10 Times Joe Rogan Made Celebs Uncomfortable

This article references homophobia, transphobia, and racism. 

Armed with just a microphone and a video camera, Joe Rogan claimed to have no lofty ambitions when he started "The Joe Rogan Experience" in 2009. "I've never tried to do anything with this podcast other than just talk to people and have interesting conversations," he said in a ten-minute video on Instagram, a little over 12 years later. That dalliance has since become a must-watch streaming attraction that boasts an audience of 11 million per episode and a cushy $100-million distribution deal with digital entertainment service, Spotify.

Throughout his time as the host of the podcast, Rogan has been accused of platforming wilfully inflammatory discourse concerning issues related to COVID-19, racism, and the LGBTQ+ community. Suffice it to say, Rogan has his fair share of detractors from CNN's Don Lemon and "The View's" Sunny Hostin to music legends, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. 

Many of the podcast star's fans would assert that the average episode of his show features a calm host conversing with guests in the most comfortable environment he can facilitate — sometimes Scotch and cigars help. Still, that hasn't stopped Rogan from popping a question from left field that might catch his guests off-guard. While some can take a thorny query and put a humorous spin on it, others may pause to take in the gravity of the topic before providing a thoughtful response. Then there are others who lash out or double down once they discover they're on the hot seat. That's when Rogan's quest for interesting conversations can make his celebrity guests seriously uncomfortable.

Eddie Bravo got pancaked over the Flat Earth Theory

Former mixed martial arts athlete Eddie Bravo might come across as someone who has suffered a few concussions too many, but he's since been able to develop his talents to become a fight instructor, comedian, and podcast host. Apparently, astronomy was one skill he didn't manage to master, as evidenced by his appearance on a 2017 episode of "The Joe Rogan Experience," alongside fellow guest Brendan Schaub. During much of the podcast, the three shot the breeze about the MMA scene, until they drifted towards science when Bravo delivered a few arcane notions of his own. Rogan and Schaub's jaws dropped when he declared that the moon landings were bogus, as was the shape of the Earth. "There's no photo of the flat Earth from space, there's no photo of the round Earth from space," he bellowed. "It's all fake."

What followed was a verbal tetherball match that ricocheted into ridiculous territory for an hour. Feeling cornered by Rogan, Bravo doubled down and spewed one conspiracy theory after another. He added, "I think all governments, most of them, the globalists, started working together to control their people." Bravo further attempted to explain the desired outcome of these efforts. "... You're on a ball. You're nowhere. Don't try to go anywhere. Just stay there and work," he stated, to much laughter. Still, Rogan continued trying to reason with him, telling Bravo, "You're very influential, you're saying these things to millions of people, but I don't think you're thinking correctly."

Nick Di Paulo got Trumped by Joe Rogan

Like Joe Rogan, Nick Di Paulo honed his standup chops in Boston's nightclubs, crafting a punchline execution that was rough around the edges and dismissive of a burgeoning political correctness movement. "It's screwing up stand-up because you can't make fun of anybody or anything without somebody getting offended," he said to the Los Angeles Times in 1993. 

His perspective fit the in-your-face format of Comedy Central's "Tough Crowd," where he guested with fellow comedians and started snaring some national attention. As his star grew, so did the reckless notoriety that saw SiriusXM fire him for poking fun at school shootings and apologizing for a YouTube thumbnail with Photoshopping that featured him flipping the bird at a photo of a group of Black activists, including one who was murdered, per USA Today.

With all that, fans expected Di Paulo's appearance on "JRE" in January 2019 to be a lively affair. While the episode certainly lived up to that billing, the guffaws were scarce. Much of the conversation concerned accusations that Donald Trump had lied during his presidency. When Rogan showed his guest evidence of the former president's frequent fibbing, as fact-checked by legacy media, Di Paulo shifted into anger mode. Their subsequent exchanges devolved into a verbal war with no clear resolution. Rogan stated, "You're so defensive! It's like, do you work for the [Trump] organization?" Meanwhile, Di Paulo claimed that the mainstream media simply hated Trump and had lied about his lies. And so it goes.

Robert Downey Jr. responded to his blackface role

Robert Downey Jr. doesn't shy away from his darker days, especially his drug addiction followed by incarceration in a prison and treatment center. "Job one is get out of that cave," he said to Vanity Fair. "A lot of people do get out but don't change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal." Downey was likely prepped to share that experience during his "JRE" interview in 2020. However, he was seemingly caught off guard when asked about whether "Tropic Thunder," a 2008 Hollywood satire featuring the star as a deluded method actor in blackface, could be made during more woke times. Downey drew a deep breath before easing the tension by quipping,  "Oh, you could do it ..." causing Joe Rogan to double over with laughter. 

Downey initially thought the flick was a terrible idea, but later reframed that notion. "I get to be black for a summer, so there's something in it for me," he joked, prompting Rogan to split a gut again. "The other thing is I get to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they're allowed to do on occasion." He added that the blackface depiction in "Tropic Thunder" was intended to highlight how wrong the practice is within entertainment, not celebrate it. Regardless, Downey's comment spurred more social media backlash against the movie, 12 years after its release. 

Sanjay Gupta found himself on a COVID-19 hot seat

In October 2021, CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, wasn't sure whether he'd be walking into a trap or a firestorm when he accepted a request to appear on "JRE". When Joe Rogan contracted COVID-19 the previous month, CNN had reported that the podcast star was following a care regimen that included Ivermectin, an antiparasitic remedy. But what upset Rogan was when commentators like CNN staffer, Brian Stelter, emphasized the drug's use as a horse dewormer, one that the government discouraged for human use. Per The Wrap, Rogan claimed he'd been prescribed the divisive drug by his doctor, and considered suing CNN for spreading misinformation about him.

When the topic came up during the episode, Gupta told the podcast host, "I'm glad that you're better."  To that, Rogan quipped, "You're probably the only one at CNN that's glad. The rest of them are all lying about me taking horse medication." After showing his guest a package containing a prescription of Ivermectin for humans, Rogan then asked Gupta whether he was concerned that his employer had lied about him taking the veterinary form of the treatment, instead. "They shouldn't have said that," acknowledged Gupta, who had no idea for their motive when further pressed by Rogan. "I should have asked before I came in to do the podcast," he admitted. Thankfully, what likely mitigated Gupta's trepidation was that Rogan didn't seem to be personally out for his blood.

Candace Owens got heated over climate change

Conservative activist Candace Owens, a chief mover and shaker of the grassroots political organization Turning Point USA, has certainly turned a few heads in America in recent years. The best-selling author and talk show host faced the ire of the Black Lives Matter movement late in 2022 after appearing with rapper Kanye West in a "White Lives Matter" t-shirt

Before that, Owens took part in the Blexit Foundation's campaign, encouraging African American people to join the Republican Party. Per Forbes, it was accused of co-opting a pre-existing campaign intended to encourage African Americans to seek independence from exploitative financial institutions.  "I became a conservative overnight," Owens said of her political leanings on an episode of "The Rubin Report." "I realized that liberals were actually the racists. Liberals were actually the trolls."

Joe Rogan was hardly trolling Owens when she was a guest on "JRE" in 2018, but he put her on the spot after discovering she was a climate change denier. "I think [climate change is] a way to extract dollars from Americans," she stated. After getting her to admit that she seldom looked at environmental literature, Rogan suggested maybe it was worth trusting the overwhelming number of scientists who believed in it. After pulling up an article from the well-respected publication, Scientific American, to prove his point, Owens responded in a less animated voice, "This is just a random website ... I don't believe this at all." Advantage Rogan.

Elon Musk grew nervous when he smoked a joint

Elon Musk has long been among Joe Rogan's favorite guests. As of this writing, he's made three "JRE" guest appearances. On each of those occasions, the podcast host would listen in rapt fascination over the entrepreneur's revolutionary ventures — from his electric car company Tesla and his otherworldly enterprise SpaceX to cybernetic prospects with NeuraLink and tunnel drilling with another operation cleverly called The Boring Company. But Musk's first appearance on "JRE" in 2018 turned out to be the most interesting of the lot, although it had more to do with what he did rather than what he said.

The two chatted about scientist Neil Degrasse Tyson before Rogan lit a smoke. "Is that a joint or is it a cigar?" asked Musk. Explaining that it was indeed a joint containing tobacco and marijuana, the host then offered out a toke.  "C'mon, man," cajoled Rogan as Musk nervously laughed. "You probably can't because of stockholders, right?" After an exchange affirming that the substance was indeed legal in that particular location, Musk's cheek's hollowed as he took a drag and let the smoke waft from his lips, before making a face gesturing that all was well.

The next day wasn't quite as rosy when Tesla shares reportedly dropped by as much as 9% following his appearance, while two company executives quickly resigned. Musk also claimed that the federal government subsequently drug-tested him for a year afterward, per New York Post.

Jordan Peterson struggled with his motives

Psychology professor Jordan Peterson first gained attention in 2016 when he protested a Canadian government bill protecting gender identity, claiming it violated free speech by adopting radical left-wing ideology, per Vox. He's since expanded his interests and managed to write two best-selling self-help books, "12 Rules For Life," and "Beyond Order,", which turned him into a global intellectual celebrity.  That status vaulted him into high demand on the lecture and talk show circuits, where he's presented his contrarian views on such topics as feminism, the transgender community, and cancel culture.

All of which made Peterson an ideal guest for Joe Rogan, who's hosted the abrasive personality several times. One "JRE" appearance in January 2022, saw Peterson sharing a story about his son being dressed as a fairy princess by his older daughter and her friends — something that didn't sit well with him. After Rogan shared a similar experience to being dressed in feminine regalia by his daughters, he probed Peterson as to what had irked him about that instance with his son. After taking a lengthy, uncomfortable pause to ponder his answer, he eventually admitted, "I suppose because I hoped that his pathway towards adulthood would be ..." Interjected Rogan, "Normal?" "Yeah, sure!" responded Peterson. 

During the episode, Rogan didn't challenge Peterson's similarly controversial opinions on other hot topics like COVID-19, climate change, and race, prompting backlash from a variety of experts and activists, including climate crisis scientists. 

Brendan Schaub was told his fighting days were over

Mixed martial arts fighter Brendan Schaub holds the record for most "JRE" show appearances, at 85, as of this writing. The octagon competitor usually offered his two cents on what was happening in the fight world — a topic Joe Rogan seemed comfortable continuing with. That is, until a 2014 episode of the UFC podcast, "The Fighter and The Kid," when the "JRE" host decided to stage an intervention on the stunned fighter's career. At the time, Schaub's UFC achievements were in a tailspin, having lost his last two fights, and succumbed to three knockouts in competitions over the three previous years.

"You're a very good fighter," said Rogan. "That's not what the issue is. The issue is can you become a champion? If you can't become a champion, are you comfortable with getting knocked out three or four more times over the next five or six years ... that's a possibility." Schaub initially dismissed the assessment but was dumbfounded by coming up with an answer to his dwindling performance. Rogan, meanwhile, reiterated that he was simply concerned for his friend — brain trauma from repeated concussions is nothing to toy with. 

Podcast co-host Bryan Callen suggested that Schaub weigh his options. "What I care about is the fact that you have a future in other things that you are really good at," he said. A year later, Schaub quit the fight trade to pursue a career in comedy and podcasting.

Matt Walsh was at odds with Joe Rogan over gay marriage

For years, right-wing podcaster Matt Walsh has had it in for the LGBTQ+ community. He's frequently been slammed for making disparaging comments against transgendered people, from claims of pedophilia to allegations of grooming. In 2022, such statements compelled TNR to name him "Transphobe of the Year." 

In November 2022, Rogan was presumably curious about such a mindset and invited him along to an episode of "JRE," where he challenged him on the idea of gay marriage. Walsh stated, "I think of marriage as a certain thing which is the context for procreation, for building the nuclear family." Rogan countered with exceptions from infertility to couples who choose not to have children, which he believed would put gay marriage in the same category. "It's not about choice," argued Walsh. "It's about this institution, marriage as an institution, and what is it, and what purpose does it serve. I do not agree with tearing down or changing this definition, especially because the people who changed the definition haven't come up with a new one." 

Rogan indicated high divorce rates are damaging the institution anyway, something that gay marriage wouldn't change. Walsh, seemingly a little rattled, swung back against the idea that heterosexual couples may marry without procreating, "I think you're still rejecting one of the purposes of marriage and in the scenario that you outlined, you're deciding to live a really self-centered life."

Mark Zuckerberg gets foiled by tape

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and its umbrella company, Meta, rarely gives interviews. Even when forced to testify in front of Congress, the internet magnate's gawky nuances belie the intellect and moxie that made him a success in the first place. A lot of that could be because Zuckerberg has had a lot to answer for, from privacy concerns to the storage and sales of consumer data. But agreeing to chat with Rogan made sense, especially since the podcaster wasn't known for being particularly tech-savvy, yet offered a chill atmosphere.

In August 2022, his appearance on "JRE" saw the social media entrepreneur in front of a mic for once. He was especially keen to talk about a Meta gadget, namely a set of smart eyeglasses called Stories, with branding by Ray-Bans. The product had actually been released months before Zuckerberg's "JRE" appearance but hasn't exactly been a big seller. Meta's hype site claims the glasses, armed with a tiny camera, have since doubled their video recording time to 60 seconds, which can then be posted to social media. 

What concerned Rogan was that the glasses made it easier to record subjects who might feel their privacy was being compromised. Zuckerberg countered that a special light on the frame would alert folks nearby that a camera is operating. "Could you put a piece of tape over the light ... if you're a creep?" asked Rogan. "I guess in theory..." stammered Zuckerberg. Awkward.