I'm always willing to admit when I'm wrong... and if that ever happens I'll be the first one to say so. The reason I'll say that I wasn't wrong at the time I reviewed Joe Rogan's podcastthe first time is that I think he agreed with me. At that time, early in his podcast run, he hadn't settled on a format, the sound quality wasn't good and the technical glitches were a real problem. In a recent podcast, Joe said that in looking back on those early podcasts, many, if not all of them were unlistenable.
But, and this is the thing... that was then. This is now.
I should probably also say as soon as possible that I'm completely aware that Joe Rogan doesn't give two lumpy shits about my opinion of his podcast. He's not going to lose any sleep if I didn't like something and he's not going to starch his boxers if I do.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was looking at the traffic for this blog and a good 30% of it is generated by people using the search terms "Joe Rogen" and "Comedy Podcast". Though there seem to be damn few people willing to leave a public message on the site (open to all without qualification and I will not censor any reasonable comment, pro or con) quite a few were willing to find me (a simple feat via twitter) and send direct messages to me about what a horrible judge of podcasts I am, what a horrible human I am and the many many ways in which I should die.
OK, so maybe I could look at it again.
I was lucky enough to be driving long distances both to and from something twice in the same week and had several hours to fill. I filled the entire time with the Joe Rogan Experience (and one episode of Jordan Jesse, GO!) If the only podcasts of Joe's I ever listen to were the first 10-15 shows... then I'm right and so is Joe. They are not great. There are moments of brightness highlighted by long stretches of stoned banality and conspiracy mumbo jumbo; no guests and not much of interest. They are unlistenable.
But that's not all there is.
As of this writing, there are 114 episodes. With the exception of a two week break taken recently when Joe was shooting a movie in New York, Joe Rogan and Brian Redban have recorded (and streamed live) at least once a week, sometimes twice a week and occasionally thrice a week since beginning the podcast. They have dedicated a great deal of time, energy and equipment to doing this regularly and better. They show a level of dedication that, at the very least, deserves a second look. (just writing regular reviews of other people's stuff is beyond my level of dedication.)
There have been changes to the show. The most notable of which is the addition of guests. I cherry picked through the last 50 or so shows available on iTunes and listened to Joe and Bryan with Doug Benson, Dave Foley, Brian Posehn, Andy Dick, Bill Burr and Jim Norton. First off, that's a pretty good line up. Even if you were just going to do short form interviews with a bit of comedy thrown in, that's a list of names that'll turn your head. Second, Rogan isn't doing short form interviews. He's taking advantage of a primary advantage to the podcast platform; there is no limit on time and no censor of content. Go as long as you want and say whatever the hell you want. Also, the best part of long form interviews (or what has come about recently with the podcast medium, ultra long form interviews) is that if you talk to somebody long enough, sooner or later you start to hear from the real person in the interview rather than the prepared, repeated and manicured bits that they say on Letterman and Leno.
When Joe drops into interviewer mode it isn't Conan smooth, but it gets the job done and he's way better at it than he was before. That said, I was impressed on a number of fronts with the conversations he had with the list of guests shown above.
First, Joe doesn't suck up to anybody or overly agree. He's willing to say he disagrees with a guest but he doesn't do it in an argumentative way. It's a discussion. Both guest and host are equal participants with equal rights to an opinion. And that was never more clear than when Jim Norton started spouting FOX News republican talking point rhetoric and Joe clearly disagreed but allowed Norton to have his say without a big wrestling match. Second, Joe has a reasonably broad understanding of the human condition. He gets that we are only a few generations removed from the jungle and a lot of what we think and feel is instinctive response to fear, joy, happiness, hunger, loneliness, procreative drive and so on. And all of that history relates to our current experience. We can be as modern as we want, but we're still animals.
Rogan relates to his guests as a friend. He seems genuinely affable and people on the show appear to feel the friendly vibe and respond in kind. The friendship between Joe and Dave Foley was a warm and endearing kind of thing that I didn't expect. (And if anybody could use a friend now, it is Dave Foley.)
Another thing I found improved in the show was the lessening of the conspiracy theory stuff. So much so that during the show with Brian Poshen, Joe put the brakes on something that Redban was talking about concerning a supposed nuclear disaster in southern California in the late 50s or early 60s. Without actual evidence or reliable reportage, Joe wouldn't let Redban go with "I heard that..." sorta story telling. Rogan still subscribes (to some degree) to schools of thought that I might consider wacky or improbable and border on black ship conspiracy bunk, but he doesn't push it on the show as much anymore. Everybody believes something and if the conversation turns that way, he's still able to dial it up but the show now seems focused on informing the listener about the guest more so than about Rogan's background beliefs.
Overall, I enjoyed listening to Rogan and Redban speak with these people. The show has grown up and I think they really have something. Rogan dominates the inquiry, but Redban gets a question in once in a while. And there were times when during the Poshen interview that it seemed like Poshen was interviewing Rogan, but that's really only the sign of a flexible show and host. For the time being, Rogan has made it back onto my weekly listen list. I'm re subscribed on iTunes and when I have choices in abundance of listening materials, Joe is closer to the top than to the middle and that's better than the bottom or not at all.
My rating scale Is this podcast entertaining? - Yes
Am I likely to listen to the next podcast? – Yes, it is no on my weekly list.Do I recommend this podcast to friends? – Not yet but I will