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Series / Dirty Jobs

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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!"

A 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. Cancelled in 2012 after eight seasons.

2013 had a brief continuation in Dirty Jobs Down Under where Mike Rowe and crew went to Australia to check out their dirty jobs, but it was also canceled.

In 2014, Mike began a new show called "Somebody's Gotta Do It" on CNN, with a similar premise, but it was cancelled in 2015, and was subsequently revived by TBN in 2018, also cancelled within the year.

2020 saw the return of the Dirty Jobs series with another continuation in Dirty Jobs Rowe'd Trip, which premiered on July 7.

The original Dirty Jobs series returned along with Rowe on January 2, 2022.


  • Abnormal Ammo: What is essentially a potato gun, shooting shark repellant.
  • 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?
  • Amusing Injuries: Mike will play up some of the more non-serious injuries for laughs.
  • 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.
  • Aside Glance: A common response from Mike when one of his hosts says something that could be taken in an inappropriate way.
  • Black Humor: After releasing several seals into the ocean after they'd been rehabilitated Mike muses that he may see them again someday, "Perhaps on Shark Week."
  • Brick Joke: Several times during the "Horse Tester" episode, Mike asks hopefully about the possibility of some bourbon (since they're in Kentucky). During the end credits, his host brings out a bottle, only to hear from the rest of the crew that Mike has already left.
  • Burning Bag of Poop: In one episode, Mike got some full baby diapers from a local day care center and brought it to a facility where they can take use machines to determine what compounds make the substance smell. The segment ended with Mike taking a bag of the poop and lighting it on fire at the front door of the facility. The scientist came out and just complained about rotten kids before going back in.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Producer Dave Barsky is a magnet for humiliating and hilarious accidents. Mike plays this up every chance he gets.
    • Barsky gets waxed, 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 noped out of 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.
    • In several episodes the guys set up cameras in positions that they know are likely to end with the destruction of the camera, such as under trees that are about to be felled or next to explosives that are about to be set off, in the hopes of getting interesting footage.
    • Mike tends to throw some sort of dirt, muck or feces onto the nearest camera lense. Which arguably makes it funnier when it happens on accident. Sometimes followed with a shot of the cameraman cleaning said lense, looking either annoyed (Barsky) or resigned (Doug and Troy).
    • Another funny and luckily undamaging incident was when a sea lamprey latched onto a camera lens, leading Mike to say "Troy, there's something on your lens" in a hilarious deadpan manner.
    • Some Camera abuse happens anytime there's snow or ice on the ground, such as when Troy slips while they're shrinkwrapping a boat, and Doug slips following Mike at the Soo Locks. Both times, they broke their fall with the camera they carried.
    • Sometimes crosses over with 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.
  • Captain Obvious: Lampshaded when Mike was at the Reptile Farm. He was taken to the Viper Pit where the vipers are housed. Mike looks down into the pit and says, "Yep, that's a pit full of vipers he says self-referentially."
    • In the "Horse Tester" epsiode, Mike asked a technician what distilled water was, to which she replied, "It's water that has been distilled."
  • 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: Several times, usually with a theme such as 'the dirtiest ever Dirty Jobs' or a few behind-the-scenes shows demonstrating what people go through to get the shots of Mike doing the actual work.
    • Most memorably done with both the 100th dirty job special, and the 150th Extravaganza. The latter took place at the San Francisco Waste plant, and invited everyone from the previous 150 jobs, including the Top Ten dirtiest.
  • 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 tendency to snark is what got him fired from the graveyard shift at QVC. Three times.
    • His hosts tend to do pretty well too. Even the crew, occasionally.
  • 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), and similarly pleased to hear that termite droppings are referred to as "frass."
    • 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.
  • 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").
    • Dirty Jobs Down Under had catching Brown Snakes (one of the top ten deadliest, with only a pillowcase to hold said snake, who has fangs that can bite through it), Opal Mining (Be careful you don't fall in a hole, you'll either break a leg or die, and then Barski almost did), Stingray fishing (Okay, actually the least dangerous), Crocodile Catching (at night, I might add, with one boat not working); Even just driving to some locations was dangerous (Road to Coober Pedy, and watch out for Water Buffalo).
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Removing the fighting teeth from a male Llama. Why? Because they use those teeth to bite off other males balls. The male Llama in question also has a quick kick to protect said area. Mike not only sympathizes, but mentions he's glad humans don't do that to each other ... The owner of the Llama then mentions an incident at a local bar ...
  • 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.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: With a touch of Foreshadowing, at the bell foundry Mike was enjoying tolling a bell with a worker saying he would get tired of them at the end of the day. While cleaning a large bell at a church, he was inside the bell while it tolled 19 times for a daily Catholic recognition.
  • Insistent Terminology: It's a "family fun center", not a bowling alley.
  • Left It In: When Mike or his host makes a mistake, or the host worries about looking stupid on camera, Mike frequently reassures them by saying "we won't use any of this." (And occasionally "No one watches the show.") It goes without saying that this is blatantly untrue.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Popcorn the binturong/bearcat, named so because he smells exactly like popcorn (and poo because he dragged his tail through it).
    • Mike is also astounded when he finds out that the name of one llama is literally Call Girl. When he has it explained to him that her avoiding a male's advances is a sign she might be pregnant, he jokes that when a woman named Call Girl says no, it definitely means something.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • A number of female fans seem to find Mike Rowe sexually attractive. Look up any video on YouTube of Dirty Jobs or just Mike by himself, and there will be at least one comment on just how hot he is.
    • Lampshaded by Mike's television commercials for Lee Premium Select Jeans.
      Mike: "That's not my girlfriend. Friendly, though!"
    • 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").
  • 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!
  • The Napoleon: Barsky, at least according to Mike.
    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.
  • No Dead Body Poops: An interesting aversion. When touring Skip Cockerum's facility for making high-quality bird feed, part of the job involves scalding a bag full of maggots in a pail of hot water so they'll die instantly. During this process Mike asks why the water gets so cloudy so quickly, to which Skip informs him that what he's seeing is the result of the maggots, in effect, shitting themselves to death.
  • 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. Suffice to say that if what Mike is doing looks incredibly dangerous, and he hasn't explicitly mentioned that there's no cameraman there with him, there's probably a cameraman with him doing something even more dangerous.
  • No OSHA Compliance: An entire episode, titled "Safety Third," is devoted to how dangerous many of the jobs presented on the show are, and how in many cases the workers do their jobs without safety equipment or other precautions because it would make it much more time-consuming and difficult - if not outright impossible - to get the work done. During the episode, Mike also takes the time to point out that only once in the entire history of the show up to that point did a safety officer prevent him from operating a piece of machinery on the basis that he wasn't qualified and it would be unsafe.
  • 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 breeding 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 MADtv 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!
  • Pungeon Master: Mike has a thing for wordplay and likes to employ it for comedy's sake.
  • Pursue the Dream Job: The whole premise of Dirty Jobs is made to defy this trope. It focuses on all kinds of skilled tradesmen who followed a similar pattern: who looked to see where everyone around them was going, and went the opposite way. Who followed opportunity, not passion, and prospered as a result.
  • 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.
  • Road Apples: Mike may have dealt with poop from more types of animal than any other person on the planet.
  • 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".
    • Mike's "long term but uneasy" relationship with the Bobcat (a very specific kind of vehicle) is well known to fans.
    • During the episode set on a coffee plantation in Hawaii, Mike continually asks when he'll get his cup of coffee as the fruit of his labors. 12 hours later he finally gets it... half an hour before bedtime.
  • Sadist Show: One of the most popular episodes involves Mike being bitten by snakes. Multiple times.
  • Schmuck Bait: The Snake Farm, which Mike and the Crew found after seeing the sign on the side of the road and a sign saying they were closed for the day, so they decided to go inside. Among other things Mike wound up going into a rattlesnake pit.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: One particular example in the Mike's Day Off special, where the series executive producer and CEO of the show's company take over as the host for one episode. Craig Piligian (the CEO) during a stint as a custom wheel manufacturer bluntly refuses to partake in one of the steps (sanding the wheels, which involves getting dangerously close to the machine) and actually argues with Barsky on camera. Given that Craig signs Barsky's paychecks, he gets his wish and opts out of the sanding. Amusingly, this occurred right after a segment where Craig boasts about how easy Mike's job is.
    Craig: I ain't doing that!
    Barsky: Alright, alright!
  • 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.
    • You could condense Mike's reaction to the hundreds of bizarre jobs he's done down to "You want me to do what? With my hands?!?"
    • Also repeated jabs at Discovery Channel, such as explaining "He's a camera man. For the Discovery Channel. There's nothing in his wallet", which doubles as Biting-the-Hand Humor.
  • Shirtless Scene: Several episodes include scenes of Mike with his shirt off. Some are completely gratuitous post-job cleanup shots, but occasionally the action of the job itself calls on him to sacrifice his shirt, as in the "Snake Wrangler" episode when the host needed it to use as a blindfold for the enormous alligator they were about to have to wrestle.
    Mike: Why is my shirt off and why am I lying on another man who's lying on an alligator?
  • Shout-Out:
  • Side Bet: Mike sees the result of one such bet at the first concrete job when he sees that one of the concrete workers is wearing a pink thong that's visible above his waistband. When he asks about it Mike finds out that it's because the guy made a bet about a football team and lost. The second conctete job has another guy wearing nail polish for the same reason.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: BARSKY!
  • Smelly Skunk: Twice so far. On neither occasion did it make the job any more fun.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: The Discovery Channel often airs commercials and montages of the show set to classical music.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep
  • Spinoff: Of a sort: Billy the Exterminator (the over-dressed yet philosophical goth exterminator) now has his own show on A&E.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "This is not meant to humiliate or embarrass Doug in any way" followed by a loop of Doug falling on his ass and breaking a camera repeated 12 times with cartoon sound effects.
  • Threatening Shark: 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.
  • True Companions: Mike and his camera crew come off as pretty close. At least until he locked them in Doomsday Seed Vault and they froze to death. (not really)
  • Ultimate Job Security: Some of the people featured mention liking their jobs because they're easy to hold onto. In particular, the airport runway painter joked that short of running the mayor over he's set until retirement.
  • Understatement:
    • Mike Rowe is a master of these.
    • In one episode, he's shown a vial of bull semen and, noting how surprisingly small it was, remarks that it's like a coffee stirrer; he then turns to the camera and adds "But it's not."
  • Universal Driver's License: Mike is constantly amazed at the range of vehicles people will hand him the keys for, but he usually manages a minimum level of competence given instruction and/or supervision by a skilled operator.
    • Over the course of the show he used some common heavy equipment enough that in later seasons you can tell he's developed actual skill with it.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot / Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Depending on Camera Angle, and the subject matter at hand. The crew being seasick is sometimes shown, though with slight blurring that doesn't really cover all of it (or the mess on deck, if they don't make to the side of the ship, in the case of one new cameraman). And occasionally a closed door with the unlucky crewmember or Mike loudly retching on the other side. In regards to animals though, the usually keep it in- Snake Regurgitation, anyone?
  • Wall of Weapons: In the background of the DECOMP Lab's, er, lab.
  • The Watson: Mike essentially plays The Watson to whoever is teaching him about the job.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Barsky is acrophobic. And seems to often get stuck on the overhead shots.
    • Doug is also acrophobic, shown when he backed out of the Honolulu Highrise ep, though he 'redeemed' himself going up a cell tower in North Dakota.
    • Various members of the crew and crews of certain jobs also show phobias, usually sending Mike in to do whatever they don't want to do.