You may recognize Mike Rowe's distinctive voice from Discovery's hit shows Deadliest Catch and Ghost Lab, but Mike is best known as the host and creator of the Emmy-nominated series Dirty Jobs.
On Dirty Jobs, Mike travels the country looking for the toughest, stinkiest jobs and meets the hardworking heroes who aren't afraid to do them. Over the years, he's helped inseminate a turkey, farmed maggots and even gave his cameraman a chest wax.
Having completed short stints at almost 300 dirty jobs, it's all in a day's work for Mike.
Mike says many people don't appreciate the dirty work that needs to be done—and he has a theory why. "I think there's a dirt index in the country," he says. "Over the years, we've always been able to link our willingness to get dirty with a certain level of productivity and a certain level of respect."
One hundred years ago, people had more of an understanding of dirty jobs like farming, Mike says, but now that manufacturing, technology and financial services have taken the place of manual labor, people no longer value the dirty jobs. "We're disconnected to who those people are," he says. "I don't think we really have a genuine appreciation for the world we'd be in if not for them."
Despite popular belief, Mike says these jobs aren't easy. Mike has cracked ribs, broken knuckles and worse. While working with a blacksmith, he sustained his most serious injury when a blast furnace melted his contact lenses to his eyes. "When you pick the little bits of plastic out of your retina, it's a certain gut check, and you realize, 'Oh, you should probably not do that,'" he says. "And when you blink, it makes a clicking sound that you don't want to hear."
Denise, an ultimate Oprah Show viewer and middle school custodian, is one of the workers Mike celebrates through his work. This Alabama mother may have a "dirty job," but she says there's nothing on earth she'd rather be doing. "I love it. I really do," she says. "I look at the school as my house, so I want to keep the school clean like I clean my house."
To the students of Westlawn Middle School, Denise is much more than a custodian—she's a counselor and a friend. "Sometimes they come to me with problems," she says. "Sometimes they're just sad, just having a rough day and can't get past it."
Denise gives more than support to students in need. Using her modest salary, Denise shops for school supplies and gifts to reward children for their good behavior. "Most of the stuff that I get them is stuff they can use in the classroom," she says.
When Denise isn't working, she helps members of the community by cleaning homes for the elderly and paying people's bills when they can't. "I might not have finished college, but I love my life," Denise says. "I love my babies. I love my job."
Meijer is giving Denise a $25,000 store credit to buy supplies and gifts for her students. "Now you don't have to spend your own money," Oprah says. "That's your blessing."
But that's not all...Meijer is also giving Denise $25,000 to spend on herself! "Thank you. Bless you," Denise says, tearfully.
Along with getting his hands dirty, Mike also narrates Discovery Channel's number one show, Deadliest Catch, a gripping documentary series about fishing boat crews who brave the Bering Sea in search of Alaskan king crab. The crews risk their lives in some of Mother Nature's harshest conditions, and camera crews catch the fisherman working around the clock.
Mike says he's worked with the crews in Dutch Harbor for years and has great admiration for them. "It's a different kind of guy that fishes for crab on the Bering Sea," he says. "Authentic and—I won't say fearless because everybody's scared of something—but they process risk differently. They live differently, and it's fascinating."
According to the United States Bureau of Labor, fishermen have the most dangerous job in America. They die from work-related injuries at a higher rate than anyone else. While Mike was working in Dutch Harbor, he witnessed these horrifying statistics firsthand. "I spent six weeks up there. Everybody I knew got hurt," Mike says. "One out of 6 guys got seriously jacked up, and I went to six funerals."
The risk is so high for these fishermen because many elements of the job are out of their control. "Insurance adjusters and accountants can't control the Bering Sea. You can't control the weather," Mike says. "We try really hard in the lower 48 [states] to make dangerous things less dangerous. We fool ourselves sometimes, I think, into believing that we can actually do that."
Oprah believes the reason Deadliest Catch is so popular is because it's so real, and Mike agrees. "It's terribly real," he says.