‘Dirty Jobs’: How Mike Rowe’s Grandfather Influenced His Life and Work

by Quentin Blount
Photo by Getty Images

Do you have a grandparent that is extra special to you? For Dirty Jobs star Mike Rowe, that person is his beloved grandfather.

By now it goes without saying, but most people know Mike Rowe from his time on Dirty Jobs. The popular Discovery Channel show follows in the footsteps of our nation’s workers who perform dirty, and sometimes, downright disgusting jobs. Rowe also starred in the CNN series called Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Both shows are very similar.

But Rowe has some other projects he’s involved in that are pretty cool as well. Take for example his series on Facebook called Returning the Favor. There in the show, he finds people who do good things for others and goes out of his way to do something good for them. He is also the host of his own podcast — The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe.

As you can tell, Mike Rowe has always been a grounded individual. But where did he learn to be the man he is today? Well, he owes a lot of that to his grandfather. He talked about their relationship during a 2017 interview with Philanthropy Round Table.

“How did your relationship with your grandfather influence your views on work?” Rowe was asked.

“In every way imaginable,” he replied. “My grandfather could build a house without a blueprint. He only went to school through the seventh grade, but he became a master tradesman by the time he was 30. My hope was to follow in his footsteps. But, alas, the ‘handy’ gene is recessive, and I didn’t get the natural ability he was blessed with.”

Mike Rowe is a Huge Proponent of Trade Jobs

Sure, Mike Rowe might not be as handy as his grandpa was. But still to this day, he is a huge believer in doing tradeswork. And you guessed it — it’s his grandfather who helped instill that mindset.

“Pops was the only one who told me — when it became clear I would never be able to build a house on my own — that I could still be a tradesman. But only if I got myself a different sort of toolbox. And so I did. I went to a community college and took a theater class, I took singing lessons I started doing voiceovers and commercial work and hosting all sorts of random shows on various cable channels. I got my new toolbox in order and went to work in television.”

In the end, Rowe says that Dirty Jobs is a tribute to his grandfather.

“Years later, when Pop was 90, my mother called me to say how nice it would be if my grandfather could turn on the television and ‘see me doing something that looked like work.’ Ultimately, ‘Dirty Jobs’ came about as a tribute to him.”