Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why He Interviewed Joe Rogan on 'Startalk'

"Plus he's a deep thinker on many subjects no matter what."

Among the unlikely partnerships currently keeping popular media on its toes, the collaboration between astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Joe Rogan, the mixed martial arts commentator and podcast host, is one of the most baffling. Tyson, a noted intellectual with a taste for the profound, has been a guest on Joe Rogan’s “bro” podcast, which is controversial for giving a platform to alt-right personalities and giving weed to Elon Musk (which Tyson defended). Rogan, meanwhile, is a guest on the new season of Startalk, Tyson’s talk show, which premieres Monday.

In a recent interview with Tyson, Inverse asked: Why Rogan?

“The people we chose to interview are interviewed simply because they have a large [audience] and they’re influential in whatever is the demographic that they touch,” Tyson said. “I wish I could give you some complex [explanation] for how people are chosen, but it’s really just, ‘How famous is the person?’ Because the more famous that they are, the more of their audience will track them into Startalk.”

Tyson’s hope is that Rogan’s fans will tune in and come away having learned something they perhaps didn’t expect to.

“If you’re a Joe Rogan fan, you’ll follow anything he does. You’ll see his stand-up routines, you’ll see his shows,” he says. “If he’s on Startalk, you’ll come to Startalk. Then you come for the celebrity, but you stay for the science because the conversation orbits the science. And then you get fed a dose of science while you are in the company of someone who you are a fan of. True for Joe Rogan or anybody.

“So, he has a huge following and that’s really all that matters.”

Tyson’s candor is refreshing, but this explanation perhaps sells his interview with Rogan short: It is, surprisingly, quite interesting. In the episode, which airs on November 19, the pair explores the “science of primitive man” — that is, the reasons that males like to engage in violence. They discuss the role of male psychology and physiology in contact sports, in war, even in bar fights. It’s a compelling and satisfyingly frank conversation, if a bit light on acknowledging the female flipside.

“I knew there would be science in what he does. As a mixed martial artist. As a comedian. As someone who thinks about health and nutrition,” says Tyson. “Plus he’s a deep thinker on many subjects no matter what.”

Startalk Season 5 premieres on November 12 on the National Geographic channel.

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