Mike Rowe Remembers How ‘Dirty Jobs’ Began as ‘Little Segment’ on Evening TV

by Taylor Cunningham

Dirty Jobs got its start on a feel-good evening television program. And when the first segment aired, ” people didn’t know what to do.”

Fox 11’s Marla Tellez recently sat down with Mike Rowe to chat about Dirty Jobs’ early days. As Mike shared, the series began as “a little segment on a little evening magazine called Somebody’s Gotta Do It.”

The first shoot took place in San Jose, and Rowe said the episode got him “in a lot of trouble.” Viewers usually watched Somebody’s Gotta Do It during dinnertime. And no one was expecting the show that night.

“These poor people in San Francisco,” he laughed. “They sit down to have their meatloaf. And they’re over there waiting to see a heart-tugging story about the three-legged dog in Marin that overcame Canine kidney failure. What do they get? They get me with my arm in a cow or crawling through a river of crap.”

Rowe’s network got a lot of angry calls that night, but they also got some positive feedback. And soon after, requests started piling in for Rowe to showcase more blue-collar jobs.

“I got like 30 letters… from people who said, ‘man, you should meet my brother, my cousin, my uncle, my mom, my dad. Wait till you see what they do,'” he remembered. “And that’s when I knew Dirty Jobs could be something.

‘Dirty Jobs’ Can be Dangerous Jobs

Dirty Jobs is most known for showcasing difficult and sometimes disgusting (albeit admirable) professions. But sometimes those same jobs can also border on deadly. Just ask Mike Rowe. He has the scars to prove it.

While talking with the San Francisco Chronicle, Rowe showed off his on-screen war wounds. The television host has had twelve stitches, two cracked ribs, one broken toe, and one broken finger.

He also has a triangular mark on his hand that was left by an alligator gar, which Mike described as a “sort of a demon spawn between an eel and a German Shepherd.”

And Rowe has a permanent mark from a shark. During an episode, he filmed in a shark suit, and one of the animals bit right through it.

“… One little tooth got through, and the f—ing thing got through my skin to my bone. It never really healed properly.”

But the shark attack wasn’t Mike Rowe’s most terrifying Dirty Jobs moment.

“The scariest [event] was a portable blast furnace, size of a toaster oven that a blacksmith uses. I was operating it in the field,” he told the newspaper. “The gas built up, so when we torched it, the flames that came out wrapped around my head and melted my contacts to my eyes. I was pulling pieces of plastic off my retina. But it was fine, it just scared the hell out of me.”