'Maybe There Were Two Joe Rogans'

'New York Times' takes a long look at the controversial podcaster
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2021 8:00 AM CDT
Joe Rogan Fans Feared a Hit Piece. This Isn't One
Joe Rogan in 2013.   (AP Photo/Starpix, Andrew Toth)

When the Joe Rogan universe learned the New York Times was working on a story about him, the word went out that a "hit piece" was in progress. Rogan himself, who typically avoids interviews with print media, did not grant one to Matt Flegenheimer. Now that the story is out, Rogan's fans might be surprised to learn it is no hit piece. Instead, it is a long look at the arc of Rogan's career—including a multi-year stint on the late 1990s sitcom NewsRadio, the "performative belligerence" of his standup, gigs hosting Fear Factor and UFC events, and his current, controversial role as host of the world's biggest podcast. One theme of the story might be summed up by a quote from Harvard law's Lawrence Lessig, who looked up Rogan before appearing on his show in 2018. “I remember Googling him and being kind of confused,” he says. “Maybe there were two Joe Rogans.”

Flegenheimer explores those contrasts, beginning with the big one: The 53-year-old Rogan has what's said to be a $100 million deal to host The Joe Rogan Experience on the Spotify platform, yet manages the feat of "convincing people they are listening to something subversive and undiluted." Another: Rogan is generally reviled on the left, but he praises Bernie Sanders and proposals such as universal basic income. He makes provocative statements about vaccines and the like, has an Oprah-like influence on books, and can make comic careers with one invite to his show, all while reminding people they shouldn't take him too seriously. As Flegenheimer puts it in summing up the show's "self-fulfilling" mindset: "The host is dangerous, at least in the way that comedians like to be dangerous. He should probably not be taken at face value, except when he should, and the discerning listener should be trusted to tell the difference." (Read the full story.)

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