Those of us who can remember the reality TV of the early part of the millenium will have likely at one point or another come across Fear Factor. The programme was a memorable part of the television zeitgeist, which saw members of the public having the endure a series of death-defying and stomach-churning challenges for a chance of winning $50k. From bathing with snakes, bobbing for rings in cow blood, to jumping between helicopters, if it was designed to provoke fear, it was on the menu, all under the watchful eye of presenter and comedian Joe Rogan.
Skip forward to 2020, classic Fear Factor may well have long ended, but one thing that Rogan doesn’t have to fear is relying on his pension. As host of The Joe Rogan Experience, Forbes have estimated that Rogan raked in $30 million as the top-earning podcast in 2019, double his nearest competitor.
The format is nothing too flashy, nothing too dissimilar from episode to episode. It began on Christmas Eve, 2009, with episodes now almost daily filmed and recorded from his man cave studio in Woodland Hills, California.
The image of Joe Rogan with the brick wall and Stars and Stripes behind him, getting his assistant Jamie to ‘pull that up’ when he wants something from the internet are now culturally iconic. It is ultimately this familiarity, recognisability, as well as Rogan unafraid to broach most topics that has elevated up the charts and make a man mouthing off into a mic.
There have been close to 1500 episodes, where the listener will - after enduring an extortionate opening period of promotion - hear from conversation with guests ranging from Democrat hopeful Bernie Sanders to heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury, political commentator Bill Maher to shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong, Hollywood icon Robert Downey Jr. to whistleblower Edward Snowden. There is no limit, no defined range, if you’re interesting, Rogan wants to hear from you, particularly if you’re a DMT aficionado.
Rogan can currently claim over 1.5billion listens a year, with UFC fighter Michael Bisping revealing in 2016 that Rogan makes around $75,000 for each episode he produces. There are numbers to rival the most premier of American TV chat shows, and few can really boast of such an eclectic bunch of characters to shake the mic with as Joe Rogan.
Conversations have covered the political spectrum, directly making him one of the most prominent - or at least recognisable and outspoken - voices in America.
The New Jersey native started off in comedy in the late 80s, appearing on a variety of TV shows in the 90s, before being granted more exposure in the burgeoning world of mixed martial arts and the UFC, which has gone on to be one of the most lucrative franchises in the history of sport (in 2016 sports entertainment agency WME-IMG paid an eye-watering $4billion for it). A black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Rogan explained his entry into UFC:
"I started out in 1997 with them. I was the post-fight interviewer," Rogan said in an interview on The Rosie Show. "This is what they did: they brought me there, they gave me a microphone, they put an ear-piece in me and they go, 'OK, ready, Joe? We're going to come to you in three seconds.'
"Nobody explained to me what I was going to do, how to interview people; it was a weird organization back then."
For his podcast, Rogan has indeed called on members of the UFC world - including president Dana White to sit down for a chat for the privilege of the watching and listening world. Out of his 1423 episodes (of as February 6) only one has required Joe Rogan to be a guest on his own pod. It may be just one man and his microphone but $30m a year is a nice pay packed for pub chat.