Dear Mr. Rowe:
Hello, my name is Connor Watkins, and I am twelve years old. I met you last fall with my dad at the Cleveland Airport. At school we were told to ask successful people what the most important lessons in life are. I asked my parents who told me it was important to treat others the way you want to be treated. I also asked my cousin and he explained life is ten percent of what you make and ninety percent how you take it.
I am writing to you because you have been very successful, and I would like to learn what the most important lesson you have learned in life is. I think you are successful because you starred in your own unique television show. In addition, companies have asked you to endorse their products. Recently, you have started a charity to support the skilled trade workers. I have seen several shows and I have been impressed by how you are able to get a serious point across in a funny way.
I would hope that you might be able to respond with a letter containing your advice on a valuable life lesson and what makes you so successful. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this letter.
Revere Middle School
Thanks for the note, and thanks for calling me “successful.” It’s a nice compliment. But here’s the thing about success that you might want to remember – it’s impossible to tell for sure who is successful just by looking at them.
A lot of people who work in television look pretty successful, but believe me, when it comes to real success, being on television doesn’t mean squat. Part of a celebrity’s job is to maintain the appearance of success. But many of them live way beyond their means. And lots of them are simply not what you think. (Paging Lance Armstrong…) That goes for non-celebrities too. You can look out your window right now and see a lot of anonymous people driving nice cars and wearing fancy clothes and looking very “successful.” Don’t be so sure. Many are drowning in debt. Prosperity doesn’t always look prosperous, and happiness doesn’t always resemble success. Real success is difficult, both to achieve and to recognize in others. Read More...
Mike, have you seen this? Celebs muffle the voice of experience
Even though you are considered a celebrity are you concerned that you may lose out on future voice over jobs, or are you well known and respected enough to not have to worry? — Liz
For the past few years, the LA Times has run a version of this article. It’s a big topic in an industry town, and it’s a subject that’s kind of fascinating for me personally, mostly because I’ve been on both ends of the situation. The voice over business (at least, that portion which is overseen by the union) has for years been the most efficient and enjoyable way for an anonymous Joe to make a very, very comfortable living. Even though the competition is stiff, the work itself is easy. I don’t mean for that to sound glib – I just mean that in a relative world, sitting in a climate-controlled room with your favorite beverage and telling a story is a pleasant way to make a buck, and thanks to the union, the bucks in question are considerable. Consequently, VO and narration have always been considered plum jobs among non-celebrities who are striving to prosper in a very competitive market.
Of course, any job that pays a lot of money for a little amount of effort is usually an anomaly, propped up by some artificial force that temporarily trumps supply and demand. They just don’t last. In this case, the “anomaly” that allowed a giant number of non-celebrities to compete for a tiny number of jobs that pay a lot of money was driven by the belief among celebrities that the work in question was “beneath them.” So, they stayed out of it, and their representatives discouraged them from going there. (This is the sort of rank arrogance I’ve alluded to before – the idea that big stars who make their living on commercial television look down their noses at the advertisers who ultimately pay their salaries – hysterical.) That sentiment however, has started to change. Not because of some new-found sense of humility, but because the money is just too good, and advertisers and clients (and of course consumers) are besotted with celebrity. Read More...
In one of your episodes you launched into a rather well-sung rendition of “Vecchia zimarra” from “La Boheme.” I’m an opera singer and voice teacher, and immediately recognized your excellent diction and lovely bass/baritone voice. Where did you train, and did you ever sing opera professionally? Also, for heaven’s sake, how does one begin with Puccini and end up scraping ostrich barf out of buckets?
I would love to know more. — V. Hart
Most of my career choices have been motivated by my interest in doing a particular thing at a particular time. No master plan. Sometimes, those choices were made as a means to an end. The Opera for instance, provided me with my union card, as well as an unprecedented opportunity to meet girls. Eventually, I began to appreciate the music, but that was not my objective going in. Likewise, QVC presented an excellent opportunity to learn the details of live TV, and work in an industry that was in its infancy, but clearly destined for wild success. I had no great love for the industry, but had the time of my life nevertheless. Read More...
Whenever Dirty Jobs goes off the air for a few months, people start to wonder if the show has been canceled. Rumors begin to swirl, and questions about the show’s future fill my inbox. Over the years it’s been my pleasure to assure anxious fans that Dirty Jobs is coming back for another season. And indeed, we always have. Alas, this year, I’m afraid I cannot dispel the rumors. A few weeks ago, I was officially informed that Dirty Jobs had entered into a new phase. One I like to call, “permanent hiatus.” Or in the more popular industry vernacular, canceled.
My first instinct was to immediately pass the news on to you, but frankly, it’s taken me a few weeks to digest. Dirty Jobs is a very personal show, and it’s difficult for me to imagine a future that does not involve exploding toilets, venomous snakes, misadventures in animal husbandry, and feces from every species. Nevertheless, the future is here, and while it does not appear to contain any more Dirty Jobs, it will almost certainly include another Thanksgiving. So in the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to thank those people most responsible for reinvigorating my erstwhile career, and launching the most honest show in the history of reality TV.
First, to John Hendricks, David Zaslav, and everyone at Discovery. In 1993, with nothing on my resume but an inglorious pink slip from The QVC Cable Shopping Channel, Discovery hired me to host Romantic Escapes. For nearly a year I traveled around the world with an attractive co-host, drinking wine, floating around in hot air balloons, and creating the illusion of romance in 5-start resorts. With Discovery’s continued support, I would eventually work my way up to the sewer, where I’ve happily splashed about for the last eight years. David Z – your support has been invaluable, and the many opportunities that sprung from Dirty Jobs have positively changed my life. Thank you. John H – you are one of the greatest entrepreneurs in modern history. Thanks to your vision, I have Forrest Gumped my way into over 180 countries, and inflicted Dirty Jobs onto a sizeable hunk of unsuspecting humanity. I’m very grateful for that. To you and everyone at Discovery – as well as my good friends who are no longer there – thanks very much.
Second, to Craig Piligian, Eddie Barbini, Ed Rohwedder, and everyone at Pilgrim Films. Back in 2001, I was producing a modest little segment for the CBS affiliate in San Francisco called Somebody’s Gotta Do It. I thought it deserved a bigger audience, but sadly, no one else agreed. In those days, networks were hesitant to spend money on reality shows that didn’t feature cash prizes, convicts, or pets that attacked their owners. But after two years of rejection, Craig P. watched an episode of Somebody’s Gotta Do It, and told me he could sell it. Craig can sell ice to Eskimos, or in this case, a slightly disturbing video of yours truly collecting semen from a friendly bull and artificially inseminating a nearby cow. I don’t know how he did it, but Discovery ordered a pilot and changed the name to Dirty Jobs. The rest is history. Of course, Craig didn’t just sell a show – he sold a genre. Today, over two-dozen separate programs have evolved from Dirty Jobs. Maybe more. The credit for that, (as well as the blame!) belongs to Craig. Thanks Craig, very much.
Third, to my crew. Dave Barsky, Doug Glover, Troy Paff, Chris Jones, Chris Whiteneck, Adam Bradley, Dan Eggiman, Ryan Walsh, Amber McClarin, Marlen Schlawin and half a dozen other masochists who picked up the slack over the years. Making Dirty Jobs was never an actual war, but there were days – many days – that felt a lot like combat. Whether we were dangling from bridges, crawling through mines, swimming with sharks, castrating sheep, transplanting giant cacti, or slowly freezing to death on the Arctic Ocean, we usually made it out in one piece, and we always got what we needed. It’s easy to forget – what with all the laughing and bleeding and vomiting and eighth grade shenanigans – just how excellent each and every one of you is at what you do. Well, I won’t forget. I promise. I’ll remember you always as a band of brothers, and do what I can to one day put the band back together. For now, there’s nothing else to say but thanks. You’re the best. Read More...
Mike is the first U.S. celebrity to grace the cover of Mechanical Business.
As the host of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Network and Discovery Canada, Mike Rowe is a perpetual apprentice, and has tried his hand at more than 300 careers. But he’s much more than an apprentice, he’s also one of the biggest cheerleaders the trades have, and he’s harnessing his energies to garner respect for the trades through the mikeroweWORKS Foundation.
By Adam Freill
Giving back and building up
The stars of Dirty Jobs come from all sectors of industry, but there are a number of common challenges among the companies profiled and apprenticed, including the ability to attract new people into the trades. Read More...
Not long after Dirty Harry started addressing furniture on national television, I began to think seriously about the benefits of keeping my big mouth shut. Alas, it is difficult. Because after three hundred Dirty Jobs and eight years of unintended social anthropology, I’m now afflicted by the possibility that I might have something useful to say. Specifically, I think I’ve stumbled across the solution for closing our country’s Skills Gap, and I find the urge to share my theory irresistible.
I call it my Big Idea for Reinvigorating the Skilled Trades, and I’ve been talking it up wherever the siren song of free press beckons. Last Wednesday, that meant a trip to Ohio, where I shared my Big Idea with Mitt Romney, and managed to confuse half the country in the process, including Ed Shultz over at MSNBC. Ed suggested I am “probably a very nice guy” but clearly on “the wrong stage” and spending time with the “wrong candidate.” He can’t understand why I wasn’t campaigning with President Obama. Other less charitable viewers responded with a flurry of anatomical suggestions, the execution of which I believe to be physically impossible, at least for a man with my limited flexibility. So please, allow me to clarify a few things for Ed, and those who are confused by my recent brush with the (gasp!) Republican Presidential candidate.
A few weeks ago, Governor Romney invited me to participate in a round table conversation with some local CEO’s. The invitation was in response to an open letter from me outlining the aforementioned Big Idea. I’ve written the same letter to lots of people in various positions of influence, including our then newly elected President in 2009. President Obama – distracted no doubt with the business of leading the Free World – never got back to me. Totally understandable. Governor Romney however – in the midst of discussing job issues and preoccupied with the prospect of getting elected – responded right away. Score!
So I bought a ticket and flew to Cleveland to participate in my first ever “Manufacturing Round Table.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but imagined a thoughtful discussion unfolding between myself and several business leaders, witnessed by a crowd of interested spectators and chronicled by lots of media. Upon landing however, things got a little weird. To my surprise, the local headlines announced that I had “joined the Romney campaign” to “officially endorse” the Governor. Hmm… A quick Google search revealed that several other media outlets had picked up the story as well, and suddenly, my presence in the Buckeye State had become… awkward.
I arrived at the venue and took stock of the situation. Fifteen hundred supporters were crammed onto the factory floor of the American Spring Wire Company. Security was tight, and the press was everywhere. There were big signs, banners and placards, there was cheering and clapping, and a general sense of pandemonium. There was no sign of a table – round or otherwise – and the prospect of an actual discussion was looking increasingly bleak. As I made my way to the stage, that which was obvious to everyone else finally became apparent to me. This was a campaign rally. Super awkward.
In hindsight, it should not have surprised me in the least. When you’re forty days out from a general election in a battleground state – any event is a campaign rally. (Duh.) I quickly realized my expectations for a thoughtful discussion were off the mark and the situation was….let’s just say, uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be rude – I was a guest, after all. But I was not there to publicly endorse him. Obviously, I would need to clear up the whole thing on stage, but Governor Romney beat me to it.
In his opening remarks, the Governor explained that my presence there was intended to be non-partisan and I wasn’t there to endorse anybody. I appreciated that but when it comes to the press, you can’t put the poop back in the goose, and despite his clarification, the blogosphere exploded with speculation that I was angling to be the Secretary of Labor or Ambassador of Dirt or some such craziness. Oy. Read More...