The Naked Cowboy Reads Nietzsche

“Everyone in the world knows me, and if they don’t, they will. It’ll be Buddha, Jesus, Naked Cowboy,” Burck says matter-of-factly. Photo: facebook.com/nkdcowboy

In a dimly-lit Times Square parking lot, Robert Burck, a fair-haired man with bulging biceps and tired eyes, lounges in the driver’s seat of his pristine Cadillac Escalade. There, he remains incognito, clad in cargo shorts and a black t-shirt. Most don’t recognize him without his signature underwear and guitar strapped across his chest.

Burck — more commonly known as the Naked Cowboy — has always been one for showy displays of attention. Each morning, he drives the 20 minute commute from his motel in Secaucus, NJ, to the Icon parking lot in Times Square. By noon, he’s working the crowds, serenading tourists and posing in photos for thousands of passers-by wearing nothing but a hat, cowboy boots, briefs, and a strategically placed guitar.

Particularly prone to exaggeration and contradiction, Burck expresses an impatience for people and their faulty cameras; minutes later, he proclaims himself a “social genius.” After reading Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power, he says, he grew obsessed with writing self-affirmations and personal goals. He reveals a stack of college-ruled papers, perhaps several hundred sheets thick, held together by a large binder clip. The papers are clearly worn: the edges fray and the dark circles and underlines on each page bleed together.

This summer, Burck’s manager sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Naked Indian, who recently started showing up in Times Square. Burck believes he is stealing his act.

The 41-year-old climbs out of his Escalade, takes off his t-shirt and shorts, and slithers into a pair of tighty-whities. They’re a boys’ size 12. “No undies when I’m not working,” he explains. A few swipes of deodorant and a quick guitar tune-up later, he swaggers out of the parking lot into more familiar territory, strumming a tune: I have tons of fun, just shaking my buns, all day long, out here in the sun. Within minutes, a crowd surges around him. Two girls giggle and point: “Oh my God, it’s that guy.” Another couple, struggling with a subway map: “This is so New York.”

Age: 41
Based in:
New York, NY; Secaucus, NJ
Grew up in: Cincinnati, Ohio
Graduated from: University of Cincinnati, Bachelor’s degree; Xavier University, incomplete Master’s degree
Previous jobs: Stripper; waiter at T.G.I. Friday’s; male model
Years in the business: About 13

Where did your identity as the Naked Cowboy originate? In 1998, I was in Venice Beach, California, shooting for Playgirl magazine. I took out my guitar, and the photographer suggested playing in my underwear. I made over $100 that day from tips. I did the same thing a few days later in Cincinnati, got arrested, and made the news. The next morning, I left town in my beat-up BMW and did the same thing driving across the country, getting arrested along the way. I finally landed in New York, and I’ve gotten better at not getting arrested.

How does one get better at not getting arrested? Don’t push the envelope, don’t be a jerk. For two years, before landing in Times Square, I would call the media and the police on myself.

Weather conditions that keep you inside: I don’t go out if it’s pouring rain, because people won’t interact with me. I stand outside during 90% of the winter and wear a full-length mink coat to warm up in between rounds. I don’t get sick; being sick is a state of mind.

A small opening in the top of the guitar collects cash. Burck also glued on a small mirror.

Source of income: I charge $1 for up to 100 photos with me, but most people stop at two. I probably make about $100 an hour, especially in the evenings. Then there’s the money from my three music albums [including an X-rated country album], my endorsement deal with Blue Island oysters, my merchandise, and the Naked Cowboy Bar and Grill that’s opening soon.

Ratio of adults to kids who approach you: Yesterday, I picked up at least 80 people off the ground, 60% of which were old people and grandmas. They’re not scared, because I’m strong as sh*t.

Your driving force: Reading and studying. I read six to seven hours a day, and have for 24 years. I read psychology, philosophy, Spanish. I want to be the smartest motherf*cker on the face of this Earth.

Currently reading: The Art of Seduction, for probably the third or fourth time. I’ve read Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power at least six or seven times. And Emerson’s essays, which are sitting at my hotel – I’ve read those about 100 times.

Your hotel? For the last 13 years, I’ve lived in the Royal Motel in Secaucus, New Jersey, right outside the city. It’s only $50 per night. My mailing address is still my mother’s in Cincinnati.

Burck keeps two pairs of boots in the trunk of his car at all times. He wears each pair for two or three weeks before selling them on his website.

Where do you keep your belongings? I have a suitcase in the backseat with all my underwear, my guitar, my boots, my hat, and a few other things. My hotel room has a spare guitar, my mink coat, and a suit and tie from my high school graduation. That’s all I need.

Brand of underwear: Fruit of the Loom, which is what my mother bought me when I first started. They come in packs of six, but I always keep a seventh just in case. I wear two pairs at a time: one painted with Naked Cowboy, and one unpainted. When they get old or stained, I sell them for $50 on NakedCowboy.com.

They look really tiny. They’re a size 12, which is meant for boys who are about 114 pounds. I weigh 200-something. I haven’t missed a day at the gym since I was 17 years old.

Do you stay this tan year-round? In the winter, I supplement a little bit. Right now, even with all the sun, I have a lighter spot on my leg where my guitar sits.

How do you unwind after a long day? I go to my hotel, have a glass of wine, and write in my journal for a few hours about how great I am, how my expectations are always fulfilled, how I’m a child prodigy.

Can you read me something you wrote recently? I am the most incredibly polished, spontaneous, talented, hilarious performer of all times. [I am] the most fabulously built, ripped, and determined body and mind ever created. […] [I am] an American icon, true badass, no-fear cowboy. The only Naked Cowboy.

That seems a bit arrogant. People don’t understand humility. It’s not about downplaying yourself.

Are you religious? I’m God Almighty. The God you worship is the God you are capable of becoming, in the words of Joseph Campbell. Do you know him? J.C., Jesus Christ.

Guitar go-tos: Mostly just sh*ts and giggles, except when I play full songs and pretend I don’t see people. My guitar is just an unlikely vehicle to get people’s attention. People even tell me I can’t sing very well.

Burck meticulously documents his meals, reading logs, and schedule into black marble notebooks. To date, he estimates he has filled about 400 journals over the past 13 years.

What would people be surprised to learn about your job? Standing in Times Square is hard work. If people come up to me with the wrong attitude, I double their wrong attitude, and they scurry off in fear. I don’t waste time with people who are wasting my time.

Best part of your job: Freedom.

Most challenging part of your job: Nobody’s camera is ready. Nobody knows how to shoot a picture. After a few hours, I’m kind of like, I’m never coming here again. When it’s raining, it feels like it’s never going to shine again.

Are you dating anyone? I have a girlfriend who I see once every few days. She works at the Cranberry Café, where I’ve eaten lunch every single day for the past 10 years. When my last relationship ended, I ended up with her, because she was the only girl I knew.

Do you walk naked into the café? I’ve been in many places naked, but I don’t do that anymore. I have a key to the executive bathroom here in the Icon parking lot, where I’ve parked for free for 10 years. These guys are the best.

You mention that you’re the only Naked Cowboy, but now it’s a franchise. That happened about two years ago. There are four Naked Cowboys, myself included, and four Naked Cowgirls, all part of Naked Cowboy Enterprises at different spots throughout Times Square. They just came out of the woodwork and approached me about it. The black Naked Cowboy was selling comedy tickets in Times Square.

You ran for mayor in 2009 and announced a run for the 2012 presidency as a Tea Party candidate. Those both fizzled. Any future plans to run for office? When they knock on my door and beg me to run because I’m the best man for the job.

Dream job as a kid: I wanted to be the most celebrated entertainer of all time. I did whatever I could to have all eyes on me. Everyone was always telling me what I couldn’t do.

The tattoo on Burck’s right arm depicts a devil, and the one his left depicts Jesus. “It shows I can be as evil or as good as I want,” he says.

Like getting that tattoo on your arm? When I was 16, I was on house arrest, so I got this tattoo of the devil’s head. It was the coolest picture I could get for $60. Later, I got Jesus on my other arm to balance it out.

How do you spend your time when you’re not reading or in Times Square? That’s really it. I can be the life of any party, but why spend all that enthusiasm on a few people in a room when I can spend it on thousands of people walking through Times Square?

Does your family visit you here? I send them envelopes filled with money every week. I stamp each dollar with my Naked Cowboy stamper and sign each dollar coin.

Do you want kids? Nope, not for as long as I live. And I don’t plan on dying. Ever.

Visit the No Joe Schmo Facebook page for more behind the scenes with the Naked Cowboy (and to find out how he signs his text messages).

Follow the Naked Cowboy on Twitter at @TheNakedCowboy and on his Facebook page. All photos courtesy of Megan Hess unless otherwise specified.

The Dirty Car Artist

Scott Wade was dubbed “Lord of the Dust” at an event in Istanbul, Turkey, and “the da Vinci of Dust” by the National Enquirer.

Like many others with families to support and mortgages to pay, Scott Wade works full-time in an office cubicle, glued to his computer screen for a majority of daylight hours.

But in his other life, cars are his art and dirt is his palette.

Wade began doodling in filthy car windows as a way to relieve the stresses of his 9-to-5 job as a graphical user interface designer. He discovered a new meaning of “screen time” — one that involved intricate designs on windshields and 10-foot-tall storefront windows. A hobby that began on small-town dirt roads in Texas evolved into the viral phenomenon of Dirty Car Art, bringing Wade to Lisbon, Istanbul, and London. But his toolkit remains simple: brushes and vegetable oil.

“[My artwork] challenges our perceptions of what’s beautiful,” Wade explains in earnest. “It takes what we think of as an eyesore, and flips that on its head.” But like sidewalk chalk art and sand sculptures at the beach, impermanence comes with the territory. His masterpieces only last until the next rain.

Age: 53
Graduated from: Texas State University, BFA in commercial art
In the business for: 9 years
Based in: Wimberley, Texas (about 30 minutes from Austin)
Previous jobs: Arts and crafts instructor; freelance designer; drummer

The dusty roads in Texas must make for ideal dirty car conditions. I used to live on a long dirt road, and the blend of limestone dust and gravel and clay resulted in a fine white dust that coated the rear window. My first 50 or 60 creations were on cars that got naturally dirty just from driving up and down that road, building up successive layers baked on by heat and humidity.

And now? I don’t live on that dirt road anymore, and I’m doing a lot more creations for events. So I had to figure out a way to make a car dirty that wasn’t. I ordered Fuller’s Earth substitute — the same thing that makes dust clouds in the movies — and made it stick to the windows with a thin coat of vegetable oil. But I still love working on real dirty cars; they look much more three-dimensional. I miss those old days.

Wade creates original drawings as well as representations of recognizable art, such as Girl with a Pearl Earring.

What sparked your realization that a dirty rear window makes the perfect canvas? If you’re a fairly curious person, you can’t resist playing on a dirty car window, even if it’s just a smiley face or a “wash me.” It’s an impermanent canvas, so you’re free to play with it.

It probably helped that you majored in art. I think I picked up drawing from my dad; he was a really good amateur cartoonist. Living on a mile and a half of dirt roads, we never washed our car, so I’d always doodle in the windows. Then, one day, I used my fingernail and a popsicle stick to do some cross-hatching. And then I went inside to get my brushes, and realized that I’d found a real medium.

Your toolkit: A chisel-point rubber paint shaper tool, which acts like a pencil; different-sized fan brushes; and large brushes for the background. I do lot of work in Adobe Photoshop to figure out my designs, but the dirt is forgiving.

Do you carry the brushes with you for unsuspecting dirty cars? Sometimes, actually. That would be a great candid camera TV show: I could hang out at movie theaters, and when a really dirty car pulls up, draw in their windows. Since they’re at a movie theater, you know they’ll be gone for at least an hour or so.

Your first drawing: A reproduction of the Mona Lisa with van Gogh’s Starry Night in the background. I sent it to some friends via email, and bloggers began linking to it. Then I got a call from the National Enquirer.

And then your work went viral. Did that surprise you? Who would have thought people like looking at dirty pictures on the Internet? [Laughs.] I did receive some serious flack for a portrait of my daughter, which looked like she was being abducted. It was supposed to be funny, but it turned out creepy.

Your dream dirt drawing: I want to do a portrait using someone’s cremated ashes on the windows of a hearse. It would be weird, but also compelling.


Best part of your job: Most artists are isolated in their studios, but I’m creating artwork while people look on and talk to me. It took awhile to get used to, but I really enjoy that aspect.

Most challenging part of your job: Dealing with the business side of things, which I think a lot of artists can relate to. The medium itself is also very challenging. Dirt is not uniform, and the results are never what I totally expect.

What would people be surprised to learn about your job? A dirty car is typically an ugly thing. But when people see that dirt can be turned into beautiful art, it really challenges their perceptions.

Best reaction to telling a stranger about your line of work: I always get a cocked eyebrow. I can tell they’re thinking, Oh, it’s probably just some little doodles. Then I show my representation of the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, and they’re totally floored.

Do you wear protective gear to avoid breathing in dirt and dust? I might wear a paper mask, depending on the wind’s direction. When drawing on storefront windows, I wear goggles and a respirator.

You mentioned the medium’s impermanence. How do you justify putting so much effort into something that the rain will wash off in seconds? It’s a lesson in letting go, in understanding that life is just a series of moments passing by. If you try to hang on to something, it causes grief and heartache. If you can just be happy you had the experience, it frees you up.

One of Wade’s most recent works: The Marx Brothers. His creations can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours.

Fee per job: I charge by the day, not by the car. My corporate rate is $3,500/day, especially overseas. My nonprofit rate ranges from $650/day to $1,200/day.

When you tell your daughter to clean her dirty room, does she argue it’s just “art”? I don’t think she’s ever used that argument, and I’m not going to mention it to her.

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
There are a lot of people who have made careers out of doing something special in their medium, like Julian Beever’s 3D pavement drawings. Be unique in the way you do art: that’s what gets attention. This type of work can be very rewarding and enriching. Click here for a full gallery of Scott Wade’s work.

Impressed by dirty car art? For more artsy No Joe Schmos, meet the glassblower and the pop-up paper engineer. 

The SNL Cue Cards Guy

“When you’ve been holding up 22″ x 40″ cards for 22 years, you develop muscles,” says Wally Feresten. “But with that muscle comes ache.” Photo: steph-was-here.tumblr.com

Wally Feresten rolls over in bed around noon on Sunday, struggling to open his eyes. He’s had a long night; he didn’t get home until 5 a.m., and his entire upper body aches. He’ll have the next few days to recuperate, but on Thursday, it’s back to Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where he’s responsible for making sure all the actors and celebrities know exactly what to say come 11:30 p.m. EST on Saturday night.

Feresten started working as a cue cards guy on NBC’s Saturday Night Live more than 20 years ago, when he was almost fired for sloppy handwriting. But now he runs the show with precision and a sense of calm that is unusual for a job that requires rewriting cue cards for sketches just minutes before they air. Over the years, he has written episodes for a variety of sitcoms; but most of his writing still involves printing large letters exactly the right space apart on swaths of recycled cardstock, which he orders in batches of 10,000 and stashes beneath the bleachers in Studio 8H.

Sometimes, Feresten feels uncomfortable telling people what he does for a living. He explains that his company, NYC Q-Cards, handles all the cue card work on SNL and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, plus many other award shows, live specials, and commercials. Then he politely inquires about the professions of his new acquaintances. Oh, I’m an accountant, they’ll say. I can’t compete with that.

Age: 46
Graduated from: Syracuse University; studied television/radio/film and writing
In the business for: 22 years
Based in: New York City

Previous jobs: After graduation, I lived in Los Angeles for three years, writing scripts. I didn’t have much luck, so I moved to New York, where my brother had just started writing for the Late Show with David Letterman. He helped me get a job writing cue cards there.

Was handwriting a major factor in the hiring process? Actually, my handwriting was horrible. I had to do about half an hour of duping during my interview, which is the process of copying text from card to card. But [the job is] also a lot about getting along with everyone – you have to work long hours under stressful conditions. They liked my personality, and as for handwriting, said they’d seen worse.

Did your handwriting improve? During my first six weeks at SNL, my trainer Tony Mendez wouldn’t use any of my cards because they didn’t hold up to his standards. He was looking for an excuse to fire me. During one show, he threw me into a line of fire. For the first card, I had to stand on a ladder; for the second, lie on my stomach; for the third, get on my knees. I did it perfectly, which pretty much saved my job. Within three years, I was running the show at SNL.

Do you move around for a majority of the show? If the actors in a sketch are looking directly into the camera – say, for a press conference with Kofi Annan and President Obama – I’ll stand in place. For other sketches, I’m constantly adjusting my height so the actors can always see the cards. It’s like a choreographed dance.

Wally Feresten (R) with Keenan Thompson on the set of SNL.

Are you right-handed or left-handed? Right-handed, as most cue card people are. If you are left-handed, your left hand would typically smudge the printing on the card. But you have to be good with both arms. You’re holding one card steadily in the palm of one hand, and balancing the other 7 to 20 cards in your other palm. I’m pretty sore at the end of the day.

Do you have noticeable muscle strain? Over the past eight years, I’ve gone to physical therapy for tendonitis in my left elbow, right elbow, left shoulder, and right shoulder. But I’m feeling pretty good now, knock on wood.

The New Yorker called preparing and holding cue cards a “dying art,” and that was more than 10 years ago. I’m surprised the industry hasn’t digitized. Timing rules everything. If a computer goes down or gets unplugged during a live show, it’s a disaster. Producers won’t allow that.

To what extent do actors improvise during SNL? They can only improvise during rehearsal, not during the actual show. [Improvising] doesn’t make sense, anyway, since writers are rewriting up to the last minute.

Define “the last minute.” We’ll do rewrites until anywhere from 12 a.m. to 12:15 a.m., sometimes rewriting a sketch just a few minutes before it starts. [Editors’ note: SNL airs from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. EST].

That sounds very high-stress. How do you cope with the pressure? I love the adrenaline rush, and I don’t panic. I think that’s why they picked me to do the job 19 years ago.

You undoubtedly have front-row access to some of the most important moments in TV history. An especially memorable one was holding cards for Mayor Giuliani two weeks after September 11, with firemen standing behind me, when we were the first comedy show to come back on the air. It’s also pretty fun seeing pairs meet for the first time in the dressing rooms to discuss their monologues: Sarah Palin and Tina Fey, Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Zuckerberg.

I love the Mother’s Day episode when Will Ferrell hosted. He told you to lower the cards so he could talk to his mom on stage “unscripted.” Was that scripted? Yes. Adam McKay, who used to work for SNL and now writes and directs with Will Ferrell, wrote that. I get my best reviews for that performance.

 

Writing utensils: M99 markers, which are big, thick, silver pens that we unscrew and fill up with ink. The fumes are really bad for you, so we try not to inhale too much.

Best part of your job: Making friends with cast members and working with our celebrity hosts. After Paul Rudd hosted for the first time, I sent him his monologue cards, and he told me he has them hanging around his house. I’ll do that for young actors who haven’t hosted before and are really excited about it.

Most challenging part of your job: Getting through the day on Friday, when we start rehearsal at 1 p.m. and aren’t done until midnight or 1 a.m. It can be tough to stay focused, especially when it takes two hours to block one sketch.

Walk me through your week. I don’t work Sundays through Wednesdays. Thursdays are light days; we rehearse three or four sketches and are out by 5 p.m. They don’t want to scare the host too much. Fridays are long and hard. Saturdays we rehearse all day, do two shows, and then party.

Do you usually attend the SNL after-parties? Yes. You get such an adrenaline rush from the live shows, that even when I just go home, I can’t fall asleep until 5 a.m. Lots of alcohol helps you relax. Then, on Sundays, I’m a mess. I get home really late, which is tough on my wife and two sons, who are 12 and 10. They let me sleep until noon.

Feresten’s company, NYC Q-Cards, also works on the set of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Photo: sheknows.com

Do you foresee a future in comedy for your kids? I wrote some stand-up for my older son, who performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and he totally killed.

What would people be surprised to learn about your job? The number of people who still ask whether SNL is a live show.

Best reaction to telling a stranger about your line of work: It kind of halts the conversation. Sometimes, I’ll go through my spiel about meeting celebrities, and the other guy will be like, Oh, I’m an accountant.

Most important lesson learned: The rewrite process is the most important part of writing comedy. That’s sometimes the hardest thing for a writer, since you might not want to mess with your work.

Do you consider yourself a funny guy? I do. [Laughs.] Growing up, we listened to a lot of George Carlin albums, and I always want to be a comedian.

Any summer plans while SNL is on hiatus? [NYC Q-Cards] is doing three shows at the same time: Ink Master, a tattoo reality show on Spike TV; Project Runway on Lifetime; and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.

Salary per show: For most New York shows, I normally charge $500 for an eight-hour day. SNL is a different beast, though. And the cards cost about $1,700 for a 10,000-card order.

I read that your legal name is Chris Feresten. What’s that about? My brother nicknamed me Wally when we were kids, and it kind of stuck.


LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
Practice your printing – that’s copying from script to cue cards. Meet people doing cue card work and have them show you how to hold the cards; you need someone with connections to vouch for you.

Meet more No Joe Schmos who wield pens as swords: the fountain pen doctor, the tattoo artist, and the CollegeHumor.com editor.

The Pooper Scooper

Cara Brown, co-founder of Dirty Work, keeps her iPhone with her on the job to snap photos of hilarious things she finds in the dog poop.

Fifteen years ago, Cara Brown had a “movie moment” revelation: she would switch careers from computer consultant to dog-poop remover. Brown and her business partner, Erin Erman, shut down their stressful tech startup for a different kind of stress: figuring out how to scoop frozen poop without ruining clients’ lawns.

When the two women opened Dirty Work, they were the ones finding, scooping, and hauling away dog waste. Now, they employ four scoopers in order to focus on the business. The windows of Brown’s Toyota Tacoma are plastered with signs reading Got poop? We scoop! and Picking up where your dog left off. On any given day, she’s awake by 4 a.m. and out the door by 5:30 a.m. – and for the next 12 or 14 hours, she checks on the company’s pickup trucks, coordinates schedule changes, meets with prospective clients, and occasionally scoops (hey, a girl’s gotta stay grounded).

Dirty Work has managed to thrive in a down economy; Brown claims the pet sector is relatively recession-proof. “People will need [our services] until dogs start learning to use the toilet,” she says. Reliability is a tenet central to their business model: employees scoop in rain, sleet, and snow. They scoop from sweltering 100-degree weather to frigid 10-degree weather, when they chip away at piles of poop with long metal spades, which act like ice picks.

Age: 39
Based out of: Atlanta, GA
In the poop-scooping business for: 15 years
Graduated from: Georgia Institute of Technology; majored in industrial engineering
Previous jobs: Computer consultant

How did you arrive at the realization that scooping poop was a career path you wanted to pursue? My business partner Erin Erman and I started a computer consultant business when we were finishing school in 1996. After two years, we were miserable; being on call 24/7 was really stressful and exhausting. Then one day, Erin’s stepmother told us about a piece she read on someone who started a pooper-scooper business. We turned to each other, and it was like a movie moment. We were like, “Oh my gosh, that is such a terrific idea.”

Co-owner Erin Erman’s dog, Brady, in one of Dirty Work’s trucks.

I think it’s safe to say: that’s not a common reaction to scooping poop. We’re both huge animal people, and there were only a handful of pooper-scooper services in the United States and Canada at the time.

Amount of poop that Dirty Work scoops per week: Several McDonald’s-sized dumpsters full.

Lead me through the poop-scooping process. We use long metal spades and line pails with trash bags that can just slide off afterward. After double-bagging the poop, we spray it with a deodorizer and transport it in pickup trucks to a service that treats it properly. Then we disinfect everything.

How many clients do you service? Several hundred. We have some that I’ve served literally since our business opened 15 years ago. We cover a sheer swath of Greater Atlanta, including residences, apartments, town homes, and some hotels. In total, we drive thousands of miles per week.

What primarily drives people to hire you? [Our clients] are really busy, or they simply hate the idea of cleaning up the waste. Or perhaps it’s a wife and/or mother that tells us, “My husband and/or kids said they would do it, and now it’s piling up.”

Staff size: Four people in addition to Erin and myself. I’m really involved in the business side of things now, but I still do some of the scooping a few days per week. It’s a good way to keep a feel for how the business operates.

Welsh Corgi puppies are cute. Their poop is not. Photo: pbh2.com

Do you work in rain or shine? Yes – in all types of weather, with the exception of lightening, since we use metal tools. Rain and ice aren’t our friends, though. Frozen poop isn’t fun.

I can imagine, especially when the ground is frozen, too. It’s essentially like taking an ice pick to an ice cube, hacking away. But we’re careful not to take away any grass, since people are very meticulous about their lawns.

Have you found anything valuable in the poop? All kinds of dog toys, especially ones shaped like animals. Once, two beaded eyes from a dog toy were placed perfectly in a pile of poop, so it was as though the poop was staring up at me. I had to take a photo of that. Another time, a client had placed her diamond engagement ring on the counter while washing dishes, and her Labrador Retriever jumped up and swallowed it. You can imagine what we were looking for in the poop that week!

Did you find the ring? Yes. But I’m not sure what her cleaning process was for that.

What do you wear on the job? Rainboots or waterproof shoes, waterproof gloves, and a hat are staples.

No masks to fight the odor? We’re mostly immune to the odor, although it still hits you sometimes, especially when it’s hot and wet outside. Plus, masks are really hot on your face from the hot air you breathe out.

When you meet new people, how do they react when you tell them about your job? Well, people I’ve gotten back in touch with from high school or college thought I’d go on to medical school, so they are quite surprised at the twist. But overall, people are really positive. We like to call ourselves entremanures.

Best part of your job: The dogs.

Most challenging part of your job: Getting the word out about our services. From a scooping aspect, it’s the climate.

An ad for Dirty Work uses imagery of a dog on a toilet with the tagline Until then, call us.
Photo: DirtyWork.net

Do you foresee the day when your services become obsolete? Not until dogs start learning to use the toilet. But you never know – we never thought we’d have cars that drive themselves.

Average fee charged per yard: For a yard with one or two dogs, about $12.50 for weekly service. After paying for gas, insurance, licensing, truck maintenance, taxes, and payroll, it’s a very low profit. In five to ten years, though, I’d like to see the company grow by at least a fourth.

So you’re doing this largely out of love for dogs – not for the money. In a way, yeah.

Do you have pets of your own? Two cats and two dogs, all of which are adopted. Some frogs have also taken residence in my backyard this spring, along with some tadpoles and wild birds.

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
Do your research. Over the years, I have seen many people try to start businesses but fail because they don’t take it seriously. Don’t take shortcuts; be fair to your clients and employees. Scooping poop may not require hours of training required for jobs like plumbing and carpentry, but it’s still a business like any other.

Read about other animal-centric No Joe Schmos, like the CEO of Lincoln Park Zoo and the bull rider.

Would you pay $12.50 per week for a poop-free yard? Comment below.

No Joe Schmo’s Monthly Roundup

If you wanted to be woken up when September ends, well, that time is coming soon. And that means it’s time for another roundup: a brief look at the most-shared and most popular posts this month. Which was your favorite? Who would you like to see a Q&A with in the future?

> Great Balls of Fire: The Glass Blower // Rene Steinke, Teacher at Rainbow Glass in Sacramento, Calif.

> 7 LinkedIn Tips for Recent Grads

> The Alligator Wrestler // Tim Williams, Dean of Gator Wrestling at Gatorland in Orlando, Fla.

> King of the Jungle // Kevin Bell, CEO and President of Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Ill.

PLUS: Don’t forget to “like” the No Joe Schmo Facebook page for exclusive videos, photos, and scoops on upcoming features!

No Joe Schmo’s Monthly Roundup

I can’t believe the summer is almost over! It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting at my kitchen table, listening to the soundtrack from The Social Network, and brainstorming the beginning stages for what would soon become No Joe Schmo.

In the two months since, the site has featured 36 cool and crazy jobs and six tips & advice articles. As August comes to a close, it’s time for the monthly roundup — a look at the top-shared and top-viewed posts within the past month.

> The Roller Coaster Engineer // Jeff Pike, VP of Sales & Design at Great Coasters International

  • Breaking all previous No Joe Schmo records, this post alone attracted more than 1,000 hits! So here are some more awesome coaster photos.

> 5 Rules For Finding a Job On Twitter

> The Die-Hard Dancer (Who Keeps Meryl Streep On Her Toes) // Warren Adams, Founder of Home4Dance.com

> Foodie Friday: The Cupcake Chef // Mia Bauer, Co-Founder of Crumbs Bake Shop

Which was your favorite? Who would you like to see a Q&A with in the future? Comment below!

No Joe Schmo’s Monthly Roundup

It’s almost the end of July, which means taking a look back at the top-shared and top-viewed posts within the past month. And the winners are…

> The Filmmaker & The Film Editor

> The CollegeHumor.com Editor

> Foodie Friday: The Head Beer Brewer

> The Elvis Impersonator

Which was your favorite? Who would you like to see a Q&A with in the future? Comment below!