Mike Rowe Answers Your Questions Part II

posted: 04/11/12
Mike Rowe Answers Your Questions
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Mike Rowe Answers Your Questions

Mike Rowe — he's filthy and fearless! As we watch Mike wade through bat poop or stick his arm up places limbs just don't belong, most of us can't help but think, "Ugh. I wonder what's the grossest thing he's ever done?"

And of course, there's the inevitable, "Huh. What wouldn't this guy do?"

QUESTION: There is a fish processing vessel on fire out of Dutch Harbor, called the Pacific Glacier. That is a different name than the vessel Mike is on. I guess other boats in the area have taken on crew members and also helped to fight the fire. Wonder if Mike is involved in any of this? They may be getting some great video!! -- onthecrab

ANSWER: We were on The Legacy, maybe 10 miles south of the fishing vessel Pacific Glacier when the alarm went out. By the time we got there, five other vessels had arrived, and things were chaotic. Black smoke was billowing from the wheelhouse and the deck just below it. Men in skiffs were circling the boat, trying to get additional supplies on-board. When the order to abandon ship was given, a small boat called American Beauty pulled up alongside the Pacific Glacier, and helped people get into additional skiffs that were being deployed with every passing minute. Our ship, along with several others, provided additional air canisters and drinking water for the men who remained behind to fight the fire. It was really rather incredible to see. A fire at sea is about the worst thing that can happen on a ship, and this was a big ship. Over 270 feet long, with 106 people aboard. The possibility for disaster was extraordinary.

Within 45 minutes of her call, a dozen ships had surrounded the PG, including ours, and were fully focused on doing whatever could be done to assist. Those closest provided air canisters, de-watering pumps, and deck hands to help fight the fire. I stood in the wheelhouse with the captain, the owner, and my crew, and watched as 86 people were ferried to safety. Incredible.

When the Coast Guard C-130 arrived and dropped additional supplies, darkness was settling in. Most of people were out of harm's way, save for those who stayed behind to fight the fire. When the captain was satisfied we had done all we could, we turned around and got back to fishing.

The sunset was amazing last night, and the seas were calm, with light winds and a temperature of maybe 20 degrees F. It was cold, but the stars were out, strange up here for this time of year. From what I've read, the conditions were not too different than those present when the Titanic went down. If it hadn't been for the looming crisis, the evening would have been memorable for its unusual calm and weird beauty. Instead, I'll remember it for the remarkable display of concern and cooperation demonstrated by every captain within 15 square miles.

Tonight, thanks to their action, the people aboard the F/V Pacific Glacier are having a drink with us, here in a little bar called Cape Cheerful in The Grand Aleutian Hotel.

Isn't it nice when bars live up to their name?

-- Mike

QUESTION: I'm in a contemplative mood. It all started with a gift a relative gave to everyone in the family. It was a faux rock with one word inscribed on the surface. She said that the word was how she would describe the receiver. With a few exceptions, everyone had a different word to describe a person. So, Mike & all the MB'ers: what would be written on your rock?

Now for my lingering DJ/Mike questions of 2007: Do you and the crew exchange gifts? Did Dave ever provide you with a final count for the number of DJs with you sans shirt? It seems like 2007 was rough physically for you. Have you fully recovered from your ailments? Do you guys jump right back into filming DJ in January, or are you tied up with Deadliest Catch duties? I read in another thread that DJ Season 2 is coming to DVD shortly. Do you get a copy of every show you do? If so, do you get extras to give away as gifts? Do you still read every single thing posted in your Mud Room? Anymore "fatboy rider" moments when you just logged off rather than post something you might regret later? Are you a proponent of drinking and posting?

-- Meg

ANSWER: My rock would say "Thanks." It would not however, be a "faux" rock.

* Do you and the crew exchange gifts?

All year long.

* Did Dave ever provide you with a final count for the number of DJs with you sans shirt?

No. Then again, I have not personally been expecting that information.

* It seems like 2007 was rough physically for you. Have you fully recovered from your ailments? Do you guys jump right back into filming DJ in January, or are you tied up with Deadliest Catch duties?

I haven't been 100 percent since episode 1. This season was no worse than the last, but for the fact that I have another year on the odometer. Things hurt, but I can't blame the show entirely. Yesterday, in Baltimore County, I tripped while jogging. Shoe came untied, and I went down like a cheap card table. Now I'm scabby and limping. Again. As for Alaska, the plan is to head up around the 14th and shoot a look-back special for Catch. Still waiting to see if it's a go. If it is, I'd like to stick around and find some some dirt. God knows, there's plenty up there. I think it might be interesting for fans of both shows to get a sense of the Dirt Behind the Danger. We'll see.

* I read in another thread that DJ Season 2 is coming to DVD shortly. Do you get a copy of every show you do? If so, do you get extras to give away as gifts?

I've never given anything with my name or face as a gift.

* Do you still read every single thing posted in your Mud Room?

Not every single thing. Because it's now a "Mud Room" and not a specific "Ask Mike," I no longer assume every post is a question meant for me. Which is clearly the case. Like most everyone else here, I look for threads or conversations that catch my interest. The dramatic stuff is easier to ignore than contemplate.

* Anymore "fatboy rider" moments when you just logged off rather than post something you might regret later?

I live in a constant state of mild regret.

* Are you a proponent of drinking and posting?

Sure. I've been typing with one hand for years.

-- Mike

QUESTION: Most of you have probably seen this, and I repost it here because this is a picture that evokes great emotion and reflection. The only coherent sentence that comes to mind is:

-- Judy

ANSWER: A man gets lonesome, down on the farm ...

QUESTION: I'm at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. You should probably call everyone you know and find a dirty job that you can do here. I have faith that you can do it. It is a pretty dirty place, after all. And then the next step -- and the most important one -- would be to find me (upon requesting my phone number, or address or basically anything you want from me ... at all.) Even though I am 19 and you are 40 something, I am very certain that we would be best friends forever. So, really, I look very forward to hearing from you.

-- Alison

ANSWER: A couple years ago, I came through Madison for a dirty job. I'll never forget it. Met a guy named Les, who drove a honey wagon and cleaned septic tanks. It was a tough day that left us all fairly haggard. After the shoot, I ran into the sister of a girl I knew from my CBS days in San Francisco. I was right down the street from the main campus and she and a bunch of her roommates were moving into the dorm. They had a ton of furniture, so the crew and I helped out. Afterwards, they invited us to hang out and have a beer. We did. Other students came by, and before long, there was a full-fledged party raging throughout the entire wing. I don't know where everyone came from or how the kegs materialized so quickly, but it was an impressive feat of speed and organization that rivaled Delta House. At one point, I looked around and realized I was twice as old as everyone else in the room. Worse yet, I smelled like sewage. Under other circumstances, the realization might have been sobering, but amazingly, no one seemed to care, and I was too far along to feel sorry for myself. So, I proceeded to pretend that I was twenty-two again.

Three days later, I was well enough to get on a plane and fly home.

I survived the septic tank, but the girls of Madison very nearly killed me. So thank you Alison, but no, I won't be calling.

-- Mike

QUESTION: Comfort zone question. Have you ever done anything outside of your comfort zone? I have, but it's really, really difficult. I know it's necessary to leave that zone and "stretch" a little or else how will I grow as a person?

-- Redsophiia

ANSWER: The traditional comfort zone is a thing many people pass through on their way to complacency, sloth and predictability. That's what makes it dangerous -- long term, it leads to nowhere good.

If our decisions were motivated by our comfort, not much in the way of accomplishment would ever transpire. Comfort without adversity has no meaning. Rather like clean, without dirty.

-- Mike

QUESTION: This is very hard to answer for me, as there are many through the years. I think The Mary Tyler Moore show would be at the top of my list. I also loved St. Elsewhere and Frasier. In years gone by, the variety shows were always fun. Carol Burnett, Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie. I think my favorite character would be Alex P. Keaton. Michael J. Fox was terrific in that part and I looked forward to that show each week.

How about the rest of you?

-- onthecrab

ANSWER: For pure, original brilliance, Barney Fife.

-- Mike

QUESTION: Climbing to the top of a suspension bridge to change a lightbulb = the scariest moment of your entire life?!?

-- crochuntrocks

ANSWER: I'm OK with heights. Widths, however, trouble me.

There were a few occasions where I needed a "personal moment." The winds were very gusty and strong. And while the cable is bigger than it looks, it's round so you need to walk dead center all the time or you'll slip. But mainly, I was just so happy that the Bridge Authority was on board with the show, I couldn't bring myself to say no. Let me explain.

I've been to many government-controlled locations where some key element of the job was withheld from me because of some regulation or general liability. (Not because of a genuine concern for my safety, but rather, a genuine adherence to blanket policies.) The folks who run that bridge not only understand their jobs, they understand the real goal of this show, which is to put the viewer into the boots of the worker, through me. Walking the cable is a daily reality for a few of those guys, and I couldn't leave without at least asking. I fully expected the man in charge to say, "No way," when I inquired, somewhat jokingly, if he had any problem with me hopping over the side and walking up the cable to change a lightbulb me.

"Why would I have problem," he replied, tossing me a harness. "It's not my butt up there. Go for it."

This is the first time in the history of this show that I was given complete access to every aspect of a dangerous, dirty, municipal job. It was a really gratifying day for me, and from what I could tell, a lot of fun for the workers. I hope you all liked it, too.

-- Mike

QUESTION: Are you a breast, thigh or leg man? (Whoa, there! I am strictly talking chicken! Jeez!) OK, Captain Clever, no answering, "I'm a wing man, myself." I think that most dudes would agree you would be a TERRIBLE "wing man."

-- greeneyedbamablonde

ANSWER: I hate to limit myself to just one part of the body. I prefer to consume a chicken in its totality, and savor its many flavors organically. The breast, the thigh, the leg, they all satisfy individually, but offer so much more when combined. I prefer to taste it all, simultaneously if possible. My fondest memories include a plump, white breast in one hand; a dark, meaty thigh in the other; several savory legs within easy reach; and the promise of more to come. Naturally, I like to cover them all with gravy.

I also enjoy red meat.

-- Mike

QUESTION: Been keeping up with your posts and wonder, after seeing the sporadic times you do post -- when and how do you allocate and prioritize your time? I'm sure contracts and jobs come first, but, come on, there are only, what, 24 to 25 hours in a day. How do you do it? Do you not have personal life?

-- momacdona

ANSWER: Actually, I'm sleeping now.

-- Mike

QUESTION: Mike, do you have to pay your hosts for stuff you break or if you cost your hosts money for making a mistake? For example, the geoducks episode where you killed one of the ducks and the guy said, "That'll cost you $25 bucks".

-- dixonpattison

ANSWER: I always offer to pay if I break something. No one's ever taken me up on it. We have, however, compensated people for slowing them down. Dirty Jobs does not maximize worker efficiency.

-- Mike

QUESTION: Have you ever been starstruck? I know you've met a lot of famous people -- who impressed you the most? The least?

-- concal

ANSWER: Well, I used to be in a regular poker game with Brad Pitt, back before he got really famous.

I dated Andie MacDowell for about six months, after she made that Tarzan movie.

I worked for Dick Clark for several months in 1998.

I once got into a bar fight with Tom Sizemore at the Sky Bar in L.A.

Two of the aforementioned are true. Care to guess which?

-- Mike


1) Do you take part in the editing of Dirty Jobs?

2) Do you actually watch the show when it is aired on the Discovery Channel?

3) If you watch the show, do you find yourself picking it apart and thinking of things you could have done or said better?

Thanks in advance,


ANSWER: For the most part, I'm responsible for sending the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle back to the production office. It's up to me and Dave, the field producer, to determine what those pieces are. Once delivered, however, it's largely out of our hands.

I would very much like to be in the edit bays when each segment is assembled and as a producer on the show, I have a right to be. The schedule, however, makes that impossible. We are usually busy shooting the next segment, while editors are putting together what we last shot. It's a machine and fortunately, our editors are very good.

Dave will include notes with the raw tape that we send back and for the most part, his notes are followed. However, a format was established early on that calls for three stories in each episode.

Because we shoot from sunup to sundown, an extraordinary amount of footage goes unused. Consequently, stories must be cut to fit -- and that does not necessarily allow for the best possible tale. So, it's fair to say that I am never completely happy with the finished product.

Also, I have a rather specific sense of humor and find many things amusing that other sane people do not. And so, a lot of little things don't make it in that I would fight for if present.

For instance:

Me: "Who is this?"

Dawn the Monkey Lady: "This is my lame and mangled baby. She's only got one eye, a terrible limp and she can't hear a thing."

Me: "Answers to the name of 'Lucky'?"

Funny, right?


QUESTION: Are ya a good kisser? Do ya like the whole kissin' thing? There's a whole crowd out here who'd like to know.

- tikkamasala

ANSWER: Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.


QUESTION: My husband works on the oil rigs as a well tester and we are now watching you folks do so without any eye protection! Are you crazy?! Drilling a hole with no protective eyewear? Between him, a well tester, and me, a workers' compensation lawyer, we're cringing! Somebody could LOSE AN EYE!

Ha-ha! Seriously, Safety First, fellas! I would expect better from the Discovery Channel!

- suzemommy

ANSWER: I sincerely appreciate your concern for me and agree that stupidity plays an ongoing role in my professional and personal life. But believe me, I have no wish to be injured on the job.

However, it is not the objective of Dirty Jobs to conform to any particular set of safety standards, other than those dictated by the people for whom I happen to be working at the time. I take my cues from them and I assume whatever risk they assume, for the most part. In the end, we hope to capture an honest look at what life is like for the workers in a particular venue. We do not aspire to set an example or be a poster child for OSHA or any particular industry. I realize that may sound controversial but it's the truth and not nearly as inflammatory as what I'm going to say next.


Of all the platitudes automatically embraced in the workplace -- and there are many -- there is none more pervasive, erroneous, overused and dangerous than "Safety First!" in my opinion. I have heard this slogan countless times. I have seen it emblazoned on banners, T-shirts and hats. I have sat through mandatory briefings, slideshows and presentations designed to "protect me from the hazards at hand." And I have listened as safety officers and foremen have run down list after list of OSHA requirements, all apparently construed to remind me that nothing is more important to the employer than my own well-being.

What a load of unmitigated nonsense.

In the 120+ jobs I have seen thus far, I can tell you with certainty, that safety, while always a major consideration, is never the priority.


Never, ever.

Not even once.

Is it important? Of course. But is it more important than getting the job done? No. Not even close. Making money is more important than safety -- always -- and it's very dangerous, in my opinion, to ignore that. When we start to believe that someone else is more concerned about our own safety than we are, we become complacent and then we get careless. When a business tells you that they are more concerned with your safety than anything else, beware. They are not being honest. They are hedging their own bets and following the advice of lawyers hired to protect them from lawsuits arising from accidents.

You are correct to suggest that wearing safety glasses would have made the task at hand safer. But why stop there? Wearing a helmet would have made it safer still. And wearing a steel-mesh shark suit would have made it really super-safe. I know that sounds glib and I know that many will wish to scold me for appearing cavalier. But really, I'm not. In a car, I wear a safety belt. On a motorcycle, I wear a helmet. Not because it's the law, but because it seems a reasonable precaution. And ultimately, the only one responsible for my own safety is me. (Besides, if the government were really concerned with my safety above all else, wouldn't they drop the legal speed limit to 30 miles an hour and make cars out of rubber?)

Again, you're right -- I probably should have been wearing safety glasses, not because safety is first, but because I like to hedge my bets. We can always be safer. We can always assume less risk. But if safety were really first, I wouldn't travel at all or engage in any activity that required me to assume any risk. And I certainly wouldn't be hosting Dirty Jobs.

Like most sensible concepts, rational safety is all about balance. But the problem with balance is that you can never maintain it without constantly adjusting. Which means, we are always slightly out of balance, one way or the other.

When are we too reckless? When are we overly cautious? Opinions will vary about where safety should rank on society's list of desirable conditions. But one thing seems certain -- safety has never been first, at home or at work. And the current effort to make it so is way out of balance.

And that, ironically, is dangerous.


QUESTION: What would a day in the life of Mike Rowe be like from getting out of bed to going to bed? I mean one of your crazy "don't know if you're coming or going" kind of days. And what would your idea of a heavenly "nothing to do" day be like? May have to search your memory on that one.

ANSWER: Had a good one today.

Slept in. Jet-lagged from the Tennessee trip, so it felt especially good. Lay in bed. Beethoven and Debussy in the background.

Fooled around. Made coffee, read the paper.

Then, Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.

Building is being painted, and currently wrapped in some sort of mesh. Keeps the light out. Nice.

Answered some e-mail. Worked on the novel.

Walked down the street for a late brunch. Drank mimosas.

Several, in fact. Staggered back.

Fooled around some more. Made a fire. Friends coming over later.

Considering further fooling around, but not optimistic.

Reading some Demille.

Answering you guys.

Hi-Los in the background. More mimosas. Etc.

A very civilized Sunday.


QUESTION: Mike, have you guys ever had a job that just didn't work out? (Besides the monkey one.) Was there ever a job where you just did not get along with the people after getting there?

- miztaz

ANSWER: Good question.

To some degree, all dirty jobs should pose a challenge. There should always be a struggle or an obstacle to overcome or something that doesn't "work out." In fact, it's fundamental to the show.

My goal has always been to show the viewer every single adversity I encounter and make it a part of the program. Thus, cranky subjects, broken equipment, unexpected danger and my own incompetence are all fair game and integral to the segment. In other words, we try to make a show around the very elements that most producers leave on the edit bay floor.

Consequently, the most challenging segments are those that pose no real difficulty. When that happens, we need to find something that's entertaining or interesting, without manufacturing a story beat that doesn't truly exist. In the cheese making episode, for instance, there was no dirt to speak of. However, we found some quirky characters and wound up with some memorable conversation. Same with candy maker. We played the cards we got. In other words, we try to tell the truth, and let each segment go where it wants to.

Personally, I believe the show needs to evolve further. I think the next step will require us to involve the viewer with the challenges we face on a production level. Because oftentimes, the challenge of getting the story is more interesting than the story itself. Take the railroad segment that just re-aired. On that particular day, the heat was so intense, we lost a camera. Unfortunately, we didn't know this until the tape was viewed after the fact. Consequently, the entire segment was initially deemed unusable. Fortunately, one of our editors was able to cut around the damaged footage and a workable piece was salvaged.

However, a far better story, in my opinion, would have included the "unusable" material, along with an explanation as to why the footage looked the way it did. I should have included the broken camera in the story -- because it speaks to the adversity of getting the job done. And, as a viewer, I find it interesting.

Traditionally, though, networks and producers don't like to call attention to production problems, any more than magicians like to reveal their secrets. Dirty Jobs, however, is starting to break that mold by focusing not just on the story, but on the process of getting the story. That is a huge distinction. To your question -- that's what the monkey episode was all about. Mission vs. Story. Involving the viewer in the adversity of shooting the segment, was the key to making that footage work. Not only did we save the segment, we filled an entire hour. That's an approach that could extend the life of this series immeasurably. That's also what makes it fun but trust me, it's not easy, because presenting the facts, is not the same as presenting the truth.

In the coming season, look for more appearances from the Dirty Jobs crew. Expect more behind-the-scenes footage. After all, we've got over 120 jobs in the can. But so far, nothing has proven dirtier than the job of making the show. This time around, I hope to prove that.


QUESTION: My girlfriend and I are big fans and were wondering something about something in particular. It seems sometimes that some of these guys you work with are just plain ... well, how shall I say ... mean! The one episode I remember in particular was when you were working with the old guy and his ostriches. If you even spilled a speck of that feed, that guy was on top of you like white on rice!

He's screaming "Don't spill the feed!" at the top of his lungs while you were being attacked and pecked by ostriches. He yelled it again to which you quipped, "Is it feed, or gold, for God's sake?!"

Was it just us, or was he getting really paranoid about you spilling his feed? I might have dumped the whole thing over and said "Forget it!" if he had been yelling at me like that.

Anyway, we're big fans, and keep up the good work!

Aaron and Alyssa


A & A,

Glad you like the show. The ostrich guy, Doug, was indeed rather particular about his feed. We could have probably cut the piece to make him appear less paranoid, but there is a certain entertainment value in watching me get yelled at from time to time. Truth is, he was not really as worried about his feed as he seemed in the final cut, but he did like to boss me around and that was accurately reflected, I think. People are at their most interesting when they are being themselves, but TV makes it very, very difficult for regular folks to not alter their behavior in some way, and lapse into some sort of "performance." The business of production is just so obtrusive, it's nearly impossible to find someone who is totally unaffected by it.

In a perfect world, none of the people featured on Dirty Jobs would have any aspiration to be on TV. That's why, in many cases, the people who contact us (the owner, the boss, etc.) are less suitable for my purposes than their employees. Bosses and owners tend to have agendas and people with agendas are seldom genuine. Rad (the roofing guy) was an exception and one of my favorites. Like Floyd, he couldn't have cared less about being on TV and didn't go out of his way to appear any different than he really is. That's rare and very refreshing, if not necessarily endearing. I would much prefer people to be themselves (even if that means being impatient, bossy or demanding), rather than pander or assume a "character" that they think I might want them to play.

I really try to resist the temptation to manufacture moments of drama or tension or comedy. It's hard, because that's what television is -- manufactured moments. When things start to feel mundane or ordinary, directors and editors start to worry, because we have a basic belief that viewers need to be constantly "entertained." Perhaps they do. But the show works best, in my opinion, when we step back and let the actual personalities emerge from the characters we profile.

For better or worse.


QUESTION: Have you ever had a really bad sickness from one of the dirty jobs that you've done in the past?

- xxbeinmexx

ANSWER: No, thankfully.

There is, however, a fairly long litany of infirmaries and minor injuries. I won't bore you with a list -- it's long. Lately, though, the shooting schedule has made it impossible for me to conceal the slings and arrows of outrageous television. In the coming season, the wear and tear will be more noticeable and you may notice the fruits of my dirty labors in the very visible shape of eye infections, pronounced limps and most recently, a missing tooth.

Do I have a great job or what?



What's up with all the sniffing?

No doubt you've been to some of the strangest jobs and with them come some strange smells ... but why do you have to go out of your way to pick up a whatever and sniff it?

Don't get me wrong -- I think it's funny when you do that -- but why do you do that? Is it just to keep people like me laughing? Or ... ?

- jack-e

ANSWER: The official answer is this: I am not a host so much as I am a surrogate for the viewer. As such, it is my responsibility to experience the situation/job as completely as possible and share my reactions with you.

The truth, however, is that I just like to smell things. Don't really know why. Always have. Carton of milk two weeks beyond expiration date? I'll sniff it anyway. Can't help myself.


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