What You Never Knew About Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe

For most television viewers, Mike Rowe will always be best associated with his Discovery channel hit, "Dirty Jobs." That's not surprising, considering "Dirty Jobs" was one of Discovery's most popular series during its numerous seasons on the air — to say nothing of the show's revival in 2022. Serving as star, narrator, producer, and creator of "Dirty Jobs," Rowe divulged to TV Guide that, during his years on the show, he undertook 300 different jobs, traveling to all 50 U.S. states in the process. 

When Rowe announced in 2013, via HuffPost, that "Dirty Jobs" was ending its run, he felt the show had accomplished everything he'd set out to do — and managed to do so on its own terms. "The last episode looked pretty much like the first. We didn't become something we weren't," Rowe declared. "We stayed small. We worked hard. And we had a hell of a good time. It was as they say, a very good run."

While "Dirty Jobs" may be a career highlight for Rowe, there's a lot more about this versatile television host and producer than meets the eye. For proof, keep reading to find out what you never knew about "Dirty Jobs" star Mike Rowe.

Mike Rowe almost hosted The Daily Show

Had things gone another way, Mike Rowe might not be known for "Dirty Jobs," but for hosting "The Daily Show."

Rowe shared that revelation in a since-deleted Facebook post documented by TheWrap, in which Rowe responded to a query about how he'd handled past rejection. "When 'The Daily Show' was first conceived, Comedy Central spent a year looking for the right host," Rowe wrote. "The audition process was extensive, and when the dust settled, it came down to two — Craig Kilborn and me. The job went to Craig, and I was crushed."

When Kilborn exited the show in 1998, Rowe saw a second chance to land the gig he'd been so close to getting. He auditioned once again, bragging, "All modesty aside, I killed it." In fact, he added, he'd been told by producers that he was a lock to become host — unless, that is, "by some miracle," Comedy Central could come up with enough cash to hire "a proven entity like ... Jon Stewart" (via TheWrap). Stewart, of course, wound up hosting "The Daily Show" from 1999 until 2015. Accompanying his post was a photo of Rowe mock-crying while holding up his "Daily Show" rejection letter.

He has a lucrative side gig doing voiceovers

It's not just Mike Rowe's face that's become familiar to TV viewers. In fact, Rowe's voice — heard in voiceovers for "Dirty Jobs" — has been utilized by many other shows. Among these is the Discovery reality series "Deadliest Catch," which Rowe has narrated since the series launched in 2005. 

According to Rowe's list of credits on his website, he's lent his distinctive pipes to a staggering number of TV shows, including "American Chopper," "Ghost Hunters," "Wicked Tuna," and many more. In addition, as Rowe divulged in an Instagram post, he "used to do movie trailers back in the day." 

In a 2013 interview that Rowe titled "Adventures in Voiceover," he demonstrated a clever trick he'd developed when presented with a script from the American government that he found "incomprehensible." Because he was also sent a copy of the accompanying video with a "scratch track" (featuring someone else reading the copy), Rowe decided to toss the script aside and instead listen to that track using headphones and then recite what he heard. The end result was deemed to be "professional" enough to send to the government, while also managing "to save ourselves literally hours of time."

The bonkers way he became the voice of Diane Sawyer's World News Tonight

Atop Mike Rowe's many high-profile voiceover gigs was his stint as announcer for ABC's "World News with Diane Sawyer," replacing the show's previous announcer in 2009. Speaking with TV Guide, Rowe revealed it all came about from a 2006 appearance on "Good Morning America," when Sawyer — then "GMA" anchor — caught a glimpse of footage featuring Rowe "holding a 200-pound pig in my arms" on a monitor.

According to Rowe, Sawyer was taken back by what she'd just seen and kicked off the segment by asking Rowe to elaborate on the "experiences" he'd had with a pig. "I said, 'Look, Diane, I'm not going to lie to you. I've made some mistakes,'" joked Rowe. His off-the-cuff quip caught Sawyer by surprise, with Rowe recalling that "she snorted on the air, really loud." When the show went to a commercial break, said Rowe, "she said, 'I don't know what this means, but I'm going to remember you.'"

Sawyer did remember — two years later, Sawyer got in touch with Rowe, and he, ultimately, became the voice of "World News."

Dirty Jobs isn't the only show that Mike Rowe has hosted

In addition to "Dirty Jobs," Mike Rowe has served as on-camera host of several other TV series. The various shows he's hosted, noted Rowe on his website, include "Deadliest Catch" after-show "After the Catch," Discovery science series "How the Universe Works," TBS' "Worst Case Scenario," post-"Dirty Jobs" CNN series "Somebody's Gotta Do It," and others. Rowe also hosted Discovery's annual Shark Week in both 2006 and 2008.

Rowe has also managed to carve out a niche in TV commercials. Not only was he pitchman for Ford for several years (he and the company parted ways in 2014), Rowe also partnered with heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar. "I see Cat equipment and the hard-working people operating it around the world, building and creating infrastructure," said Rowe of his association with the company. In 2021, Rowe appeared in a TV commercial for Viva paper towels alongside his parents. "Mike Rowe is the perfect partner for us to showcase our unique product design — begging the question, if Viva brand can handle Mike Rowe's messes, just think of what it can do in your home," said Viva brand manager Geoffrey Golub of the commercial.

Mike Rowe is a bona fide Eagle Scout

During his childhood, Mike Rowe was a Boy Scout. So committed was he to scouting, in fact, that Rowe climbed to the highest rank achievable by becoming an Eagle Scout. According to the Boy Scouts of America, Rowe became an Eagle Scout in 1979 with a leadership service project in which he read to students at the Maryland School for the Blind.

Meanwhile, Scouting Magazine reported that Rowe spoke at the Boy Scouts' 2010 jamboree, where he was presented with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. In 2012, Rowe served as keynote speaker at the Boy Scouts of America National Annual Meeting. In his speech, he reiterated what he'd said at the jamboree. "A Scout is clean but not afraid to get dirty," he said, sliding in a sly reference to "Dirty Jobs."

Rowe has recognized his role as an Eagle Scout by sharing a tongue-in-cheek letter to new Eagle Scouts on his website, which he titled "Mike Rowe's Completely Transparent, Totally Honest, Eagle Scout Congratulatory Form Letter," urging Eagle Scouts not to rest on their scouting laurels, but instead to "roll up your sleeves, get out in the world, and put what you've learned to use."

He was once an opera singer

Mike Rowe's TV career began, oddly enough, with singing opera. As Rowe explained during a 2014 interview with Glenn Beck, getting on television required joining the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA unions. However, he pointed out, the "Catch-22" was that union membership required previous employment in a union job — which required union membership. That was when he discovered a loophole: If he could join the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) union, he'd be able to get into its "sister unions."

With that in mind, Rowe auditioned for a Baltimore opera company, despite having no formal opera training, which was obvious. He was told he had "a rich, well-modulated baritone" and that they would "dress [him] up as a pirate." Rowe was invited to join the opera and got his AGMA card. "So basically I'm 22. I'm single. I'm dressed like a pirate, and I'm singing Vivaldi," he recalled to Glenn Beck.

Discussing his opera career on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Rowe was modest about his skill level. "Sometimes I put skis on and I go down a mountain," he quipped, "but that doesn't make me a skier."

He was hired as a home shopping host by extolling the virtues of a pencil

Mike Rowe had zero television experience when, in 1990, he auditioned for a gig on the QVC home shopping channel. As Rowe wrote in a Facebook post, he "had no qualifications to speak of" when he auditioned, which consisted of demonstrating he could talk "for eight minutes without stuttering, blathering, passing out, or throwing up."

The subject of that eight-minute sales pitch was a pencil. "Sell it. Make me want it," Rowe recalled being told, with the promise of a job with QVC if he could pull it off. So, for eight full minutes, he discussed everything from the pencil's durability to its impact on Western civilization — and landed the job.

Keeping it, however, was another matter entirely. "I wasn't very good," Rowe admitted in an interview with "Access," revealing he'd been fired by QVC three times. One of those times, Rowe told the San Francisco Chronicle, was for "inappropriate contact with a nun doll," while another firing came when he regaled viewers with an anecdote about learning Santa wasn't real. During a break, a producer told him they'd been deluged with calls from viewers — not wanting to buy something, but to demand his resignation.

Mike Rowe released a holiday hit that topped Adele on the charts

Mike Rowe has hosted and narrated hit television series, launched his own five-minute podcast, and written a book based on that podcast's transcripts. Yet, it wasn't until 2021 that he conquered a whole new medium when he teamed up with John Rich of country music duo Big & Rich to record a chart-topping holiday song.

Featuring vocals by Rowe, Rich, and the Oak Ridge Boys, "Santa's Gotta Dirty Job" was released during the 2021 holiday season, a musical ode to all the grueling manual labor that St. Nick undertakes each Christmas eve. "We think 'Santa's Gotta Dirty Job' could be a new classic for every Christmas to come," Rowe and Rich quipped in the caption to the music video they shared on YouTube.

The song proved to be even more successful than they imagined, with Fox News reporting that "Santa's Gotta Dirty Job" had "outperformed Adele's 'Easy On Me' for the top spot on iTunes" that week. "This is one of those songs you cannot not smile when you listen to it," Rowe remarked to the news outlet. "And our country right now, man, we need to smile ... and hopefully this song's doing it."

The star launched his own charitable foundation

While filming all those episodes of "Dirty Jobs," Mike Rowe came to develop an even greater appreciation for America's skilled tradespeople than he already had. "The state of the skilled trades in the U.S. is concerning," Rowe told Family Handyman, lamenting that high school grads were being steered toward college while millions of well-paying jobs in the trades were going unfilled. This realization led Rowe, in 2008, to launch his mikeroweWORKS Foundation to connect students eager to learn a trade with the appropriate educational and vocational opportunities. 

One way that Rowe's foundation accomplishes its goal is with the Work Ethic Scholarship, with dozens of scholarships awarded each year. "If you haven't noticed, America is getting back to work," said Rowe in a March 2021 Facebook post promoting the million dollars-worth of scholarships his foundation planned to hand out that year. "And if you're the kind of person that's willing to learn a skill that is in demand, the opportunities have never been better."

As a 2021 mikeroweWORKS press release pointed out, since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships, with individual scholarships ranging between $1,800 and $20,000.

Mike Rowe appeared in an episode of Sesame Street

Mike Rowe can number himself among the many celebrities to guest star on "Sesame Street." Appearing on the beloved children's educational TV series in 2010, Rowe shared the screen with Oscar the Grouch — although Rowe has admitted it wasn't his finest hour. Writing in a blog post, Rowe revealed he was "hungover" after a late night out in Manhattan when he turned up on the set of "Sesame Street" and suddenly found himself "engaged in an extemporaneous conversation with a dirty sock that lived in a trashcan."

Rowe recalled the bit involved Oscar inviting him to enter his trashcan home, telling him he could come in through the back door. "To which I replied, in a way that was both tasteless and untrue, 'I always wanted to go in through the back door,'" wrote Rowe, confessing to being something of a "smartass." As Rowe admitted, making "a cheap and childish double-entendre" while appearing on a show geared toward preschoolers may not have been his goal, but it was the end result. "I'm not saying I'm proud," Rowe wrote. "I'm just saying it happened."

He helped a truth-telling Girl Scout sell $26,000 worth of cookies

In 2017, Mike Rowe appeared in a Facebook video in which he read a letter that a friend's daughter, a Girl Scout, had sent to one of her father's wealthy friends in hopes of selling him cookies. In her letter, Charlotte McCourt proclaimed that "some of the descriptions" of the cookies are guilty of "false advertising." She then proceeded to rate the various cookies on a 1 to 10 scale. She saved her strongest ire for the Toffee-tastic, with Rowe laughing uproariously as he read her description of the cookie as a "bleak, flavorless, gluten-free wasteland" that is "as flavorless as dirt." 

Rowe encouraged anyone watching to buy her cookies to "send the message that when you tell the truth, good things happen." Rowe's video wound up going viral, leading McCourt's letter to be picked up by national media outlets such as "Today," "Good Morning America," ABC News, Good Housekeeping, and HuffPost. Later, Rowe shared a note he received from McCourt, thanking him for drawing attention to her truth-in-advertising cookie campaign. As a result, she explained, she'd sold not just the 300 boxes she'd set for her goal, but a whopping 26,086 boxes, breaking the record for "most girl scout cookies sold internationally."

He was once mistaken for a bank robber

Of all the stories circulating about Mike Rowe, arguably the strangest is the one in which he was mistaken for the suspect in a bank robbery in Medford, Oregon. In a 2016 appearance on "Good Morning America," Rowe explained how he came to realize he was the spitting image of a suspected felon. "I was walking through an airport, looking at my mobile device and checking in on my Facebook page and realizing that 3 million people were saying, 'Hey, you should check out the Medford police site because it sure looks like there's an all-points bulletin out for you,'" Rowe said (via ABC News).

As Rowe told "GMA," while he conceded that he did bear an "uncanny resemblance" to the suspect, he also felt it necessary to let everyone know, via social media, that he had an ironclad alibi: He was in Kansas, not Oregon, at the time, and told police to "be on the lookout for somebody who's shorter and less attractive" (per ABC News).

Thankfully, that TV appearance wound up getting Rowe off the hook. As he wrote in a subsequent Facebook post, "My alibi has been confirmed, and my reputation restored." 

Mike Rowe has testified before Congress

In 2017, Mike Rowe did something he never had the opportunity to do on "Dirty Jobs" when he offered his testimony to the Congressional Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. On his website, Rowe shared the transcript of his testimony, giving it the tongue-in-cheek title "Mike Rowe's Slightly Longer Than Five Minute Testimony to The Committee on Education and The Workforce."

As he wrote, that marked Rowe's third time testifying on Capitol Hill, having spoken in 2011 to the Transportation and Commerce Committee about America's skills gap and again in 2013 to elaborate on the same subject with the Natural Resources Committee. 

Responding to a fan's comment about what it was like to testify to Congress, Rowe shared his recollections. Describing the experience as "an honor" akin to voting or jury duty, Rowe wrote, "Not exactly fun, but something you absolutely should do if you're invited."

He owns hundreds of baseball caps

It's not uncommon for Mike Rowe, either on "Dirty Jobs" or one of his other television shows, to be seen wearing a baseball cap. In an interview with Parade, Rowe admitted to owning more than just a few caps, estimating he had "probably 300" in his possession. "When I open the closet door they fall out like filthy snowflakes," he quipped. 

In the interview, Rowe offered a strategic reason behind his propensity to wear baseball caps. "It's a great way to say thanks to the people who let us disrupt their business for a day, because most of them have a hat with a logo," he explained. He did mention another reason behind his fondness for baseball caps, having to do with the fact his hair is usually a "disaster." With a cap covering that calamitous coif, he joked, "I don't have to worry about looking like Bozo the Clown."