Mike Rowe is a TV host, narrator, and Ford Motors pitchman probably best known as host of Discovery’s Dirty Jobs and as narrator for Deadliest Catch. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike had a stuttering problem in early childhood, an impediment he was obviously able to overcome. He sang professionally with the Baltimore Opera at one time and was an on-air host for QVC in the early 90s.
Mike was nice enough to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule recently and answer a few of our questions.
1. You walk into a bar. What do your order from the bartender?
Depends on the bar. And to some degree, the bartender. If I’m at The Algonquin in New York for instance, I don’t order anything because I know that Sammy is going to bring me whatever brand of Scotch he feels I should be drinking on that particular day. I’ve learned it’s best not to argue with Sammy. Likewise at Reed and Greenough in San Francisco, where Paul knows to pour a large glass of the most expensive tasting, lowest priced Cabernet available whenever I stroll in. For the most part though, I’m in dive bars in small towns around the country, ordering Rolling Rock or Miller High Life or whatever the local flavor happens to be.
2. Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter?
I have not yet arrived at that stage of my online development.
3. What’s currently waiting for you on your DVR/TiVO?
Luther, on The BBC. The last episode of Homeland, the last season of Walking Dead, and several old episodes of Dirty Jobs, which I can’t bring myself to erase.
4. It’s your last meal — what are you going out with?
A bushel of Maryland Blue Crabs, steamed in Old Bay and served on a picnic table covered in yesterday’s newspaper. Fresh corn on the cob, lobster mashed potatoes, Jersey tomatoes, waffle fries, baked beans with bacon, and a case of very cold National Bohemian Beer. And a box of chocolate Krispy Kreme donuts with a big bottle of cold milk.
5. What websites do you visit on a regular basis?
I don’t do anything on a regular basis, but often find myself interacting with The Real Mike Rowe on Facebook. I don’t know who that guy is, but he’s a lot more interesting than me.
6. What’s the most frequently played song on your iPod?
This week, it was Lush Life, (Johnny Hartman and Coltrane). The week before I’d say Pulling Mussels From a Shell. I don’t remember the week before that.
7. The first face that comes to mind when you think “punchable”?
I can’t give you a name, but about thirty years ago I had a confrontation in a Sears parking lot with a random knucklehead who believed his Trans Am deserved to occupy two spaces. It was one of the few times a small thing got under my skin in a big way. What kind of selfish cretin would feel so entitled that they could justify taking two spaces in a crowded parking lot? After circling the store for 20 minutes, I had considered the stupidity of the species, and become profoundly annoyed with humanity. I wound up parking my Grenada a mile away, and as I hiked in toward the entrance, I found myself actively fantasizing about teaching the driver a violent lesson in good manners.
It was about then I noticed a big man in a yellow warm up suit swagger out of the Sears and pause to light a cigarette. He wore a gold chain around his thick neck, wrap-around sun glasses, and a Phillies hat. Naturally, he was headed for the Trans Am, and as we passed one another, I politely asked if his outfit had come with the car. When he took his sunglasses off to give me the hard look, I inquired if he actually possessed a driver’s license. He responded by suggesting that I mind my own business, and I explained that my business had been impeded by his inability to park like a licensed driver. I then shared my opinion that his car and his wardrobe appeared to have come from the same set of Adult Garanimals, but that no amount of color coordination could ever justify a decision to hog up two spaces. When he stepped into my personal space and blew smoke in my face, I said “Eeek!” and explained in a loud voice to the gathering crowd that something psychological was probably at work – something involving compensation issues that indicated an inverse relationship between the size of the Trans Am and the size of the owners genitals.
The confrontation became heated, and the man demanded to know if I “wanted a piece of him” while poking me in the chest with a meaty finger. Even allowing for his superior size, I knew my inner rage would rule the day, and thought very seriously about punching him in the nose as hard as I could. Instead, I walked away, telling myself that I was taking the high road, but knowing all along that I was defying the cosmic pull of some deeper justice, and wrecking a potentially great conclusion to an otherwise mundane tale. Thirty years later, I can still see his face. In fact, I often superimpose it onto certain politicians and TV executives. Because honestly, I would still like to punch it.
8. What’s your favorite meme?
There is a picture of me out there from an episode about artificial insemination. I’m wearing a cowboy hat and wiping off a giant electronic dildo with a dishrag as a large bull watches from a distance with an expression that might be interpreted as “apprehensive.” Someone wrote on the photo, “I just can’t quit you.” If that’s what a meme is, it’s my favorite.
9. Dogs or cats?
10. Best concert of your life was…?
Tough to beat Rush 15 years ago. Though Pink Floyd gave ‘em a good run. And the Eagles in the desert back in 82 were unforgettable. I am told there have been some other bands to come along since then.
11. What book are you most likely to give as a gift?
The Deep Blue Goodbye, by John D. MacDonald. The first of 21 Travis McGee Mysteries, and the best pulp fiction ever written.
12. What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
Tough call. Birth was a pretty nice, and as a gift, still hard to beat. Thanks Mom and Dad. Billy Campbell at Discovery put Dirty Jobs on the air, which was awfully nice, especially since nobody else wanted it. I had a teacher in high school named Fred King who cured my stutter, which was also very nice. And later that same year, a cheerleader named Heather did something to me that was so nice I started to stutter all over again. Clearly, there is much to be grateful for.
13. South Park or Family Guy?
I like Family Guy, and actually did an episode of American Dad. But there is no better satire on TV than South Park. And if there’s a funnier character on TV today than Eric Cartman, I don’t know about it.
14. You have an entire day to do whatever you want. What would you do?
Well, it would have to be a cold and rainy day because I’d want to spend most of it between the sheets, vigorously engaged in some sort of interactive cardio without the subsequent guilt of doing so while the sun is shining. After achieving and maintaining my target heart rate for longer than average, I’d order room service. (That’s right, I’m in a hotel. A really good one.) Brunch would be served in bed, and followed by a replay of the previous activity. Afterwards, I’d grab the book in Answer 11, and spend a few hours reading and recovering. Then I might watch the TV shows in Answer 3, while sipping one of the beverages in Answer 1, and looking over the Facebook page in Answer 5. For exercise, I’d take a stroll through town, where I would miraculously run into that same douche-bag in Answer 7 and punch his lights out once and for all. Back in the suite, I’d enjoy an in-room massage by the fire, while the songs in Answer 6 played gently in the background. Then I suppose I’d go back to bed and do it all again.
15. What movie can you not resist watching if it’s on?
Last week, Galaxy Quest got me. In the middle of the night. Again. Shawshank Redemption has the same effect, as does Jaws, The Godfather, The In-Laws, Ghostbusters, Princess Bride, Young Frankenstein, Cool Hand Luke, and (don’t judge me) Moulin Rouge. If they’re on, I’m sucked in to the bitter end.
16. Android or iPhone?
I hate them both with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.
17. Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
Unknowable. But I’m thinking about some oysters I had in South Carolina. It was during the first season of Dirty Jobs, and we had spent the day with a local named Ed Palmer, pulling oysters out of an estuary called Shem Creek. I remember the oysters were unique because Shem Creek consists of brackish water – more salinity than fresh water but less than the ocean. It gives the oysters a really unique flavor. They were also really big. Anyway, there was this shack near the creek where Ed dumped our oysters onto a thick, steel plate that rested over the top of a hot fire. He then threw a blanket-sized piece of beer-soaked burlap over the mountain of shells and let them steam for about 20 minutes. I was skeptical because I prefer my oysters raw, but I was wrong. These were the most delicious oysters in the history of bi-valves, and I ate dozens of them, washing them down with cold Carta Blanca as the sun set over Shem Creek in a way that turned the whole scene into a post card. Epic. I was so inspired I wrote and recorded the Dirty Jobs theme song later that night. That was a pretty good meal.
18. What’s the last movie you saw in a theater?
Silver Lining Playbook. It was playing next to Lincoln which I had intended to see, but changed my mind when I saw the line. Of the 40 people in attendance, I was the only guy in the theater, and prepared myself for the worst kind of chick flick. Turned out to be the best movie I’ve seen in a while.
19. Who was your first celebrity crush?
Sally Field in The Flying Nun.
20. What would you cook if Nic Cage was coming to your house for dinner?
I would not cook for Nic Cage. I’d order a pizza and open a couple of beers. Then I’d put on Raising Arizona and ask him to explain every choice he’s made since.
Previously: Jaleel White