Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you know who Joe Rogan is. You know, the guy who did Fear Factor, is a big proponent of the UFC, has done some (pretty crappy) standup comedy, and his most notable achievement of hosting the highest listened to podcast in the world? Ya, him. Maybe you’re an avid listener, heard a few episodes, or never heard a thing, but you should know he’s shaping the world around us every few days.
Me? I used to listen to him from time-to-time, but certainly not anymore and frankly I fear the time I’d waste if I did tune in. I’ll write this article instead – most certainly a better use of my day.
I actually liked Joe Rogan for a while. I was put onto his podcast from a recommendation of watching one particular guest, Paul Stamets. To say this episode was amazing would be an understatement. I still believe that to this day; not because of Rogan, but listening to Paul talk is one of the most fascinating things ever. He’s a mycologist and studies fungus and what he was saying blew my mind. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s got at least one TED Talk, and also is heavily featured in the documentary Fantastic Fungi which you can catch on Netflix.
Watching that, I deeply hoped other guests would be just as amazing. The reality was that very few were, and finding those among a sea of others wasn’t always easy. The thing is I don’t recognize 95% of the guests on his show and dismissing them just because I don’t know their name is a poor way to go about this. Sure, we know of the Bernie Sanders or Elon Musk episodes, but do you know who Michael Hunter is? He’s the owner of “Antler”, a restaurant here in Toronto which made headlines when Michael began butchering a deer leg in the front window of the joint as vegan protesters were going nuts outside. With thousands of episodes in the back-catalog, it was going to be a lot of work to get through them.
I immediately dismissed anything UFC related which was a good 25% or more as I couldn’t give a damn. Any absolute nut job like Alex Jones (although, he did quite literally call himself retarded) or Jordan Peterson were sure misses too. Then there’s sure winners such as Edward Snowden and Bill Burr who I’m a big fan of. The rest were hit-and-miss in the sense I’d listen to the first few minutes and make a choice from there.
And, in a weird way I enjoyed that. Rogan did absolutely offer up a platform for a very wide variety of voices. One moment he’s got Bernie Sanders, the next, Alex Jones. How can there be two completely polar opposite people? Although, most were very less outspoken as those two, and a hell of a lot less political. It’s listening to people talk with no political agenda that were the real shining moments. And, that’s what I got hooked on. In a time where almost everything we consume is incredibly polarized and we find ourselves in echo chambers of our own thoughts, Rogan seemingly offered up a very “middle of the road” type of experience – something that very few are able to do and still maintain an audience.
It was somewhere near the start of the pandemic, mainly because I just didn’t have the time anymore (seems odd, right?) and was simply spending more time on other things. I stopped checking in and then all but forgot about it. Then he moved his podcast exclusively to Spotify and stopped posting on YouTube. While I’d barely listened to his stuff for quite some time, that was the nail in the coffin for me because I couldn’t care less about Spotify and I have no interest in paying for some streaming platform just so I can piss away more of my substandard usage allotment from Rogers wireless.
Somewhere in the last year or so, Joe seemed to go from a little fanatic and sometimes eccentric on topics, yet not being insanely political – to more or less being a complete disaster. Toting crazy COVID theories, to getting COVID, to most likely suggesting people drink their own piss or whatever. I don’t even know anymore because I refuse to listen. It’s not worth my time to have to filter through a now insane amount of BS just to maybe get introduced to someone that is worthwhile, someone I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
What seemingly was once a place where I could find some really wonderful guests and dive into topics I’d quickly become super interested in (yet previously oblivious to), suddenly became the equivalent of a port-a-potty at a 3 day music festival (spoiler: you’ll find some stuff in there you wish you’d never seen). I couldn’t tell you a thing about the show for the past year. Before that I was pretty selective in what I’d consume – yet today it’s just all smeared feces as far as I’m concerned.
And here-in lies the problem. He’s by far the most popular podcaster in North America. In the past year or two, he’s been constantly questioning the pandemic, vaccines, masks, and all the other typical rhetoric you’d expect. If this was wasn’t Joe hosting the show, but instead Matt – the now mid 30’s finance bro from your old high school you still somehow follow on Facebook, well – who damn well cares. But Joe is the guy who is reaching Matt every week with a new episode carpet-bombed with trash “science” and wild theories he seems to cook up in his head while high on DMT. Matt idolizes Joe to at least some extent, and because Joe is typically seen by many as well read, intelligent, and quick, Matt pays attention to what he’s saying. I won’t lie, I’ve absolutely found him to be incredibly intelligent on some topics, and the truth of the matter is that Rogan actually is at times. Unfortunately, he’s also a complete idiot who’s totally bought into other rhetoric.
Then again, maybe he’s not and is more some dude who sees a chance for yet another classic alt-right grift. Let’s be honest here – the big players in alt-right politics are grifters. These people pushing the anti-vaxx stuff are almost all vaccinated (and got inoculated long before many of us had access to get ours). Trump, vaccinated. Shapiro, vaccinated. Alex Jones, vaccinated. Rumour has it our favorite horse toothed gym bro Chris Sky is also vaccinated, meanwhile he’s one of the most prolific faces for the anti-vaxx movement in Canada. Let’s not forget about BBQanon bro Adam Skelly who’s living off daddy’s money (just like Chris Sky) yet grifted the alt-right out of $350,000 on GoFundMe.
I’m starting to think that Joe just may be seeing an opportunity to dig just deep enough into the alt-right rhetoric to capture that fan-base who is loyal as all hell to anyone “speaking the truth”, while not going full on Alex Jones where people begin to question his mental stability. And, it seems to be working for the most part. He’s still got an insane reach, he’s still being listened to more than any other podcast, and he’s pumping them out for one hell of a paycheque… you know, the $100 Million Spotify paid him for exclusivity? Who knows what other money he’s raking in from endorsements, kickbacks, and otherwise. Idiotic content, yes. Idiot.. maybe not so much and is just playing one for pay.
What am I supposed to do to fill my desire to find more people like Paul Stamets? I struggled with this for a while, and the most obvious thing hit me. Joe Rogan was a “podcast”, only I was watching it on YouTube. I didn’t subscribe to “podcasts”, and despite being fairly technically adept, it just wasn’t something I paid any attention to. It was a content delivery mechanism that I ignored because I didn’t care all that much.
However one night I thought about it more and investigated what’s out there in the podcast world. I loaded up my app and began browsing for a Rogan replacement. I’ve yet to find anyone like him who isn’t so polarized and wide spread with the same type of format, although I’ve found more than enough to keep me beyond loaded with material each week, typically well beyond what I can consume. Here’s a few that keep in heavy rotation for me :
“Stuff You Should Know” : Touches on some of the most obscure topics ever, yet is wildly interesting. The origin of “rock, paper, scissors”, or how fortune cookies ever became a thing. I didn’t know I needed this information, but somehow I’m happy I’ve got it now?
“Savage Lovecast” : It’s kind of like Sex with Sue on AM640 if any of you remember that, only hosted by this gay man from Seattle, Dan Savage. I love the format of the show, and Dan arguably has one of the most easy listening voices you’ve ever heard. That man could soothe me to sleep any day.
“Bill Burr Podcast” : If you’re a fan of Burr, it’s pretty standard stuff. He rants about things, his wife jumps in from time to time, and it’s generally a good laugh. I don’t care much for his segments with Versey so I tune out when it goes to that, but the rest is quality in my mind.
“Office Ladies” : If you’re an Office fan, it’s pretty easy to get hooked. Jenna Fisher & Angela Kinsey do a re-watch of all the episodes giving behind the scenes info from each episode. It can get a little cheesy at times, but as someone who loves odd facts, it’s a good listen as a back-up when you’ve exhausted the rest of your library.
“The Problem With Jon Stewart” : Basically if you liked Jon Stewart, you’ll love this. It’s fairly new, but is a great listen with solid jokes, great content, and useful information that’s presented in a blunt manner.
“Behind The Bastards” : Probably my favorite listen currently. You want to laugh, cry, get angry, and everything else, all at the same time. They run through the bastards in the world (many of which you’d never know about – with many you do) and tell you all kinds of crazy facts that have likely been buried in time and history. It ranges from the Facebook papers (a personal favorite) to Harvey Weinstein, Bezos, Hitler, Jordan Peterson, and topics you’d never know about, yet are still going on today. Robert Evans is wonderful to listen to and is funny as all hell.
There’s others I’ve got queued up but haven’t gotten to yet such as “MegaCorp”, the story of Amazon’s rise to be this dystopian company, “Running From Cops”, a whole look into how the O.G. reality TV Show COPS was horrible, and the one I just started last night, “Behind the Insurrections”, also hosted by Robert Evans and all about the Jan 6th attack on US democracy.
I’ve got more than enough content each week in the above shows. Even then I miss a ton of things and find myself having to be choosy with what I want to listen to as I only have a finite amount of time. I listen to these podcasts while I’m cleaning or doing housework, cooking, and more than anything, while I’m out doing Uber. That’s the brunt of my listening time. I download them while at home on WiFi as to prevent burning up my data while on the road. I couldn’t even do that with Rogan’s show (at least, on YouTube – without a ton of effort).
With minimal effort, I’ve found myself immersed in topics that are wildly interesting to me. I’ve got a deep backlog of episodes to get through, and barely scratched the surface of what’s out there. I’m routinely keeping a keen ear open for new suggestions even though I don’t have the cycles to get to them quite yet. That’s a damn good place to be when it comes to good content and I only got there because “The Joe Rogan Experience” sure as hell ain’t one of them anymore.