Mike Rowe Says ‘Devastating’ Comment From His Mom Inspired ‘Dirty Jobs’

by Samantha Whidden
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Following the season premiere of Discovery’s Dirty Jobs, host Mike Rowe revealed that an exchange between him and his mother inspired the hit series. 

During an interview with Fox News, Mike Rowe spoke about how he grew up living next door to his grandfather. The elder dropped out of school in seventh grade. His grandfather became a master electrician and skilled craftsman by the age of 30. “He was one of those geniuses who could take your watch apart blindfolded and put it back together, fix anything, build anything. He was a magician, and I kind of grew up in his shadow with my mom and dad.”

However, Mike Rowe stated he didn’t inherit the natural gift of working with his hands. “The handy gene, as you may have noticed, is recessive. And as certain as I was that I would follow in his footsteps, I just didn’t get the skills. So I got into entertainment.”

After bouncing from one job to another, Mike Rowe eventually landed a job for CBS Evening Magazine. It was then that he had a “devastating” discussion with his mother. “I’m in my cubicle, and my mother calls me. She says, ‘Michael, your grandfather is 90 years old…’ And she said he’s not going to live forever. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if before he died, he could turn the TV on and see you doing something that looks like work?’”

Although he was “devastated” by the comment his mother made, he was inspired. The next day, he and his cameraman headed into the San Francisco sewers where he profiled an inspector. He marked the “organic beginnings” of what would become Dirty Jobs.  

Mike Rowe Recalled That He Thought His Grandfather Would Appreciate the Footage

While continuing his chat with Fox News, Mike Rowe said he thought his grandfather would appreciate the footage of him being in the San Francisco sewer. “Evening could be hosted anywhere. And I figured, ‘Well, you know what? My pop will get a kick of seeing me host from a sewer. Because he’d been in a few and why not?’”

Mike Rowe then revealed that days after the footage aired, he received hundreds of letters from people who loved the segment. “Not because they enjoyed me necessarily. But people who said, ‘Man if that’s what you’re going to do, you should meet my brother, my uncle, my cousin, my sister, my mom, my dad, my aunt. Wait until you see what they do.’”

That’s when Mike Rowe knew he and his cameraman had stumbled onto something that’s never been done before. “And that there was a massive underserved audience. And that there was maybe a chance to take reality TV and let it live up to its name.”

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