As a longtime resident of traffic-overrun southern California, I spend a lot of time on the road to get just about anywhere and 99% of the time, I’m listening to a podcast.
If you have not jumped on the podcast train yet, you are missing out on a world of hilarious personalities, actionable advice for personal growth, and tips on leadership from some of the biggest names in the world.
One of my favorite podcasts is Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. Armchair Expert features insightful and wildly funny interviews that get beyond anything you have ever seen on a talk show appearance.
The show is hosted by Hollywood actor, writer, and director Dax Shepard, whose irreverent humor is paired with a paradoxically vulnerable, intelligent, and curious perspective toward his guests’ inner lives, backstory, and success secrets.
Dax attracts world-famous names to his podcast including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Conan O’Brien, and Malcolm Gladwell, just to name a few.
Shepard’s self-deprecating humor and reflective mindset are shared by his co-host, the delightful Monica Padman.
Padman, an unapologetic “Friends” aficionado and multi-talented interviewer, is the show’s metaphorical little sister.
She elevates the conversation with her thoughtful insights and occasional playful jibes at Shepard.
This show is a goldmine for anyone. From its earworm theme song to the casual after-show Fact Check with Monica Padman, you will be entertained and informed, whether you like comedy, business, politics, history, or psychology.
If you have ever wished you could be a fly on the wall listening to experts in their fields dissect their secrets to success, this is the show for you.
It was nearly impossible to narrow down my favorite episodes, but I managed to cull them down just for you.
Here are the 7 best episodes of Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard.
7. The One Where Whitney Cummings is in Recovery
Dax and Monica sit down for a wide-ranging conversation with Whitney Cummings, an actress, writer, director, producer, podcaster, and stand-up comedian.
Whitney is the creator of the hit show, 2 Broke Girls, and has innumerable credits to her name, but she was not always the confident person she is today.
Whitney talks candidly about her struggles growing up with an alcoholic mother and how that experience led to major challenges with pathologically codependent behavior, workaholism, and people-pleasing.
Whitney shares about her time writing roasts at Comedy Central and recounts some of the raunchy jokes that did not make it to air.
Dax and Monica, self-proclaimed “uni-philes,” declare their love for Whitney’s prestigious university education.
I loved Whitney’s response, elaborating on her awkward protestations over her academic success as a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania when she drops some $10 words that become a running joke throughout the episode.
Whitney and Dax, a recovering alcoholic with over a decade sober, discuss their experiences in recovery with Al-Anon and equine therapy and AA.
In the show, Dax, Whitney, and Monica talk about how everyone seems to think they are unique and others cannot relate to them but come to the conclusion that finding your “tribe” who have gone through similar experiences can be healing in itself.
Quote of the pod:
“We all suffer from terminal uniqueness, so we think we are a unique scumbag on planet earth and come to find out we’re pretty much all scumbags, so it’s okay.”
6. The One With Real, Live Genius Ronan Farrow
American Journalist Ronan Farrow sits down with Dax and Monica to discuss his life.
From his unique experience growing up as a literal child genius in a family of 10 children, to his graduation from Yale University at 15 years old, to his work at the United States State Department before the age of 20 years old, Ronan Farrow’s life has been off the beaten path, to say the least.
In this episode, Ronan shares the intimate details of his experiences.
He talks about how his relationship with religion evolved, his backstory with his estranged father Woody Allen, and his experience breaking the Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker story that led to the arrest of Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo Movement.
Ronan tells the story of the international espionage games and intimidation tactics that went into his writing of his Pulitzer Prize-winning work and Dax calls Ronan “the vanguard of the #MeToo movement,” to which Ronan objects.
Ronan shares about the incredibly brave women who were willing to share their stories and take on the seemingly unassailable Harvey Weinstein.
I loved Ronan’s hilarious story of his engagement to podcast mogul and former presidential speechwriter Jon Lovett and discusses his experience with “the Best Little Boy in the World” syndrome that drives overachieving gay men like himself.
Quote of the pod comes courtesy of Monica Padman:
“People don’t just arrive places, you get there by your experiences.”
Check out the full episode right here.
5. The One With Esther Perel’s Sex Positivity
Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist, writer, speaker, and podcaster, who is famous for her work exploring eroticism and infidelity in relationships.
I, personally, am a huge fan of Esther and her approach, so this episode was a particular treat for me.
In this episode, Esther talks about the reasons why adultery and infidelity happen in relationships and reveals that it is very rarely due to a person’s unhappiness with their partner.
She also talks about what couples can do to preserve excitement and eroticism in their relationships to keep the flame burning and shares the significance of mystery and spontaneity.
Esther is horrified by the lack of information people have about sex and sexual expectations, and she reveals more about her own relationship with her husband.
With her signature empathy and practicality, Esther talks to Monica about her relationship experience and why she has trouble creating lasting romantic connections.
Monica and Dax are amazed at Esther’s boldness in just showing up on the doorstep of the psychotherapist she wanted to learn from, and Esther talks about the early lessons she learned from her colleagues and mentors.
Esther goes into detail on intergenerational trauma and the life-affirming perspective she gained by growing up with two parents who managed to survive Nazi concentration camps in the 1940s.
Quote of the pod:
“There’s no better vengeance on the person who hurt you than to be able to enjoy life again.”
Check out the full episode right here.
4. The One With Edward Norton’s Assumptions
Fight Club is one of my forever-favorite movies, so learning that Fight Club star, actor, and filmmaker Edward Norton is a longtime friend of Dax was a fun surprise for me.
Dax and Edward have an easy camaraderie that comes from their long history together, which was particularly enjoyable in this show.
In this episode, Edward Norton talks about his years of work to bring Motherless Brooklyn to film, the way that the characters came to life and the approach he took to acting in his various iconic roles, from American History X to Birdman.
Edward and Dax each recount their side of their hilariously awkward initial meeting, where both men made major negative assumptions about who the other was due to their respective insecurities and nearly missed out on an amazing friendship because of it.
They also share their sides of the story of when their wives each became pregnant and how both couples tried to surprise each other with the news at the same time.
Edward and Dax discuss the social results of over-the-top smartphone use and how people fail to connect with one another meaningfully because of all the time they spend living in an imaginary internet world.
Quote of the pod:
“There’s really serious social consequence to the amount of time that you’re looking at your hand. There’s a lot of life to be lived.”
3. The One When Justin Timberlake Is Impossible Not To Love
Justin Timberlake would have just about every reason and excuse to be a pompous, self-indulged, egomaniac, but the guy seems incredibly down-to-earth and truly likable.
He is beyond a triple threat. Looks, singing, acting, brilliant comedic sensibility, he has it all.
Dax and Justin get into some interesting discussion on masculinity and growing up in what is hopefully a different and bygone era for boys having to disown or stuff away emotions.
Justin also details his career path and how he got started in show business.
He also shares a rather cool tidbit on how he ended up with some tracks and beats from his debut solo album that were originally intended for Michael Jackson.
Quote of the Pod:
I had 4 stepdads. I hated 3 of them. And then I dated a girl with kids and I was like ‘oh this is f#@cking impossible’. I know feel bad for these guys – Dax Shepard
2. The One Where Mila Kunis Knows Her Worth
Mila Kunis is a self-proclaimed “armcherry” – a fan of the podcast, who listens to every episode by her own admission.
She is also an actress, producer, and longtime friend of Dax through her husband Ashton Kutcher, who has himself been a guest of the show.
In this episode, the notoriously private Mila Kunis comes out of her shell and shows a personality that is engaging, hilarious, and in Dax’s own words, “startlingly well-adjusted.”
Mila has a no-nonsense manner that is a delight. On the show, she discusses her history with Ashton on That 70s Show and how she never saw him as anything but a big brother at the time. She tells about how Ashton would do her homework and when the sparks finally flew between them, many years later.
A post shared by Dax Shepard (@daxshepard) on Jul 23, 2018 at 8:06am PDT
As a native of Ukraine, Mila reveals more about the confusion of leaving her small-town home, how her immigrant parents raised her, never taking a dime from her earnings as a child actress, and how that affected her relationship with money.
Mila also credits Ashton for helping her to learn to know her own worth, by encouraging her to educate herself and become involved in her own contract negotiations.
Mila gets into the details of her breakup with former longtime boyfriend Macaulay Culkin.
She blames herself for what she called horrible, horrible behavior on her part that was unnecessary and hurtful to others, and how she intentionally worked to become a better person, and Dax shares an embarrassing story about the time he tried to make love to a container of JELL-O.
Quote of the pod:
“I think playing coy is silly. Speak your mind. If a man gets turned off, he’s the wrong man.”
1. Their Most Important Episode Ever
This is likely the most important piece of content that Dax and Monica ever produced and published through their Armchair Expert platform.
No high-profile guests. No movies or projects to promote.
“Day 7” is Dax coming clean to the world about his relapse from sobriety.
He bravely shares his troubling patterns of behavior that have been developing over several years.
This episode is raw with emotion. Dax is as vulnerable and open as any human could possibly be.
He details the compulsive mindset of an addict, his lies and what he deemed as shady behavior, and the fears he has over losing sponsors and revenue let alone his credibility.
It is 47 minutes of intimate discussion filled with the entire spectrum of human emotions including grace, love, and hope.
Some Honorable Mentions
There you have it! It was really tough to pare down my podcast review to just 5 episodes, so I will make a few honorable mentions here, and you can look them up on your own time.
Based on your interests, you may like the following interviews:
For the hardcore comedy fans: Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow, and Jim Gaffigan.
If you are looking for incredible relationship advice, check out Dax and Monica’s discussions with John Gottman, Dan Savage, and Dr. Alex Katehakis.
For those who are interested in psychology, self-improvement, and personal growth, check out Dr. Tal-Ben Shahar, Sam Harris, and Brenè Brown.
As you might be able to tell, I have both laughed and learned a lot from this podcast. The incredible cast of guests is never a letdown.
If you take the time to check out one of these episodes on your next walk or commute, I would venture a guess that you, too, will get hooked on this hilariously insightful podcast.
Spotify Exclusive Podcast
Some major news was recently unveiled in the world of podcasting.
Dax Shepard will now be distributing his Armchair Expert podcast exclusively through Spotify with a licensing deal.
Shepard kicked off the exclusive Spotify partnership in grand fashion by welcoming President Barack Obama as a significant, high-profile guest.
The topics and conversation flow between Shepard, Padman, and Obama were everything you would hope and expect from the Armchair Expert platform.
Check out that episode right below.
17 Best Guests From The Tim Ferriss Podcast
The Tim Ferriss Show features a stunning guest list of world-class achievers from big business, the arts, science, the military, and more.
On his podcast, Tim methodically deconstructs the habits and traits of all these high-level performers and looks to tease out the common threads of success for all his faithful listeners.
Fans of Armchair Expert will no doubt enjoy the programming and wide array of impactful guests that Tim welcomes to his platform.
Here are The 17 Best Guests From The Tim Ferriss Show Podcast:
1. Tim Ferriss and Debbie Millman
Yes, I am listing Tim Ferriss himself at the #1 best guest ever spot, accompanied by Debbie Millman, who is a powerhouse design expert, author, brand consultant, and podcast host herself.
This episode is clearly the. most important and impactful work Tim has ever done on his platform, detailing his journey in healing from trauma caused by childhood sexual abuse.
This episode is heavy but also hopeful in the same breath. Tim and Debbie were incredibly brave and vulnerable for the greater good of humanity here.
2. Derek Sivers
Derek Sivers founded CD Baby back in the ‘90s which went on to become the largest seller of independent music online. The numbers CD Baby churned out were staggering, reaching $100 million in sales.
Derek’s approach to life and business will change your context for everything. In this episode, Derek tells the tale of a major life lesson learned on an exhaustive 43-minute bike ride.
It is a lesson that is applicable to everyone, no matter what your calling may be.
3. Peter Attia
Peter Attia has an impressive and intriguing background. He is an MD and mechanical engineer.
He abruptly left an acclaimed career as a surgeon to pursue a consulting gig, working with high-level forecasting projects for big banking businesses. He made a return to healthcare and did research at the National Cancer Institute.
I am most drawn to Peter’s knowledge and philosophies on diet and nutrition. He has some interesting and contrarian takes on the state of healthcare and supplementation and backs up all his thoughts with a grounded and reasoned explanation.
Also, check out Peter’s episode on the Jocko Willink podcast. It is a fascinating look into the world of a trauma surgeon in the heart of Baltimore City.
Go check out the full list of the best guests of the Tim Ferriss podcast right here!