[11/10/09 - 12:13 AM]
Interview: "Dirty Jobs" Executive Producer Eddie Barbini
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

Think your job is a pain in the neck? How about being in charge of the disposing of used mattresses that come complete with bed bugs and other miniscule creatures? Or digging materials such as rusty boats out of disgusting swamps? Or window washing in a pulley seat amidst high island winds? Those are just a few of the jobs seen on the new season of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs," which continues to not only gross out viewers but also pay respect to the hard workers out there whose jobs include nothing that could be considered glamorous. To find out more about the criteria for a good dirty job, what is considered the dirtiest of dirty and if host Mike Rowe is truly the sexiest man alive, our Jim Halterman recently spoke with Executive Producer Eddie Barbini.

Jim Halterman: After producing over 100 episodes, are you running out of dirty jobs yet?

Eddie Barbini: It's always surprising to me that our researchers come in with another story that we may not have ever heard of. Sometimes we repeat themes in the show but what makes that particular job different is the characters that we meet. That always changes a job for us so, yes, the pool that we draw from is getting smaller but I think we find a lot more interesting jobs now as well.

JH: What do you think is the appeal of the show? Mike and his personality or the jobs?

EB: I think it's a combination of things. Mike, obviously, is a very, very special talent. He's very, very relatable to people, he's funny, he's childish and he's intellectual. He's got all these great combinations that just make for a great television host and I also think that the theme that he's doing jobs that we take for granted really resonates with the working man out there. I can't count on one hand any shows that really celebrate the worker. Every single one of us has either done a job like that or had a relative or father or grandfather who has done those jobs. That alone really touches the soul of America.

JH: I noticed the joking and bantering is usually done between Mike and the production crew on the show but never the subject or the job. Intentional?

EB: Absolutely. That's always been the mission of the show. We've talked about that many times and Mike is really, really good at that. He never looks down upon anyone. He's the apprentice, the guy who's going out there to learn.

JH: What was it in Mike's background that got him interested in these types of jobs in the first place?

EB: His grandfather was a laborer and I think he was very close with his grandfather and that sort of resonates from there. Throughout his career, he's always had these jobs that he's done and it's similar to the people who work on the show here; most of us are from middle class/blue collar working families so we've all been there.

JH: Because these jobs are never glamorous, what keeps the people staying in the jobs as opposed to finding something less dirty?

EB: I think people just enjoy work. I think when it comes down to it, they always say that if you're happy what you're doing then it's not work. I think that whether you're a cameraman or cement contractor you just find joy in going to work everyday and doing the things that make you happy. These people are just happy doing what they're doing and making a living especially today.

JH: Everyone is happy to have a job these days.

EB: They are! It really opens your eyes when you see these people in these jobs and they sit back and go 'I'm really happy, I'm not going to complain about my job.' I say that to my editors all the time. 'Don't complain to me because you just saw the guy who works in the sewer all day!'

JH: You get so many submissions from viewers for new dirty jobs. What is the criteria to be chosen for the show?

EB: In the beginning, there were certain levels of subjects that we looked for and we looked for great characters. That's really, really important. If he gets dirty in the job, great. That's always a plus but it's not always what makes it a piece. If he's getting filthy and miserable in the job and the job is unusual that you go 'Oh my Gosh, I didn't think anybody does that for a living,' that would make it a piece. We'd say 'We love that! Let's go do it!' That's what we strive for but there are always jobs that come along where you go 'I don't know about that´┐Ż' but we end up going with it anyway because we know Mike will bring it to a different level and it ends up being a fantastic piece because it's just a great character that we have. The people who do these jobs are phenomenal and really make the show. The show is really about them. Mike happens to be a great talent but truthfully it's about the people that we go and visit.

JH: After over 100 episodes, is there a job that you call the dirtiest job ever?

EB: Funny you should say that because we just did one that was really filthy and we decided to go out and ask the audience via the website to vote on what they thought the five dirtiest jobs that we've done in the history of 'Dirty Jobs.' The five of them are equally dirty and have an enormous amount of dirt and I think Mike has had to take many showers to get the dirt off of him.

JH: Will that be revealed this season?

EB: I think at the end of the season we'll go to the website people to vote to see which five were chosen as the most dirtiest ending with the one that we just finished, which was pretty dirty.

JH: Mike has become something of a sex symbol.

EB: I have a big picture on my wall. [Laughs.] We all think Mike is hot.

JH: And I'm sure you get a certain amount of mileage out of that, right?

EB: We actually have a great relationship between production and the field and Mike. Everyone here is really good friends after five years of doing the show but we do give him a hard time when we see those 'Sexiest Man in America.' We actually think [field producer Dave] Barsky is the sexiest man in America. [Laughs.]

JH: Is there any job that is just off limits to the show or to Mike?

EB: Not really. We haven't turned down a job yet. Mike is always game for whatever is up as long as it's not dangerous but he walks that fine line putting himself in situations that you just think 'How is this guy going to do this?' Last week, what aired is the window-washing segment in Hawaii. Mike washes windows on an over-400 foot skyscraper in Hawaii. He washes it not in the traditional way on scaffolding but he's actually in a little swing seat that he goes down with pulleys along the side of the building. I'll tell you that it's frightening. Our cameraman wouldn't even go on and backed out of it. Actually, it'll rank up there at the top as one of the dirtiest jobs even though it's not dirty in the sense of dirt but the characters are phenomenal and the experience is phenomenal and Mike is hysterical in it.

"Dirty Jobs" airs every Tuesday at 9:00/8:00c on Discovery.

  [november 2009]  


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