The Dirty Job Mike Rowe Just Couldn't Do

According to his official bio, Mike Rowe traveled to all 50 U.S. states and lent a grubby helping hand in over 300 different grimy professions during his tenure as host of the hit Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs. He gutted fish, groomed pets, cleaned roadkill off the highway, and scoured caves for bat guano, among a dirty laundry list of other gross gigs. In an October 2019 interview with Parade magazine, Rowe counted jobs like cow inseminator, concrete chipper, snake researcher, and shark suit tester among the dirtiest jobs he did on the show. ("Not dirty, but straight-up terrifying," he said of that last one.)

Researching snakes, which involved wringing them out like filthy old rags to make them vomit up what they'd eaten, sure did sound pretty gross, especially when you throw in the blood from the "no less than three dozen" times he was bitten. But the dirtiest job he picked probably won't surprise you: sewer inspector. "Aside from sloshing through a relentless chocolate tide, inspectors encounter a myriad of man-made products that shouldn't be flushed down toilets," he said, "along with roaches the size of thumbs and rats the size of bread loaves. It's hot, dirty and too smelly to describe."

Despite his readiness to get down and dirty to show us the disgusting innards of civilization, however, there was one job that Rowe just couldn't do for the camera.

The dirty job Mike wouldn't do for the folks back home

"The Skilled Trades could do with a few more fans, and I'm proud to be one of them," he wrote in his 2015 Ask Me Anything Reddit thread. That attitude defined his approach to his coverage of the hands-on work that keeps society humming. Rowe has a deep respect for the people who do these jobs, but he's still got to do his job as an entertainer. This means cracking jokes for the folks back home, all clean and comfy on their soft living room couches.

Because of the jocular nature of his show, there was one trade that, although it definitely fits the criterion of being positively filthy, Rowe didn't feel he could cover in his usual comedic fashion: crime scene cleanup. "It's a great dirty job, but in the end, it's hard to be lighthearted about a body left in a trunk for three days in the Louisiana swamp," he told USA Today in 2007.

There's also the dirty job that Rowe did do, wishes he hadn't, and will never do again. Changing out the lift pump at a wastewater treatment plant is "one of those terrible, pure-disgust, oh-my-God-why-have-you-forsaken-me? jobs." That one took some time to recover from. "The crew and I always go out for a beer at the end of the day. That day we looked at each other and I said, 'I'll see you around sometime.' We didn't talk about it for weeks."

The dirty job the mafia almost wouldn't let Mike do

In his Reddit Ask Me Anything, Rowe spoke of another job that certainly fit the criteria for his slimy show. Rendering facilities — where the carcasses of dead animals, from cows to pigs (and, yes, even cute little dogs and cats) are processed to extract fats, proteins, and other usable parts — are some of the nastiest places on the planet. But he and his crew found that every time they called one up, they were shot down by the Mob (not literally, thankfully). "That's right — the Mob is still involved in a surprising number of rendering facilities." The reason why so many rendering facilities are owned and operated by the Mafia is a "conversation above [Mike's] pay grade," but just put two and two together and you'll easily figure out why organized crime would find such facilities useful.

He finally found one that would allow them to film in the show's fourth season. "I only know how relieved I was to finally find a rendering outfit that was not owned or operated by the Cosa Nostra," Mike wrote, adding that the folks at North State Rendering were "brave ... in their decision to let us provide our viewers with an unvarnished look at what it takes to turn a dead cow into several hundred pounds of chicken feed." Definitely dirty. And definitely a necessary job. And Mike Rowe was "deeply proud of that day."