September 19, 2019

Joe Rogan and the American Man

“Few men in America are as popular among American men as Joe Rogan. It’s a massive group congregating in plain sight, and it’s made up of people you know from high school, guys who work three cubicles down, who are still paying off student loans, who forward jealous-girlfriend memes, who spot you at the gym. Single guys. Married guys. White guys, black guys, Dominican guys. Two South Asian friends of mine swear by him. My college roommate. My little brother. Normal guys. American guys.

The Joe Rogan Experience has been the No. 2 most-downloaded podcast on iTunes for two years running. Rogan’s second Netflix comedy special, Strange Times, dropped last year. His interview last fall with Elon Musk has been viewed more than 24 million times on YouTube, and his YouTube channel, PowerfulJRE, has 6 million subscribers. An indifferently received episode will tend to get somewhere around 1 million views. So many people in the content business right now are trying, and failing, to get the attention of these men, and yet somehow Joe Rogan has managed to recruit a following the size of Florida.

Rogan’s podcast gushes like a mighty river of content—approximately three episodes a week, usually more than two hours per episode, consisting of one marathon conversation with a subject of his choosing. Over the course of about 1,400 episodes and counting, his roster of guests can be divided roughly three ways: (1) comedians, (2) fighters, and (3) “thinkers,” which requires air quotes because it encompasses everyone from Oxford scholars and MIT bioengineers to culture drivers such as the marketing entrepreneur Hotep Jesus and the rapper turned radio co-host Charlamagne tha God all the way across the known intellectual galaxy to conspiracy theorists like Rogan’s longtime buddy and Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones. Also Dr. Phil. And David Lee Roth. And B-Real from Cypress Hill.”

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