By: Tiffany Chang, Peak Associate
Actor Dax Shepard is best known for his television and film work in the early to mid 2000s, appearing in comedies like 2004’s Without a Paddle, and for starring in NBC’s Parenthood from 2010 to 2015. Today, he’s also proven to be successful in the new media era as a producer and host of the podcast Armchair Expert, which released its first episode in February 2018. When I first stumbled across the show, I was really curious to see how he would navigate this completely different entertainment platform.
After listening to nearly every episode so far, there’s no doubt in my mind that it is the most interesting, insightful, and hilarious podcast I have ever listened to. Incorporating just the right amount of witty input provided by Emmy-nominated co-host Monica Padman, Armchair Expert very successfully showcases “the messiness of being human.”
The podcast primarily takes place in a small attic where Shepard plants himself in an armchair (go figure) and guests sit opposite him on a couch, beside Padman. The show consists mainly of an interview with the guest, which usually lasts one to one-and-a-half hours. There is a unique “fact check” segment concluding each episode wherein Padman confirms if certain facts mentioned throughout the conversation are correct or not, usually after conducting research.
From A-list celebrities and journalists, to academics and medical practitioners, what continuously amazes me is how openly people talk about their lives on Armchair Expert. This includes things that I never thought they’d feel comfortable sharing: life-long insecurities, traumatic childhood experiences, complicated relationships, disorders, past drug experimentation, etc.
But what makes this podcast truly stand out is Shepard’s ability to facilitate meaningful dialogue based on the issues brought up, issues that he either relates to or that he feels interested in learning more about. The genuine curiosity and respect Shepard shows towards his guests as he delves deep into these conversations and debates, while still maintaining a light-hearted tone, are the qualities of him as an interviewer that floor me every time.
For instance, when comedian Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs) was a guest, he and Shepard acknowledged their differing views concerning religion, with Garlin believing in a higher power and Shepard being an atheist. When this difference of opinion was established, Shepard responded enthusiastically with “Oh, good! Let’s hash it out.” Despite Garlin stating that he thinks “atheism is completely wrong,” both presented arguments as humble intellectuals. The difference in opinion evidently did not instigate any tension and Garlin clarified in the podcast that he “is cool with [Shepard] being an atheist.”
All of this is to say that Dax Shepard has established his weekly podcast as quality content. His engaging personality and charisma that I’ve seen (and heard) on camera over the years, without a doubt, shine through on Armchair Expert. If you combine fascinating guests and a ton of chemistry between two hosts, it’s no wonder it was 2018’s most-downloaded new podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you’re looking for some refreshing material, Armchair Expert ticks all the boxes for a thoroughly enjoyable listen.