So, Travel Channel hits me with this email showing a frightened bearded man in an Evel Knievel helmet looking terrified and all I could think was “I wanna see this guy piss himself.” While that has yet to happen [Bert The Conqueror premieres June 16th on Travel Channel], I did find out that I would rather go and hang out with Bert at a bar than to actually see him wet himself. Also: fuck giant catfish.
What the hell is Bert The Conqueror?
It’s my new show. It’s basically a show where I’m ultimately a tour guide for insane competitions and events throughout America.
OK. What kind of insane stuff have you accomplished so far?
Wow. Umm, catfish grabbling, are you familiar with that?
NO! [Emperor’s note: I assumed this had something to do with masturbation. It does not. But it could.]
I want to say it’s an ancient form of fishing, but it’s still going on. It’s a Southern tradition where you go down to a lake, basically get in five feet of water, stick your arm in a hole in the hope that’s a catfish biting your hand, and then you wrestle the catfish to the surface, catching the catfish bare-handed. It’s one of the more dangerous events we’ve done. Don’t think of the plate you ordered the other day- it’s a 50-pound, it’s a catfish the size of a five-year-old. From your chin to your feet. I did mud drag racing.
You went muddin’!
Yea, you go out in shin high mud and get these trucks called “blowers,” that are basically a massive engine on four pipes on four wheels, a steering wheel, a seat and seat belts. I was on a truck that did 0-60 in THREE seconds. In mud. Hard-core muddin’. I also jumped off the Stratosphere the other day…
It’s a 108 story controlled free-fall. That was the one that kept me up the longest. I was up the night before, throwing up in my bathtub, just hardcore anxiety. Like, “Why am I doing this? I have kids, I have a family, I have a career, I’m a good comedian.” It was a pretty insane day. And that’s every episode.
I was going to ask if anything conquered you yet, but apparently that’s it.
You know what, when we did the mud drag racing, they wrote me and said, “We need your measurements.” And I was like, “What for?” “Can you send your waist measurements, your hip measurements, your thigh measurements, your chest measurements, your arm measurements and your head measurements?” “Can I get why I need this?” “Yea, we need to get you outfitted with a flame-retardant suit.” I literally sent an email: “Call me right now.” And I talked to one of the guys who runs the show, and I said, “You’re out of your mind if you think you’re going to put me in ANYTHING that I have an opportunity of catching on fire.” He was very calm about it: “It’s just a precaution, it’s no big deal”
When I got there, I went through the specs and the told me all the dangers: “Look, if the seat belt’s not on right, you have a very possible situation where your lungs, spleen, liver and heart can come out your mouth.”
JESUS CHRIST! WHAT?!
I know! That’s the last thing I ever want to happen to me, ever. Ever. EVER! Literally, my heart, lungs, spleen and liver, everything coming out of my fucking mouth. You’re out of your mind! I got to the point where I was about to get out of it, and then I got in the event, the event started and I was still trying to back out, and it was so cool. Such a neat slice of culture, passion and just intensity. I’m telling you, when you see this episode, you are going to FREAK. It is like nothing you’ve experienced or seen in your entire life. At that moment, I thought, “Alright, I gotta do this, because I want to see this profiled on the show.” I just got behind the wheel, held the button down, let go of the button and…I backed off it a bit, so I did 0-60 in FOUR seconds, in 248 feet. I’m telling you, I’ve never heard noise like that. It’s 1100 horsepower. There’s nothing in it, instead of a bed, it’s a gas tank.
What qualification do you think counted more for this, your beard or the fact that your name is Bert?
My beard or my Bert? I mean my name? I’d say neither, I had NO qualifications whatsoever! I had the lamest name there, everyone else was a John, Dale, Mike, everyone else had manly names and I showed up with “Bert.” And my beard is not like a good Southern redneck beard, it’s a trimmed, “I live in LA, I trim this every three days (it’s a five)” beard. These guys, one guy had a Fu Manchu, his name is John, it was his truck I borrowed, and his mustache hairs were going into his mouth. That would drive me crazy.
Do you feel ripped off, you got Travel Channel sending Anthony Bourdain all around the world to get his food on, and they stick you in flame-retardant suits and chuck you off buildings?
Let me tell you something. If Bourdain EVER wants to switch jobs, I’d do it in a heartbeat. This job. Half the reason I took this job, well, more than half, I’m such a fan of Man Vs Food, Bourdain, Zimmern… I was such a fan of the network that when they called, I took the meeting just so I could gossip about Bourdain and see how cool he is, and then when they told me about the show I was like “Get out of here.” One morning, I woke up in a hotel room in Des Moines, and I’m sitting there hung over, and I’m on the road constantly doing stand up, and I never do anything but stay in my hotel room and I got a wild hair and I was like, “I should take this show, I should seize the day. Really do some wild stuff. Like, REALLY fill up my dance card so that at my funeral, it’s not just pictures of me from my MySpace profile, it’s like pictures of me on top of a mountain and like pictures of me jumping off buildings.” I should have NEVER wished for that. Let me tell you, I got that in spades.
I got a picture of me up on Mt. Washington up in New Hampshire, it’s like of the windiest point in the world. Winds are 75 MPH, and whipping around so bad that no one can even stand. It’s so bad, it’s chaos! My producer, Lani, says to me, “Hey, do you ever get nervous around wind?” And I was like, “What?” “Yea, we might get blown off this mountain.” And all of a sudden I’m thinking, “Shit, I might get blown off a mountain! I’m gonna get blown off a damned mountain today, sonuva…This is not what I want!” I’m gonna have a fun funeral, whoever’s gonna give my eulogy at my funeral’s gonna have an easy day. “Bert did a lot of cool stuff.” And then just put in the sizzle reel for Bert The Conqueror. And everyone will be like “Wow, he had a fun life.”
How does your family feel about this?
I don’t share any of my anxiety with my girls, they’re pretty young. One just turned six today [Emperor’s Note: happy birthday, kid] and the other one’s three. But my wife had to put up with me the night before the stratosphere jump, throwing up in a bathtub, calling her, panicked. “Why did I sign up for this show?!” She was not a fan. Literally, she was like that until two days ago. Two days ago Travel Channel released the sizzle reel for the show on YouTube and one of my friends forwarded it to my wife like, “Is this Bert?” and my wife called me and now is so excited for the show, “This looks like it’s gonna be great, babe! This is so cool! I didn’t know this is all the cool stuff you’ve been doing!” And I called her from Mud Drag and I was like “They want me to drag race in mud.” And she was like “That’s so awesome! Oh my God, you’re so lucky, do you know how many people would love to do this?” “Uhhh, do you want to send one of them to do it for me?” Yea, now she’s a big fan of the show.
Dude. I would check to see if she’s taken out some extra life insurance on you.
She’s got enough out on me.
Nah, two days ago, there was a very large policy taken out. Has there been anything that you’ll go back and do without getting paid?
Yea, I opened the new waterslide in Wisconsin at the Wisconsin Dells, and the have the first upside-down looping waterslide in America and the biggest one in the world. It’s called the Scorpion’s Tail, and it was nerve-wracking when we were doing it. They were like, “Yea, we’ve had problems with people getting stuck in it,” and it’s a tube. I did it like 12 times that day, you couldn’t get me off of the ride, I was having so much fun. I told the owner, “Look, I’m coming back here with my wife and kids and I will be doing this all day long.”
This show sounds like a blast. A very dangerous blast that YOU can do, and I will watch from the couch while in my underwear.
Well, if people enjoy it, then it was all worth it. And while I have three more episodes to shoot, everything’s been absolutely safe and checked out. Tomorrow, Lonnie and I are going to go to some camp to go blobbing. Are you familiar with “blobbing?”
No, not unless you count playing the NES game A Boy and His Blob.
It’s not the same thing. It’s a huge air-balloon-type-thing where people jump on it and you’re at the other end. As they land, you shoot off of it in the air 80 ft.
The ones in lakes?
Yea, that’s exactly what it is.
OK. Good luck with that. I hope you don’t get bit by a fucking catfish while you’re in the lake.
This is the ultimate episode: I blob into the lake and come up with a fifty pound catfish on my hand.
I would punch that fucking catfish in his stupid fish-dick if he bit me.
You’re great man, thanks!
-Interview by Jonathan “The Emperor” Yost