Experience by name, he was spurred to action by a document that did: an open letter from hundreds of public health professionals accusing Rogan of having a “concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”
So, does The Joe Rogan Experience use its powers for good or for awesome? Does it have to be one or the other?
We put in our AirPods, loaded up Spotify, and got listening. Here are some of the science highlights we found… and some of the lowlights.
Five Joe Rogan guests who spread a message of science
Astrophysicist and science communicator Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of TV documentaries including Origins and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, in Episodes 919, 1159, and 1347.
Physicist and science communicator Professor Brian Cox, Royal Society Professor for Public Engagement in Science and host of BBC documentaries including Human Universe and Wonders of the Solar System, in Episode 1233.
Evolutionary biologist and science communicator Professor Richard Dawkins, fellow of the Royal Society and author of books including The Selfish Gene and The Greatest Show on Earth, in Episode 1366.
Sociolinguist and popular science author Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of books including The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now, in Episodes 1073 and 1743.
Mathematician and philosopher of science Sir Roger Penrose, Nobel Laureate in Physics and co-author (with Stephen Hawking) of The Nature of Space and Time, in Episode 1216.
And three guests who made us want those minutes of our lives back
Infectious disease researcher and vaccine skeptic Dr Robert Malone, mRNA pioneer (and self-described inventor of mRNA vaccines) and originator of the “mass-formation psychosis” theory – that the mainstream media are hypnotising the public to believe government messages about COVID-19 – in Episode 1757.
Cardiologist and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist Dr Peter McCullough, who falsely claimed that COVID-19 vaccines have caused tens of thousands of deaths and that people who have recovered from COVID are permanently immune, in Episode 1747.
Far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, proponent of theories such as that the US government puts chemicals in tap water to induce homosexuality and that the Sandy Hook primary-school shooting was faked, in Episode 1555.
(Seriously… you don’t need to listen to those three.)
How do we reconcile the different messages of Rogan’s guests? Perhaps the most influential podcaster in media explained it best.