He has left no rock unturned in the United States; now everyone’s favourite filthy man, Mike Rowe, is heading to Australia in search of some of the world’s dirtiest jobs in the all new “Dirty Jobs Down Under”. Taking an unflinching look at the most vile but vital vocations the country has to offer, Mike gets flat out like a lizard drinking and rolls up his sleeves to discover what it takes to get these outrageous tasks done well.
Let’s hear it now from the man himself:
From the very first episode of season one, all the way until the last episode you’ve ever filmed, what changes do you see in yourself? How was your personal journey throughout all eight seasons?
“Well, there’ve been a lot of changes for me. I’ve learned a great deal about how the country works, really. You know, the people on Dirty Jobs represent a part of our workforce. And that part of our workforce in the States, is – has become disconnected from the general population. And it’s really caused a big problem not just in unemployment, but in what we call the skill gap. So in the United States right now, we have lots of jobs that are available, but the companies are having a very difficult time finding people who are trained and willing to do the work. So the biggest thing I’ve learned from working on DIRTY JOBS, for the last eight years, and doing 300 of these things, is that many of the people who do this type of work understand that their contribution to society is misunderstood by a big part of the population. And it’s been a – it’s been a privilege to shine a light on the people that do this kind of work. Now I’ve known that from the first season, but I’ve just come to know it a lot better with every passing season. And so that’s really – that’s the big lesson from the show, that, and the fact that it’s possible to work hard and get dirty, and have a really good time in the process.”
What is the most challenging task you’ve ever encountered while hosting “Dirty Jobs”?
“Well, to be honest, they’re all challenging, but in a different way. It’s hard to compare for instance working on a bridge 600 feet up in the air with working in an opal mine far below the surface of the earth. You know, they’re both challenging, but they’re just very, very different. It’s also difficult to compare tanning hides with say, replacing a broken lift pump in a waste water treatment plant. They’re all different, they’re all challenging, they all require a long hot shower at the end of the day, but I guess if I had to pick one, I might say that any time you work in a waste water treatment plant, you’re going to have a tough day. But as far as real challenge goes, just the manual labour involved in working on a railroad. We spent 12 hours one day in the American desert repairing the railroad which just means you spend 12 hours swinging a sledge hammer, and hammering nails, and pulling out wooden supports in 114 degree heat. Those are the jobs, for me because I’m older than I’ve ever been right now, that make me wake up the next morning, and wonder what the heck I’ve done.”
Of all the episodes that you’ve had for “Dirty Jobs”, which one do you think is the most memorable that you’ll still remember 20 years from now or so?
“That’s a good question. And the truth is, I mean, I can only guess how I’m going to feel in 20 years, but even now when I look back at all 300, it’s not – it’s not the work that I remember most. It’s not the – it’s not the actual dirt or the job, it’s the people. And the most memorable people that I’ve met on the show, boy, I mean there are – there are so many, but there is a – there is a pig farmer in Las Vegas that – that I’ll never forget. His name is Bob Combs. And Bob has about 300 pigs he keeps in North Las Vegas, not too far from the casinos. And he feeds them – he feeds them the leftover buffet food that they serve in the casinos. And he – he gathers it up himself and he brings it brings it back to his farm – tonnes of the stuff – and he cooks it down in this giant contraption he keeps in his backyard. And he feeds his pigs recycled people food. So what Bob does basically is recycle food in Las Vegas; he feeds it to his pigs; his pigs grow faster than they normally would; he sells them to market and he maintains the farm in one of the most unlikely places in the country. And he’s just a great guy with a great story who has a really smelly pig farm right in the middle of Las Vegas. I just love it and I doubt that I’ll ever forget him.”
One of your favourite quotes is, “Be careful what you wish for” – we’re very curious about what’s the story behind that..
“I guess the real honest answer to that is the fact that I didn’t try in the beginning to get a TV show on the air. All I was really trying to do was get the Discovery Channel to give me three hours to do a very simple programme about these kinds of jobs. Dirty Jobs wasn’t supposed to be a series, or a hit show, or a franchise, or anything like that. It was supposed to be one month of work for me and three hours of television. These were originally designed as a tribute to my grandfather who had done a lot of these kinds of jobs before. And it really wasn’t supposed to be anything more than that. What happened was the Discovery Channel put the show on the air and it resonated with a lot of people. And we got thousands of letters from people around the country who wanted me to come and look at the kinds of jobs they were doing. And so for me back in 2003,I had a pretty sedate stationery kind of life. I wasn’t travelling much. I was working in San Francisco and minding my own business. Then I did this little series and the Discovery Channel ordered 39 more episodes. And then they ordered another 39 after that. And then year after year after year, they kept ordering the show until we ultimately did 300 different jobs. So when I say, ‘Be careful what you wish for’, on the one hand, I’m very grateful for the chance to have had a job that’s given me a chance to talk to you people. On the other hand, if you’re not really sure what the future holds and you throw something out there, you can never really be certain of what’s going to come back. So my life today is very different than I thought it would be ten years ago and I’m not complaining, but it just wasn’t part of the plan.”
You said that you’ve done the show since 2003 and obviously you’ve done some dangerous jobs. At any point in time, did any of your loved ones back home object to you doing any of the jobs?
“Yes, as a matter of fact. There have been a lot of objections from friends and family over the years. Normally what would happen is my – my father would watch the show and that would be on a Tuesday night back in the States, and Wednesday morning when I woke up, I would have a message from him critiquing all the things I had done wrong, you know. If I didn’t have a safety vest on when I was on a boat for instance, I got yelled at for that. If my mother saw me not wearing a hard hat on a construction site, I got yelled at for that. But my mother in particular really didn’t enjoy the ostriches kicking me or the sharks biting me or any number of things that have happened over the years. But look, the truth is it always looks a little worse than it is on television. So they were, you know, I get it. But the only real thing that scared me honestly in terms of a reaction, I have a girlfriend in San Francisco and one trip early on I brought my laundry home. I had been working in a bat cave in Texas. And I had sunk into a pit of guano which is of course, bat dropping – all of that bat poop got into my clothes! And for some reason it was my favourite pair of pants and I wanted to bring them home. So I put them in suitcase. And I guess maybe when I was flying home the air pressure in the plane did something to the stink and it just infused all of my clothes with this horrible bat funk. And when I opened the suitcase in my apartment, it just filled with the smell of that bat cave and it was so bad that my girlfriend threatened to leave me unless I promised to never bring my dirty shorts home again. And so, that was the only complaint that I ever got that really made an impression. So now I just leave all my clothes behind, usually in a bath tub at whatever hotel I was staying with $20 an apology to the maid.”
Have you ever felt afraid of a job and said, “Oh my god, that’s so crazy; I don’t want to do that”?
“Honestly, I do feel that way when I shoot the show at least once a week because I’m not like a lot of other guys on TV, I’m not particularly brave. I’m not a stunt junky. I’m not looking to do things merely for the effect. I’m there to try and do a job. But unfortunately, for me, I don’t know the first thing about it. So I’m a fish out of water and I’m an apprentice. And because the environment of many of these jobs is extreme, yeah, I find myself often wondering if I’ve made a really bad decision, you know. Sometimes it’s on the deck of a crab boat up in the Bering Sea. Sometimes it might be, you know, high up in the air working on a water tower or a bridge. My job, really, is to try and keep up and put myself at the mercy of person who’s really in charge, who is truly the star of the show, those are the workers, the people that we work with. So, that’s a long way of saying yeah. I have second thoughts a lot, but, look my job again is not really to succeed. My job is to try. And as long as I do that, I’ll be okay.”
What is your life obsession?
“My life obsession, let’s see..well, over the last couple of years I’ve been obsessed with having three or four days off in a row. And when I fantasize, I fantasize about being home sitting in a big leather chair that faces out of a large picture window right towards the San Francisco Bay where I can watch the fog roll in over the Golden Gate Bridge. And I obsess about sitting in that chair drinking a really cold bottle of beer or maybe a nice cabernet from the Napa Valley, not too far from where I live, reading some of my favourite pulp fiction while I just sit there quietly in my chair, drinking my drink, reading my books, minding my own business. That’s what I obsess about because I used to do that all the time. And I haven’t had a chance to do that in about ten years. So with a little bit of luck that’s how I’m going to spend the next three or four days.”
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“Dirty Jobs Down Under” airs every Tuesday at 10pm on Discovery Channel (Astro Channel 551). Last episode of “Dirty Jobs Down Under” will be aired on 30th April 2013 (Tuesday).
For more information, visit their website.