For millions of people, 11 hours of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” the controversial, immensely popular show on Spotify, just isn’t enough to get them through the week. To get more of their favorite podcast, they turn to Adam Thorne, the creator and host of “Joe Rogan Experience Review.”
Every week, Thorne and his co-host Garrett Hess share their favorite moments from Rogan’s hit show, revisiting its funniest bits, debating its best interviews and chewing over its most outlandish ideas, while occasionally sprinkling in their own thoughts on related topics such as stand-up comedy, hunting and the state of the media.
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In many ways, “Joe Rogan Experience Review” resembles the new genre of recap podcasts that cater to diehard fans of particular TV series by feverishly analyzing every, juicy new turn of drama. At the start of some episodes of “Joe Rogan Experience Review,” an announcer’s voice tells listeners that Thorne’s program is like “Talking Dead” to Joe Rogan’s “The Walking Dead.”
In an interview, Thorne says he’s been an avid fan of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” since it debuted in 2009. “I always found myself holding discussions about what was on his show and what we liked about it,” Thorne said. “I was fascinated by how he ran the whole show. So I thought, why not discuss that?”
Thorne’s podcast has no official affiliation with Rogan’s show but it is starting to put up Rogan-like numbers. Its audience has skyrocketed over the last year and now averages more than a million downloads per month. In early February, it peaked at No. 6 on the Apple podcast charts and briefly became one of the 100 most popular podcasts in the world, according to Chartable.
It’s a testament to the power of Rogan’s fanbase that a podcast about his podcast draws a larger audience than almost everything else in a booming market, including countless programs hosted by other famous comedians. It’s also another reminder of why Spotify Technology SA has been unwilling to dump Rogan despite a fierce backlash from artists like Neil Young who are upset with the host and his backers for spreading vaccine misinformation.
Since the fall of 2018, a second Joe Rogan recapping podcast, called “The Joe Rogan Experience Experience,” has also been vying for the attention of Rogan fans. It too pulls in a sizable audience. Currently, however, “The Joe Rogan Experience Experience” is not as popular as “Joe Rogan Experience Review.”
Until now, Thorne, a soft-spoken, 40-year-old Brit, has avoided doing any press about his show. He says the whole thing started in 2016 as a way to work on his stand-up comedy material.
“I never did this to have a lot of people listen,” Thorne said. “It was never the intention.”
Born near Bristol, England, Thorne grew up listening to Monty Python tapes with his father and adoring the comedy of Rowan Atkinson. In his mid-30s, he was living in Los Angeles and pursuing a career in comedy, working open mic nights at local clubs. While many of Thorne’s peers made podcasts chronicling their efforts to make a living telling jokes, Thorne, who is a martial arts enthusiast, felt inspired by some advice from Rogan, a longtime commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“He would always say, ‘Just do something you either know a lot about or are interested in,’” Thorne said.
What Thorne was most interested in was Rogan. At first, Thorne knew nothing about podcasting. In his early episodes, he would talk for about 10 minutes at a time reviewing the latest offering from Rogan. The results often sounded amateurish and attracted few listeners.
Thorne kept experimenting. After about a year, he settled on a formula that he still uses today. He added a co-host and rather than review every show, he began compressing his reviews into one weekly episode that goes on for about an hour.
Some commenters accused him of piggybacking off of Rogan’s success, especially with the show’s name, which might give some people the mistaken impression that Rogan himself will be appearing therein. To this day, given the similarity of titles, anyone who goes hunting for Rogan’s podcast is likely to stumble accidentally upon Thorne’s.
“I probably should have picked a more creative name, but I just didn’t,” Thorne said.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, Thorne’s show steadily added listeners. The program really took off in 2020 when Rogan signed an exclusive deal with Spotify. By the second half of the year, Rogan’s podcast had disappeared from other platforms. People using Apple’s podcast app or Amazon Music could suddenly no longer find “The Joe Rogan Experience.” But they could find “Joe Rogan Experience Review.” Thorne’s audience ballooned.
“When he went over to Spotify is when I started getting much bigger numbers,” Thorne said.
Established podcasting companies like Podcorn and Gumball work with Thorne to help monetize his show, which speaks to the same core demographic as Rogan’s: men between the ages of 18 and 45. Many of the same advertisers for Rogan’s show, such as ExpressVPN, now also buy air time on “Joe Rogan Experience Review.”
Thorne wouldn’t disclose how much money he makes from the podcast. But he is earning enough from advertisements that he doesn’t have to work another job. One hour of podcasting a week comfortably supports him. During the pandemic, he moved to Bozeman, Montana, ending his dreams of a career in stand-up comedy. He now wants to become a therapist. Thorne plans to use money from his show to pay for graduate school in behavioral health therapy.
“Especially since the pandemic, the mental toll on a lot of people inspires me to do that,” Thorne said. “I don’t think it would be healthy working for 45 minutes a week, and that’s it.”
Since late 2020, Garrett Hess has served as co-host. Thorne says they first met in Los Angeles, where Hess works as the manager at a bar. While listening to episodes of Rogan, Thorne takes extensive notes and tries to keep their on-air conversations focused. Inspired by a drink or two, Hess frequently seems to say whatever comes to mind. The pandemic has been ruinous for the bar where Hess works, turning him into a vocal critic of lockdowns and vaccine mandates.
The controversies engulfing Spotify of late have not compelled Thorne to reconsider his support for Rogan, who has been criticized for giving his guests a platform to voice conspiracy theories, transphobic remarks and vaccine skepticism. If anything, it has deepened Thorne’s admiration. He praised Rogan for apologizing recently after a video circulated of him using a racial slur.
“I don’t think he’s a bad guy,” Thorne said. “I don’t think his intention is to misinform or to hurt anybody.”
Over the past month, as artists and podcasters have boycotted Spotify over Rogan, the popularity of Thorne’s show has spiked even higher. Recently, Thorne has heard from several companies interested in helping him to spruce up his production values and to come up with ideas for new podcasts. But Thorne says that to date neither Rogan nor his handlers have reached out to him. And Thorne would prefer they never do.
To contact the author of this story:
Lucas Shaw in Los Angeles at email@example.com