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This is one of the cleaner jobs.

"My name is Mike Rowe... and this is my job. I explore the country looking for people who aren't afraid to get dirty. Hard-working men and women who earn an honest living doing the kinds of jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us. Now get ready... to get dirty!"

Popular Discovery Channel show in which host Mike Rowe visits a variety of job sites that are filthy, dangerous, weird, disgusting, or all of the above. He interviews workers, learns about the job, and tries his hand at performing each task.


  • Abnormal Ammo: What is essentially a potato gun, shooting shark repellant.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Averted; we see just how small real sewers are.
    • One poo-pumping station, which admittedly is not itself a sewer, was around 100 feet deep, however. They were in there to replace one of the pumps.
  • Actor Allusion: While working on a suspension bridge, Mike gets the job of directing traffic and he's all too happy to point out a Ford truck driving by. Guess who's the official spokesperson for Ford right now?
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Given that Mike is the master of the Double Entendre, he'll make a reference to such any chance he can get.

 Anne: (Referring to Mike's stirring of shortening) He's got good wrist movement.

Mike: Yeah well, a lot of practice.

  • Angrish: Mike slips into it during some especially horrifying jobs, such as when he had to dump the inedible guts of a cow - specifically the enormous stomach(s) - into a barrel.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Visits to dairy and poultry farms included, unsurprisinly, fair quantities of squick.
    • This may be the only show on television that could turn a visit to a jellybean factory into Nausea Fuel.
  • Butt Monkey: Producer Dave Barsky is a magnet for humiliating and hilarious accidents. Mike plays this up every chance he gets.
    • Three words: Barsky gets waxed (three more: including nose-hairs).
    • Guess who forgot about not touching your head at the lice-removal salon and had to get shaved.
    • Some of the cameramen seen on the show could fall in this category too. Especially Troy.
    • Troy let Mike try to shave his neck with a straight razor; fortunately Mike was too freaked out to actually do it (it was "too Sweeney Todd") since even the professional barber caused him to bleed.
    • Doug's obsession with artistic lighting and acrophobia — he was "No, Just...No" with sitting on a bosun's chair with a 40 lb. camera on the Honolulu hi-rise but later redeemed himself on top of a 50-ft. antenna.
  • Camera Abuse: Frequently, and sometimes cameraman abuse (though usually not intentional) like how Troy got his hair caught in the pull line half way up a skyscraper in Hawaii. If he'd fallen he would have been scalped, but luckily all he lost was a bit of hair thanks to a member of the window washing team and a swiss army knife.
    • Another funny and luckily undamaging incident was when a sea lamprey latched onto the lens, leading Mike to say "Troy, there's something on your lens" in a hilarious deadpan manner.
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Mike is an opera singer.
    • He does get to show off his theatrical training once in a while.
    • Mike also does a lot of voiceover/narration work for other Discovery Channel shows and documentaries, which showcases his quite authoritative and sexy voice.
    • Not to mention plenty of TV and radio commercials for Ford.
  • Clip Show
  • Covered in Gunge: Essentially the whole show concept.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mike gets sardonic in direct proportion to the crappiness of whatever job he's doing at the moment. His hosts tend to do pretty well too. Even the crew, occasionally.
    • Mike's tendency to snark is what got him fired from the graveyard shift at QVC. Three times.
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: Inevitable, given the subject matter of the show.

  Mike: Oh, that is disappointing.

  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The episode about geoduck farmers (geoducks are marine bivalves with somewhat phallic mantles which can be extended upward for some distance). At one point Mike shows a newly-caught geoduck with its formerly erect mantle sagging and makes a sad face.
  • Double Entendre: Mike Rowe, of course. Discovery Networks even compiled a clip titled "King of Double Entendre"

 Mike: What's this white stuff?

Guy: Cod semen.

Mike: Come again?

Guy: It's cod semen.

Mike: ...come again?

    • One episode he worked on a tall ship and was set to police the captain's (binnacle) balls. After an entire scene with both Mike and the crew members joking, he narrates that after he finished polishing the balls, he went to see the caulker.
    • He was positively delighted to learn that the hole on the sides of wine barrels is indeed called the bunghole (twice over: once while actually making the barrels and once while making wine to put into them).
    • The look on his face when he finds out that sea lampreys are essentially "all gonad" once they start migrating back to spawn and die.
    • Mike had a field day with date palm pollination job. Perhaps tree reproduction and a fruit called a date was just too easy, though he didn't seize on the palm part.
  • Epic Fail: Whenever Mike tries his hand at the job being shown, the results vary between passable and Epic Fail. One particularly funny bit was when he was upstaged by a 11 year old at a farm while he was helping clean cows' hooves.
  • Estrogen Brigade Bait: A number of female fans seem to find Mike Rowe sexually attractive.
    • Apparently Doug and Troy scored in the Fan Girl department: they recently got a nice letter from a professional dancer and her two coworkers ("I guess we have a thing for tall, pale men with big cameras — even if you're old enough to be our dads").
  • Even the Guys Want Him: see above. For example...
  • Everything is worse with monkeys: Meet Paddy. He hates the entire Dirty Jobs crew with a passion.
    • One later job had Mike and crew inside a cage of lemurs that didn't seem to pleased about strangers. While they weren't as aggressive Mike quickly got Paddy flashbacks.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Every year since the show's conception, Mike has done a shark-related episode for Shark week. The scariest thing he's ever done on show is probably testing a shark-proof chain mail dive suit. First hand.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The one-man fireworks factory: "Don't get in the habit [of tapping a metal scoop coated in flash powder]." Also, there's five men all carrying electronics crammed in a room where one spark can cause an explosion ("You should turn off your cellphone").
  • Follow the Leader: "The Worst Job I Ever Loved" segments on, I think, the Los Angeles CBS news; possibly Hoarders (the cleanup crew and filmmakers have to deal with psychically disturbing levels of clutter that includes rotten food and dead animals); Dhani Tackles The Globe on Travel Channel and Sports Jobs With Junior Seau on Versus; the second US variation of Secret Millionaire, Undercover Boss (the premier episode features the CEO of Waste Management).
    • World's Toughest Fixes on National Geographic is a slight variation - Sean Riley is a rigger by trade, so he often contributes more to the task at hand than Rowe does. Riley also knows when to get out of the way.
  • Footnote Fever: The Nitty-Gritty episodes, early episodes with Mike's written commentary. Reveals such interesting tidbits as Mike was sleep-deprived for the cranberry harvesting episode and the high-pitched giggling when he almost burned himself at the jam factory wasn't one of the women but Barsky (he'll deny it, of course).
  • Funny Background Event: During the episode when Mike's on an ostrich farm, while the farm owner is talking with Mike about the sounds ostriches make, you can see an ostrich sneakily grabbing some food out of the wheelbarrow they're standing beside. Neither of the guys notice.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The DECOMP (Discovering Entymology and Criminalistics Over Many Projects) Lab.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Aside from, y'know, all the actual feces (human and non) Mike has dealt with over the years, how about the time he visited a mannequin factory, copped a feel with some undressed torsos (with a pervy far-away look on his face) and asked the guy who makes the vinyl hand replicas if he had "hundreds of hand jobs" every day? Did I mention all of this aired with no bleeping or blurring?

 (while pulling a vinyl hand out of its mold): "Ah, I didn't pull out in time."

    • And the time he was working at a bone black factory and was hammering on the side of a container while making it sound like a BDSM session. The look on the face of his host was priceless.
    • During a rerun show, Mike had this gem, while holding two large, orange inflatable balls. "Like walnuts. Not many people know this, but walnuts are full of hair. And when they fall from the tree, they fall in the dirt. And no one wants their walnuts hairy and dirty. At least, not in this country." And then, after the short about the walnuts: "There you go, beer, nuts and tight spaces all in one show."
    • "Alright, lets go do a rim job!" How in the hell did that make it through?
  • Good News, Bad News: Immediately preceding a dive in a shark cage, the captain of the boat informs Mike that the South African tourism board allows each boat to lose up to three tourists to shark attacks each month (the good news), but that he's reached his quota already so Mike needs to be extra careful (the bad news).
  • Gotta Catch Em All: Without meaning to, the show has done a dirty job in all 50 states.
  • Groin Attack: "Oh! Got me right in a bad place!" Let's just say that Mike should probably be wearing a cup at this point considering how many times this has happened. One particularly hilarious bit was when he was at a camel farm and got to ride one, but unfortunately for him the saddle hit a very tender spot...
    • Mike assisted a veterinarian in castrating a horse. His expression made it clear that he's one to Share the Male Pain.
    • One time he helped some sheep farmers castrate their sheep... with their teeth.
  • Heroic BSOD: Mike seems to go into them briefly whenever he sees a particularly disturbing or disgusting part of a job. The part where there was biting off of sheep testicles especially.
  • Insistent Terminology: It's a "family fun center", not a bowling alley.
  • Left It In: Mike or his host will occasionally screw up on camera, then Mike will comment something to the effect of "we'll edit that out." Of course, they don't.
  • Manly Tears: The after-effect of the fireworks ingredients. The firework-maker is used to tears seeping from (and possibly stinging) his eyes every night; Mike, less so.
    • Some behind the scenes footage from later that episode revealed that stuff was really hard to get out and it made sleeping a wholly unbearable experience for several days thereafter.
  • Mouthy Kid: The cow hoof-trimmer's son:

 Mike: Smart-aleck eleven-year old hoof trimmer, thought I'd seen it all.

Yav: Unless you say my name, they don't know who you mean by "smart aleck."

Mike: (gritting teeth) I think they do!


 Mike: "My name is Napoleon Barsky, and what I say goes! You're not listening to me! Listen to me... F*cking... DAMMIT!"

  • Nausea Dissonance: This happens all the time. There was an episode where a cameraman literally stood under a shower of condensed raw sewage and didn't even flinch.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: Though there haven't been too many children, there have been plenty of animals, and whenever he does work with them hilarity tends to ensue.
  • No Fourth Wall: No real attempt is made to hide the cameras or cameramen from the viewer; on the contrary, Mike often draws attention to them. He even occasionally mentions the work that goes into getting certain camera shots. A few episodes have been "behind the scenes" episodes devoted to telling the viewer everything that goes in to each episode.
  • Older Than They Look: The pin-setting machine mechanic. Barsky is simply astonished that a guy who looks a bit younger than Mike is actually fifty (Mike: Do you two need some alone time?).
  • Once an Episode: Each episode ends with Mike asking the viewers to send in new jobs at the website.
  • Panthera Awesome: In one episode Mike helps take care of a Ti-Liger (which is the result of a tiger breading with a liger, aka a lion and tiger hybrid) named Coby, and Mike is visibly uncomfortable being around her even after being told that she's like "a big puppy", especially since her jaws can crush bones.
  • Product Placement: Ford trucks, particularly noticeable in newer seasons (even if it's a 15-year-old sole Ford unit in an otherwise all-GM fleet). Mike Rowe is the current spokesman for Ford.
    • And he used to be a host on the QVC home shopping network, and says that they fired him three times for snarking about the products he was hawking on air. He later found out that the guys at Mad TV loved to watch him to inspire their own subversive humor.
    • He'll also wear shirts and hats from previous jobs at other jobs.
  • Punctuated Pounding: In "Jobs that Bite Harder", Mike is chopping fish:

 Mike: Grab a sushi. The thing I like about it the most is that it's so very fresh!

  • The Real Heroes: As noted in the opening narration, the jobs Mike learns about are almost entirely blue-collar, always physically demanding, and often very unpleasant, to say the least--but many of them also make the luxuries industrialized society takes for granted possible.
    • No matter how much of a Deadpan Snarker Mike is during the rest of the show, there is always a moment where he takes time to recognize and thank the people that do these jobs with honest respect.
    • And just to show that he puts his money where his mouth is, he's even testified before Congress about the importance of the people doing the jobs he focuses on.
    • Mike often mentioned (even in a Discovery Channel station ID bumper) that he's there not to succeed, but to fail. His failures (often spectacular ones) illustrate the amount of skill required to do these jobs correctly.
  • Real Life
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "We Care A Lot" by Faith No More. It was replaced on some episodes with a generic rock theme (based on the show's score) due to rights issues, but they've since been worked out.
  • Retool: Averted. The show has stuck fastidiously to its original premise, despite Mike's increasingly fervent pleas for new show ideas, and despite having to find some jobs that barely qualify, every now and again they come roaring back with a "Today I'm knee-deep in pig sh* t!" ep.
  • Running Gag: "BARSKY!"
    • May be an unintentional gag, but definitely running: over 200 jobs and Mike still cannot grasp the concept of 'righty-tighty, lefty-loosey'. If something needs to be tightened or loosened, Mike will, without fail, turn it the wrong way.
      • The "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" thing gets subverted when he's at a monkey sanctuary in South Africa during a lull while shooting for Shark Week - it's "righty-loosey, lefty-tighty".
  • Sadist Show: One of the most popular episodes involves Mike being bitten by snakes. Multiple times.
  • Self-Deprecation: Mike is a master at this and allows for many of his mistakes to air, not to mention frequently snarking on himself throughout the normal action of any given show.

 Guest: You're probably right-handed, aren't you.

Mike: It doesn't matter, I'm equally incompetent with either hand.