There are few podcasts that have captured the zeitgeist more than The Joe Rogan Experience. The hours-long chat show has become the gold standard of long-form conversations about… well, almost anything. Just a few weeks ago, Rogan was trending on Twitter — yet again — for his semi-endorsement of presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. Everyone had an opinion about the endorsement, many voicing very legitimate concerns about Rogan’s previous racist/misogynist statements. Meanwhile, the entire conversation was further proof of Rogan’s massive sway in certain corners of our society.
Rogan, of course, didn’t start out with millions of listeners. The show started off at the end of 2009 in Rogan’s living room with some friends. For the first 120 or so episodes, it was little more than a space for Rogan and his close friends to riff, bullshit, and promote their upcoming comedy gigs. Bryan Callen, Ari Shaffir, Iliza Shlesinger, Tom Segura, Duncan Trussel, Eddie Bravo, Bert Kreischer, and a handful of others were mainstays during those first two years. Then, in late 2011, Rogan’s net started pulling from outside of his immediate friend circle when guests like Kevin Smith and Anthony Bourdain dropped in.
After that, the show started becoming a space for Rogan to invite folks with whom he simply wanted to chat with for any reason. The host’s wide-ranging curiosity, as The Atlantic recently observed, became the only guiding light. Journalists, authors, physicists, biologists, psychonauts, nutritionists, athletes, hunters, war correspondents, actors, musicians, directors, political commentators (from both sides of the aisle), and now even politicians happily take hours out of their lives to sit down with Rogan.
With all of that in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at the whole run of shows and pick 25 episodes that really stand out as a sort of Rogan primer. With nearly 1,500 to choose from, 25 really is just a sampling for anyone looking to get a sense of the breadth and width of Rogan’s run. If you’re sorting out your feelings for Rogan — either because you think you might like him or you think you might hate him — these episodes will give you some grounding.
Feel free to shout out your own picks in the comments.
25. Dan Savage, episode #512
It’s tough going deep into the Rogan archives because technology and politics have changed so much even since 2014, when this episode first aired. Still, Rogan’s chat with author, editor, and gay rights activist Dan Savage feels like it could have come out last week. A lot of what Savage and Rogan discuss — pertaining to gay rights in America, political upheaval, and sex — is still relevant today and part of the cultural conversation.
It’s easy to see how Rogan’s show became so popular when you listen to early episodes like this.
24. Ron White, episode #888
A huge part of The Joe Rogan Experience’s draw and influence are his long-form chats with fellow comedians. Comedians big and small, young and legendary make their way onto the show and it’s usually a hilarious couple of hours. One of the best examples is comedian Ron White’s appearances.
Ron isn’t one to make the media rounds constantly, but when he shows up for Rogan, it’s a great listen. The two comedians riff, shoot-the-shit, and get supremely drunk and/or high. It’s as raucous as it’s hilarious, and a true high-water mark for the show.
23. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, episode #1159
Neil DeGrasse Tyson has become a mainstay of the podcast, making yearly appearances over the past few years. Each show is a chance for Rogan to quiz Tyson on issues that the public still seems to find hard to grasp, giving Tyson a chance to explain some of the harder corners of science in layman’s terms.
Case in point, this is the episode wherein Tyson breaks down exactly what’s happening when a microwave is heating food and why it’s silly to be afraid of them. As always, episodes with Tyson are as fun to listen to as they are educational.
22. Sturgill Simpson & His Band, episode #1356
Sturgill Simpson has been another mainstay of The Joe Rogan Experience. Whenever the musician has a new album or tour to promote, you can beat your ass he’ll be dropping into Rogan’s ever-evolving studio space.
The latest installment of the Rogan-Simpson chat included Simpson’s whole band, a breakdown of how they created Simpson’s latest album (Sound & Fury), and great story-telling all around. Simpson also goes deep into a story of a break-in at his Nashville home and how gun violence isn’t always the answer. It’s an intriguing listen.
21. Boyan Slat, episode #1402
Dutch inventor and entrepreneur Boyan Slat has made two appearances so far. The wunderkind inventor is the mind behind The Ocean Cleanup, a group that’s using technology, engineering inventions, and reuse economics to clean plastics from our oceans, rivers, and water supply. Each conversation has been amazingly inspiring and useful for anyone looking to lend a hand in cleaning up our waterways.
Slat’s latest appearance offered a chance to hear of The Ocean Cleanups’ progress and what’s next for the massive effort needed to clean up garbage islands in the ocean. This is environmentalism in action and offers some serious hope for the future.
20. Steven Rinella, episode #1341
Over the last ten years, the number of Americans hunting has grown for the first time in over a half-century. The biggest sector of growth was among millennials who are looking for alternatives to factory farming. The growth has gotten to the point wherein five percent of Americans 16 and older now hunt for (at least some of) their food. For comparison’s sake, that’s nearly double the number of vegetarians and at least five times that of vegans in the U.S.
A big draw towards hunting is thanks to conservationist, author, and TV host Steven Rinella. Rinella has taken a lot of the stigma out of hunting, asks and answers the hard questions, and offers a path to hunting and cooking wild foods that’s accessible and easy-going. All of Rinella’s appearances on JRE are worth listening to, especially if you’re curious about another way to source your food in 2020.
19. Duncan Trussell and Christopher Ryan, Ph.D., episode #1051
Comedian and psychonaut Duncan Trussel has been a mainstay of JRE since the beginning. Hell, Trussel and Rogan even had a short-lived SyFy show where they “question everything.” That bled into the podcast after the SyFy show was canceled. Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. has also been a continual guest over the last 1,000-plus episodes thanks to his book Sex at Dawn — a book that examines the pre-historic origins of modern human sexuality.
Trussel and Ryan have a great simpatico with Rogan and the three of them are very enjoyable to listen to as they talk human sexuality, doing drugs in wild places, and, most importantly, being human on this crazy planet. It’s as relatable as it is informative and will leave you seeking out Trussel and Ryan’s solo podcast episodes.
18. Graham Hancock, episode #1284
Graham Hancock has made a name for himself by questioning the status-quo of mainstream anthropology and archaeology. In most cases, he does this by simply pointing out inconsistencies in theories, ignored evidence, or the western tilt of racism towards Indigenous populations. Over the course of the ten years that Hancock has been appearing on Rogan’s show, he’s gone from being viewed as a pseudo conspiracy theorist in the scientific community to being proven right by hard evidence over and over again as new discoveries are made.
This appearance by Hancock coincided with his latest book, America Before, which examined the mounting evidence that the cultures of North and South Americans are not only massively older than most want to believe but were far more advanced — in some cases by several millennia — than their Eurasian counterparts. It’s a crucial listen (and read) for anyone looking to get a better understanding of where they live.
17. Paul Stamets, episode #1035
If you’ve never understood the Rogan pull, this is the episode that’ll help — it’s fun and informational in equal measures. Paul Stamets has devoted his life to all things fungi. His devotion runs so deeply that he’s now the U.S.’s official expert on the subject and plies his trade in the forests of Washington’s Olympic rainforests.
Like shows with other scientists, Rogan has a way of interviewing/chatting that makes the nitty-gritty information of a very specific scientific subject understandable, relatable even. Stamets also happens to have amazing stories about tripping on mushrooms he finds in the PNW which always leaves Rogan shocked and in awe.
16. Eddie Izzard, episode #1289
Rogan has often created a stir around his views on issues facing the trans community, especially pertaining to sports and children. However, Rogan has also often welcomed members of the LGBTQI community with open arms to tell their stories on his podcast. Last year’s episode with trans comedian, actor, and political activist Eddie Izzard was a shining example of this.
The episode centered around Rogan listening as Izzard told his story of how he came to be a trans person in entertainment, the trials therein, and eventual triumph in the industry. You rarely get such a detailed, first-person accounting of someone sharing their own history outside of a 500-page memoir. The Rogan format of several hours of chatting allowed the history and thoughts to flow, which helped illuminate one person’s struggle to embrace their true identity even as society was (often literally) beating them down.
15. Bob Lazar and Jeremy Corbell, episode #1315
Rogan’s other big strength in the podcasting field is pulling interviews from very isolated individuals. Bob Lazar is the man who claims to have worked in the reverse-extra-terrestrial-tech engineering program for the U.S. government. Lazar’s life has, naturally, been turned upside down by the U.S. government as a result of those admissions. The FBI went so far as to try and erase Lazar’s collegiate education — the ultimate carrying out of “you’ll never work in the town again” tactics.
Still, Lazar persists with his stories, unwaveringly so. The chat with Rogan is illuminating, to say the least, and leaves you truly on the verge of believing it’s all real. If you’re into extra-terrestrial conspiracy theories in any way, then this is the mountaintop of interviews.
14. Kevin Smith, episode #1123
The Gist: Kevin Smith was one of the first non-stand up guests to appear on the JRE way back in 2011. Since then, Smith has shown up pretty regularly to get high and shoot-the-shit with Rogan. This episode is the absolute stand out since it happened about one month after Smith suffered a severe heart attack while performing on stage.
The episode offers a spell-binding look at health, health crises, and recovery. Smith also offers a lot of hope throughout this episode for anyone struggling with their weight. He breaks down, piece by piece, how he’s getting his body into shape to avoid another traumatic cardiac event and, well, save his own life.
13. Leah Remini, episode #908
Ever since Leah Remini left the Church of Scientology, she’s been an outspoken advocate against the stranger aspects of the religion’s practices. Remini has been instrumental in shining a light on those irregularities via a tell-all book and various interviews across most media platforms.
None of those interviews go as deep as Remini’s chat with Rogan. Remini’s harrowing and often bizarre account of the group is spellbinding and podcast you’ll likely listen to more than once just so you can absorb all the information being thrown down.
12. Dan Carlin and Daniele Bolelli, episode #413
Hardcore History’s Dan Carlin and History on Fire’s Daniele Bolelli host two of the most important history podcasts available. They’re also close friends who each have appeared on Rogan’s show multiple times solo. So when they finally appeared together on this 2013 episode, it was like old friends getting back together to talk about all the things they’ve been dying to chat about since they last met.
This is probably the easiest episode to listen to on the podcast as it just flows through politics, martial arts, living life, and history with common sense ease. If you dig it, we highly recommend seeking out both Carlin and Bolelli’s solo appearance on the podcast.
11. Ana Kasparian, episode #590
Joe Rogan’s and Ana Kasparian’s professional relationship has been a little bit wild. Kasparian was an early-adopter guest on JRE and she even interviewed Rogan at Young Turks. Then, as Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook conspiracy theories spiraled and Rogan refused to discuss them (because they were idiotic and damaging). Kasparian took to her Young Turks platform to denounce Rogan for not speaking out against his longtime friend.
It’s a fascinating look at a feud born out of what was seemingly a close professional friendship. So go back and listen to this podcast to get a glimpse into the calm before the (online) storm. One thing we know for sure, Rogan is never one to shirk from a good argument. So we’re looking forward to Kasparian’s return to the show to hash all of this out.
10. Bobcat Goldthwait, episode #800
Comedian, actor, director, and bigfoot enthusiast Bobcat Goldthwait has been a part of The Joe Rogan Experience since the beginning. There are a lot of great Goldthwait appearances on the show. But for our podcast listening money (time), Goldthwait’s appearance back in 2016 to talk about his found footage horror film Willow Creek was a highwater mark.
The film is about a sasquatch terrorizing some campers and gives Rogan and Goldthwait a great launching pad to discuss all things bigfoot conspiracy theories from actual giant apes that lived around 10,000 years ago to cryptozoology to the crackpots out in the woods who won’t give up the search. It’s fun, hilarious, and insightful — the hallmarks of a great episode of The JRE.
9. Abby Martin, episode #1316
Rogan’s open invitation to political commentators of all ilks has created a lot of controversy over the years. A lot of names could have gone in this slot. But Abby Martin speaks to something higher when she’s on the show. Her views don’t cow-tow to capitalist propaganda or tow any party line. There’s pure liberalism to Martin’s work that fights the power whether that be at home or abroad. She calls a spade a spade and, unlike some of the more conservative hosts Rogan speaks with, is willing to learn and evolve on issues.
Martin seems to be shining lights on real injustices and the darker corners of our capitalistic existence. She doesn’t ask for conformity and obedience, as some of the political pundits might demand. She asks you to wake up … and fight for what’s right. That sets this episode apart from the pack.
8. Sean Carrol, episode #1352
When Sean Carrol shows up on the podcast, you know you’re going to get an education in things that’ll melt your mind about our universe and existence. The theories of space, existence, and physics are so vast and, well, convoluted, it takes a steady hand like Carrol’s to explain them to us to even begin to get a grasp.
With Carrol on the pod, Rogan brings the questions almost all of us have about issues of quantum physics. And if an answer doesn’t make sense, they go back and go deeper. It’s a great way to learn, by simply talking it out.
7. W. Kamau Bell, episode #1004
W. Kamau Bell’s appearances on The JRE have always been a fun listen. In this particular episode, Bell was there to launch his CNN series United Shades of America which took a deep dive into the diversity of the American identity. This episode offered the opportunity for Bell and Rogan to honestly discuss everything from the power of Oprah Winfrey to the deeply rooted inequality in the United States for people of color to the early days of the Trump presidency.
It’s a fascinating episode on its own. But it really shines as a bit of a time capsule of the first days of the Trump administration and how absurd it all seemed in 2017 (compared to where we are today).
6. Elon Musk, episode #1169
There are few episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience that have made more waves. When tech-guru, inventor, and futurist Elon Musk showed up to talk about the state of the planet, space exploration, Tesla, and AI, seemingly everyone who listens to podcasts tuned in. Then Rogan passed Elon a spliff and shit went wild. Endless memes of the moment have been enshrined in everything from t-shirts to real-life murals to tattoos. Stocks tanked … and the spiked. For about 48 hours, Elon Musk smoking cannabis with Joe Rogan (on a live YouTube stream no less) was all anyone could talk about.
Beyond that meme-able moment, Musk also offered insight into the next generation of electric cars, Mars expeditions, and a rather chilling account of where he sees AI going in our very near future. This is an episode that will hook you in and not let go until you listen to a couple of times.
5. Dr. Rhonda Patrick, episode #459
Dr. Rhonda Patrick has appeared on the JRE seven times since 2014. The biomedical scientist and expert on nutritional health has helped usher in Rogan’s broad-ranging look at health, nutrition, and aging. Dr. Patrick’s episodes are always massively informational and insightful when it comes to what food we should be eating, what nutrients our bodies need to function well, and how to keep up with the avalanche of (good and bad) information we’re all inundated with almost constantly these days.
This episode takes it back to the beginning when Dr. Patrick first appeared in 2014. We’d highly recommend creating a playlist of each episode over the years (especially if you’re looking to improve your fitness and health).
4. Dr. Cornel West, episode #1325
Dr. Cornel West dropped by the podcast for a long-form chat with Rogan last year. The talk was illuminating and educational. It also offered a glimpse into the world of Dr. West that you rarely see with his short-form appearances on news shows and panel discussions. Rogan and West talked about race, culture, America, Trump, the world, life, and love in ways that’ll have you understanding why so many people listen to this show and love it. It’s unbridled and Dr. West pulls no punches in speaking truth to power.
This is the sort of episode, as well, where Rogan’s real politics are on full display. That is, he’s an unabashed liberal who’s never even voted for a republican. In this conversation with Dr. West, it’s plainly obvious what Rogan believes in his heart. Give it a listen.
3. Edward Snowden, episode #1368
This might be the most inexplicable and shocking episode of the Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan bucked tradition and had Edward Snowden (whistle-blower on the U.S. surveillance state) call in from Moscow. No face-to-face here, but you barely notice it.
Snowden walks us through his background, his time at NSA, and his life in Moscow. Those historical moments are fascinating enough to make this a great listen. However, it’s Snowden’s assessment of the current state of surveillance via almost every aspect of our daily lives that makes this a sobering must-listen podcast.
2. Anthony Bourdain, episode #138
Part of the placement of this episode this high on the list is 100-percent nostalgia. This is a two-plus hour chat with Anthony Bourdain and it’s rare. The second aspect of this placement is that this episode feels like a big turning point for The Joe Rogan Experience. With the exception of Kevin Smith, nearly every guest before Bourdain was from Rogan’s comedy and fighting circle of friends. This episode opened up the show to something bigger that led directly to what The Joe Rogan Experience is today.
Also, Bourdain’s no-nonsense explanations of adventure, travel, and food culture and Rogan’s awestruck attitude throughout still rings true nine years later. This is the sort of episode that you can throw on right now and you’ll be inspired to try that new restaurant or strike out on the open road.
1. Bernie Sanders, episode #1330
Does Joe Rogan have the pull to sway an election? We’re about to find out. Regardless, Bernie Sanders‘ appearance on the show last year was a watershed moment for Rogan and the congressman. Rogan deftly interviewed Sanders and gave the presidential candidate a chance to dive deep into his message. This wasn’t 15-second bromides a la a debate format. This was Rogan asking Sanders what he believes, how he thinks he can change the country, and where the money will come from. If you’re on the fence about Sanders’ politics, aspirations, and what kind of commander-in-chief he’ll be, then this podcast will clear that up.
There’s rarely been a format or place where a presidential candidate has had a chance to be this … real. Sanders was honest, inspiring, and seemingly got Rogan’s vote for 2020. The potential for this episode to change the game of how we interact with our leadership and candidates makes it, possibly, the most important show Rogan has ever done.