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  • The "Dirty Jobs" crew and I were called

  • to a little town in Colorado, called Craig.

  • It's only a couple dozen square miles. It's in the Rockies.

  • And the job in question was sheep rancher.

  • My role on the show, for those of you who haven't seen it -- it's pretty simple.

  • I'm an apprentice, and I work with the people who actually do the jobs in question.

  • And my responsibilities are to simply try and keep up

  • and give an honest account of what it's like to be these people,

  • for one day in their life.

  • The job in question: herding sheep. Great.

  • We go to Craig and we check in to a hotel

  • and I realize the next day that castration

  • is going to be an absolute part of this work.

  • So, normally, I never do any research at all.

  • But, this is a touchy subject, and I work for the Discovery Channel,

  • and we want to portray accurately whatever it is we do,

  • and we certainly want to do it with a lot of respect for the animals.

  • So I called the Humane Society

  • and I say, "Look, I'm going to be castrating some lambs,

  • Can you tell me the deal?"

  • And they're like, "Yeah, it's pretty straightforward."

  • They use a band -- basically a rubber band, like this, only a little smaller.

  • This one was actually around the playing cards I got yesterday,

  • but it had a certain familiarity to it.

  • And I said, "Well, what exactly is the process?"

  • And they said, "The band is applied to the tail, tightly.

  • And then another band is applied to the scrotum, tightly.

  • Blood flow is slowly retarded;

  • a week later the parts in question fall off.

  • "Great -- got it."

  • OK, I call the SPCA to confirm this -- they confirm it.

  • I also call PETA, just for fun, and they don't like it -- but they confirm it.

  • OK, that's basically how you do it.

  • So the next day I go out.

  • And I'm given a horse and we go get the lambs

  • and we take them to a pen that we built,

  • and we go about the business of animal husbandry.

  • Melanie is the wife of Albert.

  • Albert is the shepherd in question.

  • Melanie picks up the lamb -- two hands --

  • one hand on both legs on the right, likewise on the left.

  • Lamb goes on the post, she opens it up.

  • Alright. Great.

  • Albert goes in, I follow Albert, the crew is around.

  • I always watch the process done the first time before I try it.

  • Being an apprentice, you know, you do that.

  • Albert reaches in his pocket to pull out, you know, this black rubber band

  • but what comes out instead is a knife.

  • And I'm like that's not rubber at all, you know.

  • And he kind of flicked it open in a way that caught the sun

  • that was just coming over the Rockies, it was very --

  • it was, it was impressive.

  • In the space of about two seconds, Albert had the knife

  • between the cartilage of the tail, right next to the butt of the lamb,

  • and very quickly the tail was gone and in the bucket that I was holding.

  • A second later, with a big thumb and a well calloused forefinger,

  • he had the scrotum firmly in his grasp.

  • And he pulled it toward him, like so,

  • and he took the knife and he put it on the tip.

  • Now you think you know what's coming, Michael -- you don't, OK?

  • He snips it, throws the tip over his shoulder,

  • and then grabs the scrotum and pushes it upward,

  • and then his head dips down, obscuring my view,

  • but what I hear is a slurping sound,

  • and a noise that sounds like Velcro being yanked off a sticky wall

  • and I am not even kidding.

  • Can we roll the video?

  • No I'm kidding -- we don't --

  • (Laughter)

  • I thought it best to talk in pictures.

  • So, I do something now I've never ever done on a "Dirty Jobs" shoot, ever.

  • I say, "Time out. Stop."

  • You guys know the show, we use take one, we don't do take two.

  • There's no writing, there's no scripting, there's no nonsense.

  • We don't fool around, we don't rehearse --

  • we shoot what we get!

  • I said, "Stop. This is nuts."

  • I mean, you know.

  • (Laughter)

  • "This is crazy.

  • We can't do this."

  • And Albert's like, "What?"

  • And I'm like, "I don't know what just happened,

  • but there are testicles in this bucket and that's not how we do it."

  • And he said "Well, that's how we do it."

  • And I said, "Why would you do it this way?"

  • And before I even let him explain,

  • I said, "I want to do it the right way, with the rubber bands."

  • And he says, "Like the Humane Society?"

  • And I said, "Yes, like the Humane Society.

  • Let's do something that doesn't make the lamb squeal and bleed --

  • we're on in five continents, dude.

  • We're on twice a day on the Discovery Channel -- we can't do this."

  • He says, "OK."

  • He goes to his box and he pulls out a bag of these little rubber bands.

  • Melanie picks up another lamb, puts it on the post,

  • band goes on the tail, band goes on the scrotum.

  • Lamb goes on the ground, lamb takes two steps, falls down,

  • gets up, shakes a little,

  • takes another couple steps, falls down.

  • I'm like, this is not a good sign for this lamb, at all.

  • Gets up, walks to the corner, it's quivering,

  • and it lies down and it's in obvious distress.

  • And I'm looking at the lamb and I say, "Albert, how long?

  • When does he get up?"

  • He's like, "A day."

  • I said, "A day! How long does it take them to fall off?"

  • "A week."

  • Meanwhile, the lamb that he had just did his little procedure on

  • is, you know, he's just prancing around, bleeding stopped.

  • He's, you know, nibbling on some grass, frolicking.

  • And I was just so blown away

  • at how wrong I was, in that second.

  • And I was reminded how utterly wrong I am, so much of the time.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I was especially reminded of what an ridiculously short straw I had that day

  • because now I had to do what Albert had just done,

  • and there are like 100 of these lambs in the pen,

  • and suddenly this whole thing's starting to feel like a German porno,

  • and I'm like ... (Laughter)

  • Melanie picks up the lamb,

  • puts it on the post, opens it up.

  • Albert hands me the knife.

  • I go in, tail comes off.

  • I go in, I grab the scrotum, tip comes off.

  • Albert instructs, "Push it way up there."

  • I do.

  • "Push it further."

  • I do.

  • The testicles emerge -- they look like thumbs, coming right at you --

  • and he says, "Bite 'em.

  • Just bite 'em off."

  • And I heard him, I heard all the words.

  • (Laughter)

  • Like, how did -- how did I get here?

  • How did -- you know -- I mean --

  • how did I get here?

  • (Laughter)

  • It's just -- it's one of those moments where the brain goes off on it's own:

  • and suddenly, I'm standing there, in the Rockies,

  • and all I can think of is the Aristotelian definition of a tragedy.

  • You know, Aristotle says a tragedy

  • is that moment when the hero comes face to face with his true identity.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I'm like, "What is this jacked-up metaphor?

  • I don't like what I'm thinking right now."

  • And I can't get this thought out of my head,

  • and I can't get that vision out of my sight,

  • so I did what I had to do.

  • I went in and I took them.

  • I took them like this,

  • and I yanked my face back.

  • And I'm standing there

  • with two testicles on my chin.

  • (Laughter)

  • And now I can't get -- I can't shake the metaphor.

  • OK, I'm still in "Poetics," in Aristotle,

  • and I'm thinking -- out of nowhere, two terms come crashing into my head

  • that I haven't heard since my classics professor in college drilled them there.

  • And they are anagnorisis and peripeteia.

  • Anagnorisis and peripeteia.

  • Anagnorisis is the Greek word for discovery.

  • Literally, the transition from ignorance to knowledge is anagnorisis.

  • It's what our network does;

  • it's what "Dirty Jobs" is.

  • And I'm up to my neck in anagnorises every single day.

  • Great.

  • The other word, peripeteia,

  • that's the moment in the great tragedies, you know --

  • Euripides and Sophocles --

  • the moment where Oedipus has his moment,

  • where he suddenly realizes that hot chick

  • he's been sleeping with and having babies with is his mother. OK.

  • That's peripety

  • or peripeteia.

  • And this metaphor in my head --

  • I got anagnorisis and peripetia on my chin.

  • (Laughter)

  • I got to tell you, it's such a great device though.

  • When you start to look for peripetia,

  • you find it everywhere.

  • I mean, Bruce Willis in "The Sixth Sense," right?

  • Spends the whole movie trying to help the little kid who sees dead people,

  • and then, boom -- "Oh, I'm dead" -- peripetia.

  • You know?

  • It's crushing when the audience sees it the right way.

  • Neo in "The Matrix," you know?

  • "Oh, I'm living in a computer program" -- that's weird.

  • These discoveries that lead to sudden realizations;

  • and I've been having them, over 200 dirty jobs, I have them all the time,

  • but that one -- that one drilled something home in a way that I just wasn't prepared for.

  • And, as I stood there,

  • looking at the happy lamb that I had just defiled --

  • but it looked OK.

  • Looking at that poor other little thing that I'd done it the right way on,

  • and I just was struck by

  • if I'm wrong about that

  • and if I'm wrong so often, in a literal way,

  • what other peripatetic misconceptions might I be able to comment upon?

  • Because, look, I'm not a social anthropologist

  • but I have a friend who is.

  • And I talk to him.

  • (Laughter)

  • And he says, "Hey Mike.

  • Look, I don't know if your brain is interested in this sort of thing or not,

  • but do you realize you've shot in every state?

  • You've worked in mining, you've worked in fishing,

  • you've worked in steel, you've worked in every major industry.

  • You've had your back shoulder to shoulder with these guys

  • that our politicians are desperate to relate to every four years, right?"

  • I can still see Hillary doing the shots of rye,

  • dribbling down her chin, with the steel workers.

  • I mean, these are the people that I work with every single day.

  • "And if you have something to say about their thoughts, collectively,

  • it might be time to think about it.

  • Because, dude, you know, four years."

  • You know, that's in my head, testicles are on my chin,

  • thoughts are bouncing around.

  • And, after that shoot, Dirty Jobs really didn't change,

  • in terms of what the show is,

  • but it changed for me, personally.

  • And now, when I talk about the show,

  • I no longer just tell the story you heard and 190 like it.

  • I do, but I also start to talk about some of the other things I got wrong,

  • some of the other notions of work

  • that I've just been assuming are sacrosanct,

  • and they're not.

  • People with dirty jobs are happier than you think.

  • As a group, they're the happiest people I know.

  • And I don't want to start whistling "Look for the Union Label,"

  • and all that happy worker crap.

  • I'm just telling you that these are balanced people who do unthinkable work.

  • Roadkill picker-uppers whistle while they work. I swear to God --

  • I did it with them.

  • They've got this amazing sort of symmetry to their life.

  • And I see it over and over and over again.

  • So I started to wonder what would happen

  • if we challenged some of these sacred cows.

  • Follow your passion --

  • we've been talking about it here for the last 36 hours.

  • Follow your passion -- what could possibly be wrong with that?

  • Probably the worst advice I ever got.

  • (Laughter)

  • You know, follow your dreams and go broke, right?

  • I mean, that's all I heard growing up.

  • I didn't know what to do with my life,

  • but I was told if you follow your passion, it's going to work out.

  • I can give you 30 examples, right now --

  • Bob Combs, the pig farmer in Las Vegas

  • who collects the uneaten scraps of food from the casinos

  • and feeds them them to his swine.

  • Why? Because there's so much protein in the stuff we don't eat

  • his pigs grow at twice the normal speed,

  • and he is one rich pig farmer,

  • and he is good for the environment,

  • and he spends his days doing this incredible service,