Las Vegas headliner Joe Rogan’s podcast has become so popular, “The Joe Rogan Experience” earns a staggering 11 million downloads a month. Those are TV show numbers.
Rogan wins listeners (like me) by talking — for two to three hours per episode — to interviewees broadcasters often ignore: physicists describing the universe, Vegas UFC fighters, comedians, evolutionary psychologists, people devoted to shrooms, and unfamous people who have offbeat ideas.
“The Joe Rogan Experience” (on iTunes and Android apps) is one of the best interview shows in America — more compelling than “Fresh Air,” “Radio Lab” and Howard Stern.
Rogan achieves that mark by being authentic, inquisitive, funny, wise, headstrong, yet humble. He never resorts to old radio tricks of manufacturing shocks, screaming conflicts and sound effects.
On Friday, Rogan returns to The Mirage to perform stand-up with comedian friends who at times appear on his show: Duncan Trussell, Joey Diaz and Ari Shaffir.
So, I got on the phone with Rogan and asked him how he so excellently brews his podcast, which influenced me more than anything in pop culture in 2014.
First of all, Rogan said he has no producer, no network and no boss.
“There’s no one telling me what to do” to “spice it up,” the former host of NBC’s “Fear Factor” said. “There’s no one that has any expectations other than the listeners.”
Rogan’s goal is to lead great conversations with interesting or funny people, without being repetitive or boring.
“I pursue it knowing there’s a lot of people listening,” Rogan told me. “I don’t want anyone to feel like, ‘Ugh, I can’t get that hour of my life back.’ ”
Because of the show’s loyal listeners (and its simultaneous live show on YouTube), companies advertise on “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
“But I don’t think of it as a primary job. I do it more than anything else — more than the UFC, actually. I do it three or four days a week. But I’m enjoying it.”
Oh yes, the UFC: Rogan’s commentary is his more visible job, often here in Las Vegas. But this year, Rogan also released his funniest stand-up album to date, “Rocky Mountain High.”
He sharpens his comedian stagecraft by performing stand-up across Los Angeles so frequently that, on the day I interviewed him, he was doing three sets that night.
The guy is a workhorse. But, as we fans know from his podcast (which isn’t traditionally political), Rogan fits no stereotype.
“It’s important not to get trapped into an ideology. I have a lot of liberal values, especially when it comes to discrimination, when it comes to sexual discrimination, sexual orientation, gay rights and racism,” Rogan said.
“But I’m also a gun owner. I’m in the NRA. I’m a hunter. I just see there’s a lot on both sides. This idea that you have to subscribe to only one ideology or the other, it’s a trap.”
My favorite thing about Rogan, actually, is how generous he is. He promotes other people’s podcasts when he likes them because he doesn’t believe we should cut each other down.
For instance, Rogan kept telling listeners to try “Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank.” I finally did, and I ended up listening to nearly 400 hours of Shaffir’s incredibly intimate interview podcast.
When I asked Rogan about how all this is shaking out for him — the podcast, the UFC, the stand-up career — he very typically summed it up as if it’s a gift from the universe he doesn’t take for granted.
“I don’t know what the (expletive) I did to have such a lucky life, between my family, and the jobs I have, and the friends that I have. I’m incredibly fortunate.”
SUPREME SNOW IN VEGAS?
I was on the phone with Mary Wilson, of The Supremes, when snow flurries started falling in her Anthem neighborhood. “My trees are blowing all over the place up here,” she said.
Wilson has lived around Las Vegas since the 1980s. She only remembers it snowing on her twice in those years (she might have been touring during other snows).
“The last time, it destroyed my beautiful trees out here. It was beautiful in the beginning; but after that, (the) snow made all my little palm trees droop.
“People left their cars at the bottom of the hill here in Anthem” during that last snow several years ago. “I come from Detroit, so I’m used to snow. But people here left their cars. It was really funny.”
Wilson will stage a show of Supremes songs and other hits Jan. 17-18 at the Suncoast Showroom.
WHICH KARDASHIAN ERA is it?
Khloe Kardashian made her paid appearance Tuesday night at 1 Oak nightclub in The Mirage.
It made me wonder: Which Kardashian era are we in?
Researchers suggest eras come in phases. Consumers who are “innovators” and “early adapters” can make a product become underground-cool (like hipster mustaches). Then, mainstreamers buy into that fad and make it profitable (canisters featuring pictures of ironic mustaches). Finally, “laggards” signify the trend is over (Grandma lets her mustache grow in).
But every now and then, a trend gets lucky and inserts its tentacles into our heads and won’t let go despite the loss of cool factor (Madonna, Britney).
The Kardashians are in this post-laggard moment after everyone is sick of them. Will they transition into post-irony-satire forever-fame (Britney)? Or will their name become a memorable remnant of a bygone era (a grandma mustache)?
Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.