Exclusive: Discovery’s Hard to Kill Tim Kennedy talks jobs that test human limits

Some people are drawn to the danger and the thrill of a task which on paper, seems Herculean. These men and women – who don’t want any part of a normal 9-to-5 career – are the focus of Discovery’s new series Hard to Kill starring Green Beret turned MMA champion, Tim Kennedy.

Think a badass twist on Mike Rowe’s iconic series Dirty Jobs as Discovery’s Tim Kennedy embarks with a range of super achievers in their mission and tasks.

Kennedy is no slouch in the capabilities department. He is fit, active, army Ranger qualified, and a Green Beret and Special Forces sniper who enthusiastically puts us all in the catbird seat with him as he learns on the fly.

The premiere will grab you in the solar plexus as Kennedy “Top Guns” with the nation’s elite pilots and tests the limits of his own mind and body, as we see first-hand how incredibly hard it is to be able to fly fighter jets, complete the training required and withstand up to 9+ G-forces as the human body is pushed to the limits.

Kennedy is an entertaining and affable guide as Discovery’s newest host hero who gives us all an appreciation for what these unseen but very important people do all in a day’s work.

We spoke with Kennedy about his series.

Tim Kennedy
Kennedy heads to all points on the globe to try jobs most people would run away from

Monsters and Critics: We watched the premiere. Tim, six Gs? Are you serious? Six Gs they got you up to?

Tim Kennedy: Yes!

M&C: Talk about Elliott and how that whole episode began and how you bonded as he took you through the steps of being a test pilot.

Tim: Well, I don’t know if you can actually say I really completed any steps because if he ever just gave me the stick, I would have crashed the plane and broken every bone in my body and probably been burnt alive.

One, Elliott is amazing. He has the maverick, dare-devil, trickster balls of Evil Knievel, but then he has, I don’t know, the Neil Armstrong intelligence and capability of a pilot. Then he has the fine motor skills of … I couldn’t even pick a sport in the Olympics that’s so precise, like a neurosurgeon.

It’s all in one body and then in the backseat is this hairy-handed, essentially an idiot fighter that is a couple of generations removed from a tree. The bonding might have been him just trying to make sure I didn’t kill us both.

M&C: He was really impressed. I could tell. He was impressed and so was I, and being that you were a complete novice, you did okay.

Tim: The only things I did okay at were not being able to get out of a plane that was on fire, so that was good, and counting the horizons and not throwing up. If that’s an accomplishment, then I concur, April, I did okay.

M&C: You got to Vance in Oklahoma and those guys. Now, you’re a big guy. You’re very accomplished. You’ve done a lot, not only in the military but in your MMA career. You’re fit, but how did you feel around those guys that go to nine-plus Gs…Talk about that.

Tim: I mean, [laughing] let’s just keep talking about things that are humiliating, so this is just another one. I agree. I think I’m kind of a badass and I sure wasn’t there and it’s just humiliating because they’re better at everything in degrees that I can’t even comprehend.

I could scratch the surface of what the job is, but the things that they could do while they’re flying a few hundred miles an hour plummeting to the earth from 20,000 and 10,000 feet at nine Gs and I’m just trying not to let any fluid leak out of any of the orifices in my body, and they’re flying a fricken plane and chatting me up. It’s ridiculous.

M&C: The Top Gun guys at Vance…Was there any kind of good-natured ribbing, the fact that you were Army and they were Air Force?

Tim: Absolutely. Yeah, they look at my hairy hands and my Cro-Magnan Man forehead. I’m essentially a neanderthal and they look at me and they’re like, “Clearly, this is why we fly planes and you go on the ground and they call you ‘grunts.'” I was like, “Yeah.” It’s true, though. You let me fly this plane, both of us will die. While they’re making jokes, I’m being serious. I’m like, “No, seriously. Don’t let me fly this plane. We will die.”

M&C: Yeah. Indeed, but just reading your Wikipedia page is like, “What?” It’s like there’s so much. It’s the most jam-packed accomplishments Wikipedia page I’ve ever seen in my life, the things you’ve done. It’s mind-boggling.

Tim: I should have been an architect. My knees would be way better.

M&C: I was just amazed, though, at the fact that you did not pass out in the premiere episode. A friend of mine’s uncle was Chuck Yeager. He regaled us with stories about his experience and here you were, a complete novice, and you did amazingly well. What else can we look forward to?

Tim Kennedy
Kennedy was taken to Top Gun school at Vance in Oklahoma and he did amazingly well

Tim: I think what we have to look forward to the most … I’ll tell you about a couple episodes, but it’s about the people. These men and women that do these jobs, nobody knows about ’em. Nobody appreciates them. You get on a plane and you want your beverage service and your peanuts, but just like you said, Chuck Yeager.

I mean, that guy and every one of his friends, except for a few, died flying planes. Chuck Yeager. One in five pilots at that time were dying testing airplanes and the ones that survived, guys like Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong, became timeless, famous heroes. It’s because everybody else died.

There are hundreds of jobs and thousands of people that do these jobs that just people don’t know about. I mean, they’re just so amazing. They’re just incredible human beings and I was humbled and almost embarrassed every day to be around ’em because they were so extraordinary.

M&C: Was there a particular profession or task that you really, in retrospect, would say, “I’d never do again,” or, “I can’t even believe that people can do that”? I mean, is there one that stands out that you can mention?

Tim: Commercial fishing and bullfighting would be pretty high on that list. The first day that we went out on a boat, every single person holding every piece of camera equipment was throwing up on each other and everything around them within 10 feet.

That’s before we even left the harbor and we were about to go out for 12 hours. It was, as the captain said, the best day of weather. He was like, “Man, you men got super lucky. Look at this sea. It’s perfectly flat,” as the dude next to me’s hurling vomit all over into the wind and into everybody’s faces.

It’s not one thing that sets them off. It wasn’t just the motion of the ocean. It was the crew hands having chewing tobacco, pouring yourself a cup of coffee and sitting there for two weeks, smelling the food from the galley while the diesel is coming out of the exhaust while the fish are cooking on the deck. It’s all of it, all at once, with no sleep. It’s so hard, so amazing.

We went to some freezing water near the Arctic and we went to some really warm water down in Florida and we went to some really rough seas in the northeast. I think we kind of checked every block to demonstrate the vast difference of commercial fishing.

M&C: How many episodes are in this series?

Tim: Season one is six episodes. We have 25 jobs that we wanted to do for season one and it was just … It’s going to be amazing. I’m excited.

M&C: Absolutely. It’s an adrenaline rush. I know that you’re a dad…

Tim: Yes, I have two daughters and a little toddler son.

M&C: Giving them career advice and given what your background is, how would you steer them?

Tim: I want them to be accountants or basket-weavers.

M&C: Were there any of these extreme careers where women shined more?

Tim:  She didn’t make one of the edits in that first episode, but one of the pilots that was the instructor at Vance in Oklahoma, she was this breathtakingly gorgeous [woman]… I think she was a colonel or a light colonel. She’s a six-foot brunette pilot that’s one of the lead instructors at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma and she was flying the other plane that we were flying with.

She was flying circles around us. I obviously was trying not to throw up or poop myself. She was inverted. She was upside-down while we were doing those same turns the whole time, so she was doing the same turn that we were, talking to me, filming me, while she was inverted doing a six-G turn, so I hate her because she’s better at everything.

M&C: Your sense of humor is in this series. It isn’t all like, “This is a tough job. Look at me. I’m doing …” It’s like your humanity and your humor really gives flavor to this. You’re going to be going out on a boat, commercial fishing, and then…

Tim: Bullfighters. Oh, that’s a tough job. Let me tell you about another job I don’t want to do. A bull is 2,000 pounds and for about 100 years, you just had the bull rider. But then, the bulls kept on getting bigger and meaner and you know the rodeo clown would go and make jokes?

Then sometimes if they bull rider got in trouble, he’d come and help, but now, they have professional bullfighters whose only job are to make sure that this super mean, 2,000-pound bull that wants to pound into oblivion the tick that’s on its back, AKA the bull rider, their only job is like they’re the Secret Service of the bull rider. They’re going to jump in front of a bullet, but the bullet is running at 200 miles an hour and weighs 2,000 pounds and has an ego and anger problem.

M&C:  You’re not killing the bull, right?

Tim: No, no. That’s European bullfighting. The bullfighter of the United States, of the American rodeo, are really humane. They love the animals. I mean, if you’re going to find a conservationist about the industry, look to those cowboys because they love these animals.

They know them by name. They know the twitch of their muscles, knowing if they’re in a bad mood, a good mood, and the bullfighter, his only job is to distract the bull so the cowboy, the bull rider, can get away and not die.

M&C: Will you to be doing any more MMA fighting or have you kind of backed away from that and kind of hung up your UFC gear?

Tim: Actually, as I’m talking to you, I’m wearing short shorts covered in sweat because I just walked out of a grappling practice. I love martial arts. I’m going to do it ’til the day I die.

Clearly, I’m still in the military. I’m still training. I’m still a competitor as a fighter, so I will do all of those things until, ultimately … when I get to heaven or hell, I’m not sure which, I want the person that’s either manning with the fork or holding the gate to look at me and be like, “Holy crap, man. You lived life.”

Hard to Kill airs Friday (beginning July 31) at 10 PM on Discovery Channel.

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