Dave Rubin is the creator and host of The Rubin Report, the most-watched talk show about free speech and big ideas on YouTube. A former progressive turned classical liberal, he speaks to millions all over the world, and performs stand-up comedy in cities around the United States. Originally from Long Island, New York, he currently lives in Los Angeles with his husband, David, and their dog, Emma. His new release, Don’t Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason is out now!
1. Where are you currently quarantined?
I’m at home in Los Angeles at the moment with my husband David (yes we have the same name!), our new dog Clyde and our one beta fish. We normally work from home because my studio and our offices are here, so not much has changed, except that our entire staff is now remote. One thing I had to change course on pretty unexpectedly is press for Don’t Burn This Book. I’d originally planned to kick off the publication in New York City before embarking on a book tour, but instead I’ll be doing all of the interviews, live-signings, and Q&As with fans from home. All I have to do is walk 15 feet from my bedroom to the studio to make it all happen. I’m very lucky.
2. How did you get into your career?
I started my career as a stand-up comic. When I was first starting out in my 20s, I did what most young comics do and handed out tickets in front of comedy clubs on New York City street corners 6 nights a week in hopes of gathering a big enough crowd to pull off a show. Slowly but surely, the crowds got bigger, and after a while almost every show was packed. Those 12 years were full of ups and downs, and eventually I transitioned away from stand-up to move to LA and do a radio show on SiriusXM. In 2013, I left the station to start my own operation, now known as The Rubin Report. It actually started as a chat show discussing hot topics, similar to ‘The View.’ After about two years it evolved into the long-form interview show that it is now.
3. One thing your show has always prided you in is that you host people you disagree with. What advice do you have on talking to people who disagree with you?
Don’t be afraid of (civil) confrontation. In fact, welcome it. It’s tempting to surround yourself with people you agree with fundamentally because it’s comfortable, but growth isn’t possible unless you bump up against new ideas that challenge your assumptions. As someone who obviously doesn’t agree with all of the guests I invite on my show (in fact, my aim is to bring people together to talk through their differences), I try to remind people not to take it personally when someone’s ideas or thoughts conflict with their own. Instead of judging foreign ideas as “good” or “evil,” ask questions. For instance, if someone tells you they’re voting for a different presidential candidate than you are in the 2020 election, simply ask them why. While you may never come around to their way of thinking, I guarantee you will learn something new—and gain their respect in the meantime. It’s hard to hear things that run counter to what you believe, but that’s how you weigh your assumptions and opinions against reality.
4. What are you currently reading?
To be honest, this is a rare moment in time, as I’m sure it is for many people, that I haven’t gotten the chance to invest in a new book. A book I read recently, though, is Giving The Devil His Due by my friend and former Rubin Report guest Michael Shermer. I like this book because it flips the way we normally think about “skeptics” on its head: constantly questioning everything, he argues, is not cold, but compassionate. My freedom to speak my mind is inextricably tied to yours. For the sake of humanity, it is our responsibility to protect each other’s rights to inquire openly. A clear thinker who makes difficult ideas accessible, this book reminded me that we just can’t afford to shut out unpleasant ideas. Instead, we need to run toward them.
5. What books would you recommend?
I always tell people to read Billions and Billions by the late, great astronomer Carl Sagan. It was his last of Sagan’s many phenomenal books, and he actually died just before finishing it, so his wife, Cornel professor Anne Druyan wrote the last chapter. It’s Sagan’s final thoughts on the world, reminding us how vast the universe is and how small we are. It’s a great read if you need to put things in perspective right now, and you’ll learn a little science along the way.
6. What was the most difficult part of writing a book?
I actually enjoyed the process way more than I anticipated. I liked setting aside the time everyday, locking myself in my room and just going until I couldn’t go anymore. I’d say the most difficult process was editing. Writing is like giving birth, and then the first thing you do to the baby is operate on it. But I eventually learned to enjoy that as well because it forced me to look at my own work objectively to produce the best product I could. As a guy who talks and tweets for a living, learning to be more disciplined in my thoughts and words was a really important lesson.
7. Who are your sources of inspiration?
There is a long list of people I wouldn’t be where I am today without, but someone I’m especially thankful for is Jordan Peterson. While opening for his shows last year, I sat backstage as he delivered some of the most profound lectures I’d ever heard, and they changed my life as much as they changed his audiences. He gave me some of the practical and emotional tools that have helped me understand myself and become a better person to the people around me, and for that I’ll never be grateful forever. Plus, I watched as he thrived despite the slings and arrows that the media and protestors all across the country threw at him each and every day. He did it with grace and humility, something we could probably all use a bit more of.
8. What’s it like to be your own boss?
I just love it. I’m so proud of the fact that I’ve been able to do what I love while building a highly successful small business and employing some truly fantastic people. By following my dreams, I’ve been able to help other people follow theirs, and there’s no better feeling than that. The big decisions, right or wrong, fall on my shoulders, and though I haven’t always been perfect, I’ve navigated the waters pretty well. And probably more than anything else, I’ve been able to apply so many of the issues I talk about to how I run the business. It goes to show that if you want to do what you love, you need to take a risk and turn what you only thought was possible in the abstract into reality.
9. What do you want readers to take from your book?
You don’t have to agree with me on everything. As a matter of fact, I’d prefer if you didn’t. But I hope you will think seriously about today’s important issues and come to your own conclusions–not because some guy with a blue checkmark next to his name told you to, but because you decided for yourself. The ability to apply reason to what we hear is the very thing that makes us human, but there are a lot of forces right now discouraging us from doing that—and it’s up to us to resist them. That’s exactly why I wrote Don’t Burn This Book.