Closing the Loop with Tim Johnson

After my most recent podcast, a lot of you wondered if Tim Johnson would respond to the podcast episode dedicated to him. As you can see, he has…

Tim Johnson writes…

Mike – I have just two words for you…Thank You. Well, maybe more than just two… I’m humbled, taken aback, better educated, motivated and (let’s be honest), a little star struck. Like many – I had not heard of the ‘Message to Garcia’. Your performance was perfect by the way – and the message was well received – please know, it has not fallen on deaf ears. I’ll happily admit that my assumptions were wrong and that my compartmentalizing was done out of expediency and ignorance. In the world of social media, it’s far too easy to proclaim you’re right, but nearly impossible to admit you’re wrong. Time for me to break that mold (for my own sake).

You should know that I have seen every single episode of Dirty Jobs (my favorite one was the one where you went to my hometown in the UP of Michigan) which made me a fan of yours from day 1. It really was a “love letter” to the working class – that’s why it worked so well and is still relevant and loved to this day. I identified with you on that show. I evangelized for that show to everyone I knew. Not to go “Misery” on you – but I was your biggest fan.

Fast forward to about 2 years ago when I saw you on an ultra-conservative talk show – my heart sank. I thought, “why the hell would Mike Rowe be on that idiot’s show? Has he lost his mind?” I couldn’t see past my own dislike for that host to remember who you were and what you did. I only saw that you were now “one of them”… Convenient compartmentalizing at its best. It’s par for the course in today’s social media world. Like I said – way too easy.

So, I posted last week about what (I thought) I knew about you. How dare you not meet my expectations? How dare you have any conservative views? How dare you turn your back on the working-class people? There I was, behind my keyboard, not seeing anything past my own screen…. (I somehow forgot that this was the Dirty Jobs Guy who I looked up to just a few short years ago.)

Have you changed my political beliefs? Nope. Have you changed my mind about you? Yep! Have you changed my mind about how to react/interact with those outside my political beliefs? Yep!

In short – and without sounding too overly dramatic – you’ve made a difference in my life. My only regret is that you can’t do a podcast for every single person on here. I hope all those with my perspective put their names in place of mine and take what you said to heart. I did. I’m better for it. Two words – Thank You. (Please donate at I did, so should we all.)

Hi Tim

You’re very welcome, and thank you, too. It’s not every day an answer to a question on this page turns into an entire episode of a podcast, but these days, anything is possible, and I appreciate the inspiration for some non-traditional content! Thanks also for looking beyond the optics of what you see and hear on the Tube. I’m not sure which conservative show you’re referring to, but the one that really upset my liberal fans was Glenn Beck, (with Tucker Carlson a close second.) “How could you, Mike? How could you talk with such right-wing nutjobs?”

Interestingly, the same week I appeared on those programs, I also appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and NPR. This, as you might imagine, raised all kinds of hell with my fans on the right. “How could you, Mike? How could you talk with such a bunch of left-wing loonies?”

Funny thing was, no one on either side disagreed with anything I said in any of the interviews. They just couldn’t accept the fact that I was talking to someone they didn’t like. A sign of the times, I’m afraid, and something worth pushing back on.

One other quick thought on Dirty Jobs, (returning later this year.) The most interesting thing about that show were the reasons people watched. Like many other viewers, you saw Dirty Jobs as a light-hearted tribute to hard-working Americans – which it most certainly was was. Many consider it to be the “Granddaddy of essential working shows,” and I wouldn’t disagree. But many others saw it as a love letter to entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and small businesses – which it also, absolutely was.

Fact is – and this always surprises people – we featured dozens of millionaires on Dirty Jobs – millionaires who were usually covered in mud, or grease, or crap, or something worse. We just didn’t make a big deal out of what a person was earning, because that wasn’t the point of the show. The point was to celebrate “hardworking men and women who aren’t afraid to get dirty.” But of course, the point of why I did the show, has nothing to do with why so people actually watched it.

I remember the first time I realized this was the case. I was connecting at Newark airport in 2005, during the first season, when the show was just becoming a hit. Near the gate, I saw a man on a ladder, doing something inside the ceiling. As I walked by, he looked down and yelled, “Holy crap, you’re Mike Rowe!” I nodded and asked what he was doing. He said he was replacing a sprinkler, and went on to say that Dirty Jobs was his family’s favorite new show.

“I love to watch it with my kids,” he said, “because it puts guys like me in a positive light. It makes my kids proud of what I do for a living.”

Obviously, that’s the kind of compliment that made me proud to be associated with the show. Dirty Jobs was a tribute to my grandfather – a guy who could have installed a sprinkler system blindfolded. So I smiled, thanked him for watching, and made my way through the terminal, only to be stopped a minute later by a guy in a Brooks Brothers suit, walking fast. He looked like a classic Wall Street type, on his way to close a deal.

“Holy crap, you’re Mike Rowe!” I nodded, and wondered how long people would be reminding me of who I am. The guy in the suit went on to tell me that Dirty Jobs was his family’s favorite new show.

“I love to watch it with my kids,” he said, “because I can tell them, “See what happens if you don’t go to college?”

Obviously, that’s the kind of compliment I didn’t want to hear. Dirty Jobs was never meant to be a cautionary tale, or an inducement to purchase a diploma. Both things would have horrified my grandfather. But the fact is, people don’t much care about why a producer wants them to watch a particular show. It’s either entertaining or it isn’t. It either speaks to them or it doesn’t. And the truth is, producers can’t afford to care why people tune in either – we just want an audience. And so, I smiled and thanked the man in the Brooks Brothers suit for watching, and made my way to the gate.

Point is, I can’t control why anyone might watch my shows or buy my books or listen to my podcast or follow this page or support my foundation; I can only hope that they will. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to change your politics or your opinion of me – I was just trying to answer a question in front of six million people, in a fashion that might be seen as both entertaining and respectful. For me, that’s always the goal.

Thanks again for your question, as well as your support of mikeroweWORKS. I’m glad you enjoyed your episode. As for the rest of you, if you have no idea what Tim and I are talking about, here a link to this week’s episode.


PS Trigger Warning – later this month, the Fox Business Channel is introducing a new slate of primetime shows. One of them is called How America Works, which I’ll be narrating. It’s pretty good. Kind of like Dirty Jobs without a host. It premieres Monday, September 20th. I only mention this because I’ll be promoting it – along with my foundation – all over Fox later next week. I suspect you’ll see a few comments on this page, from people who are “disappointed” by my decision to appear on the “wrong” network. Please feel free to remind the people that I hosted a similar show on CNN for nearly three years, and ask them why they didn’t congratulate me for doing so back then…

Episode 216: Off the Wall – A Message to Garcia, and Tim Johnson

Mike’s Facebook Page