Tube Talk: It’s a ‘dirty job,’ and Mike Rowe’s gotta do it

After a grueling day at work, a lot of people like to relax in front of the TV for a while to get their minds off their jobs. If you really want to appreciate your own job, the next time you have a bad day at work, tune in to Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs. The aptly-named series seeks jobs so messy (and often physically demanding) that no matter what your job is, it will probably look like a cakewalk by comparison.

Somehow, host Mike Rowe makes dirty jobs—like cleaning out a basement that’s been filled with backed-up sewage for two weeks, collecting roadkill or fishing golf balls out of alligator-infested water—informative and entertaining. He approaches each task with a curious nature, a sense of humor, and a willingness to give pretty much anything a try, yet, he never belittles the people whose jobs he’s attempting. Rowe actually seems to enjoy trying his hand at some of the most disgusting jobs on earth, and respects the people who do them for a living.

Having crawled through sewers, worked on animal farms, and scoured bird droppings from buildings and raccoon feces from a bathtub, Rowe wasn’t kidding in one show when he joked that he’d scooped poop on several continents. Not all jobs are disgusting (making terracotta, running a printing press and cleaning the inside of cement trucks were messy jobs, but in no way revolting), but I’d still caution viewers not to attempt eating while watching Dirty Jobs. Just be thankful we don’t have smell-a-vision.

One of the most interesting parts of the show is finding out how these hard workers wound up doing such typically thankless jobs. I mean, how does one become an “owl vomit collector” anyway? Or for that matter, how does someone like Rowe go from being a professional singer with the Baltimore Opera to traveling the world in search of filthy new jobs to try?

Given some of the places Dirty Jobs takes them—from a wild monkey refuge in South Africa, to the sewers of San Francisco, to a Louisiana alligator farm—keeping current on their tetanus shots is probably a top priority for the entire crew. At the remote monkey refuge, far from any medical facilities, a crew member got a pretty nasty bite on the leg from a particularly cranky monkey. At times, Dirty Jobs could be called Dangerous Jobs, but they also mix in lighter fare—like working in a candy factory—as long as it’s good and messy.

Dirty Jobs, which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Discovery Channel, is repeated frequently, but my favorite time to watch is during the mini-marathons that run every now and then on weekends.

If you catch yourself thinking, “You call that a dirty job?” while watching the show, maybe you should do as they suggest at the end of each episode and invite Mike Rowe to try a day doing your job.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications.

From the Oct. 11-17, 2006, issue

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