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Andy Hillstrand Of 'Deadliest Catch' Plays Not My Job

Andy Hillstrand
Discovery Channel

Captain Andy Hillstrand chose to spend his life in a dark and frightening field ... that is, reality television. He captains the good ship Time Bandit on Discovery Channel's The Deadliest Catch.

We've invited Hillstrand to answer three questions about about another Deadly Catcher: Moe Berg, a Major League Baseball catcher in the '20s and '30s ... who was also an international spy.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

And now, the game where we invite interesting people on to do something that will barely hold their interest. It's called Not My Job.

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SAGAL: Captain Andy Hillstrand chose to spend his life in one of the most frightening, dark and at times repulsive fields one can be part of - reality TV.

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ANDY HILLSTRAND: Documentary TV, my friend.

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HILLSTRAND: Education TV.

SAGAL: Absolutely. I'm very educated.

HILLSTRAND: Yeah.

SAGAL: He captains the good ship The Time Bandit on the TV show "The Deadliest Catch" on the Discovery Channel. Captain Andy, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME.

HILLSTRAND: Thank you.

SAGAL: Great to have you.

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SAGAL: So let's get this straight, you're not some guy they brought up to play this role on TV. You're an actual Alaskan fishing boat captain long before anybody ever heard of you on TV, right?

HILLSTRAND: Yeah, born and raised in Homer, Alaska, and been fishing 25 years before they asked us to be on the TV show.

SAGAL: Really? Okay, so you're out there. You're catching mainly crabs, that's what you do. That's what's on the show.

HILLSTRAND: Yeah. My mother wanted so much more. Yes, I catch crabs.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know.

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HILLSTRAND: I'm the only guy that can get crabs and not get divorced.

SAGAL: That's true. There you go.

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SAGAL: So when the producers of "Deadliest Catch" or the Discovery Channel people first came to you and said we think that you guys would make a great TV show and we're going to go out there with you and film your exploits, what did you say?

HILLSTRAND: Well, we told them no.

SAGAL: Really?

HILLSTRAND: Yeah, for the first year. We weren't on the show the first season. And then halfway through it, we saw some cameras on this boat called The Maverick, so they asked me again and I said yes.

SAGAL: So you said no and then you saw them working with another boat out there. And you were like, well wait a minute. You were jealous?

HILLSTRAND: Nah, yeah.

SAGAL: No? Yes?

HILLSTRAND: It was so much better than my own home video. So, you know, we thought - they said it was going to be a documentary about the most dangerous job in the world, so we thought, okay, it'll be on TV at midnight, between how to fix the fender and neuter a cat or something.

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TOM BODETT: No, it was after the neuter a cat.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BODETT: Andy, I saw your show by accident. I was actually on an airplane and I saw you. I said, well that's Andy Hillstrand from Homer. What's he doing on TV? So I plugged in ear phones and the first thing that you're talking about is your catch. You were saying, well we got about 16 tons of this and that. And what I remember, Andy, when I'd see you around the docks in Homer, if I ever ran into you, I'd say, "Hey Andy, how's it going out there?" And you'd just saw, oh yeah, well we scratched ground. You know, we got it. So you would never say anything.

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BODETT: And here you are on national TV with tonnage. So I'm just wondering, was it just me you didn't want to tell?

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HILLSTRAND: You know, that was the hardest part about the show was telling how bad you're hurt or, you know, my hands are numb. You know, and it was like a sign of weakness. When we grew up, you never talked about how bad you hurt or, you know, how many crab you caught. You had your secret spot. For crying out loud, now they show it on TV, your fishing spot. I mean one of my fishing spots was Mr. Magoo, because this one guy looked like it. And then the thing I get the hardest time about is I fish the butt cheeks. And so then everybody goes...

SAGAL: I'm sorry, what did you say?

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HILLSTRAND: That's a place. It looks like some butt cheeks.

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SAGAL: The show has been on, you're starting your eighth season now?

HILLSTRAND: It'll be our eight season starting this October, yeah.

SAGAL: Eighth season, okay. How long did it take you to get used to the fact that there were cameras watching everything you did as you went about your life?

HILLSTRAND: Well, it's been six years for us now. And the first year, I was like "I am Captain Andy Hillstrand. I am a crab fisherman."

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SAGAL: Yes.

HILLSTRAND: And they got this camera right in your face. Then your mother sees you on TV, "I wish you wouldn't cuss so much."

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HILLSTRAND: You know, and you're a role model and all that kind of stuff. So about until just two years ago, we just said, ah, lets just be who we are. And you know, you try to be who you are, but now you just try not to cuss as much because you're mom's watching the show.

SAGAL: Really?

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HILLSTRAND: It doesn't work out too good for us a lot of times, especially with a brother like mine that always tells me what to do.

SAGAL: Yeah, you have family members on the boat. Your brother's on the boat.

HILLSTRAND: Yeah.

SAGAL: You guys go out. Did you not once break a guitar over his head?

HILLSTRAND: No, I did not break a guitar over my brother's head. It was another boat called The Wizard. And the guy tried to punch me in the face and the guitar punched him back.

SAGAL: Really?

HILLSTRAND: That's all I'm going to say about that. Yeah.

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PAULA POUNDSTONE: Why? What could possibly have been the disagreement?

BODETT: He must have been a bad guitarist.

POUNDSTONE: Aren't you catching crabs?

HILLSTRAND: Well, we were at the bar that night. But I sang a couple of songs that I wrote. So I guess I didn't sing that good.

SAGAL: Wait a minute.

POUNDSTONE: You thought it was a sign of weakness to say that you can't feel your hands, but you go into a bar and sing about catching crabs?

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BODETT: You did that to start the fight you go in, right? Because that's how crabbers relax, as I understand it.

HILLSTRAND: Yeah. Well, you know, then my brother, he goes, well darn it, that's on my bucket list now, to break a guitar over somebody's head. The release you get from that is amazing. I just have to tell you.

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HILLSTRAND: Anybody who says they don't want to break a guitar over somebody is lying.

ADAM FELBER: Not a real guitarist.

HILLSTRAND: Just not a real guitarist, yeah.

SAGAL: One thing we've been thinking about is like it's called "The Deadliest Catch," and it's all about the incredible dangers endured by you guys, the fishermen, out there on the bay, in the middle of winter trying to catch these things, these crabs. But one thing nobody ever thinks about is like you're doing that and there are these guys trying to film you doing this, right?

HILLSTRAND: Yeah, the cameramen are like having a one-eyed crabber on the boat, because they have this view finder up to their head and they're wandering around in the most dangerous part of the boat, trying to get the best shots. Usually with our greenhorns we'll put them up in the bait station to keep them safe and stuff like that. And then we get sadistic and we'll, like, have open hatches and we'll kind of "hey, look at that other there."

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HILLSTRAND: And then they fall in the hatch and we pull it...

BODETT: Can't beat that Alaska sense of humor.

SAGAL: Yes.

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HILLSTRAND: Your pain is our pleasure.

SAGAL: Yeah. One last question, is there anything exciting coming up on "Deadliest Catch"? Are you going to change your ways in any way, or are you going to just go out there and keep...

HILLSTRAND: We just try to keep being who we are. We're known as pranksters and this year we gave Sig like 100 Chinese lanterns in the air, and he thought it was a UFO.

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SAGAL: Slow down, what did you do?

HILLSTRAND: We snuck up on Sig with all of our lights off and we lit 100 Chinese lanterns.

SAGAL: Yeah.

HILLSTRAND: And so we got them up in the air and he thought it was a UFO or a boat going to hit him.

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SAGAL: Wow.

HILLSTRAND: You know, we're always doing - but then the things that they don't see if that he put a 55-gallon drum of blue food dye in our water. So my brother turned blue like Papa Smurf.

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FELBER: And we don't see that?

HILLSTRAND: No, you don't see that one. No.

SAGAL: Has it brought people up to where you live in Homer and the bay to go fishing who don't belong there, because it seems so exciting. I can do this.

HILLSTRAND: Yeah, you know, one of the best ones is I had a 65-year-old guy come up to me and say "so what are my chances, what are my odds"? And he's like 5'2". I said you have more chances of getting in the NBA than getting on this boat right here.

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HILLSTRAND: So you're saying I have a chance, he said.

SAGAL: There you go.

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HILLSTRAND: So we just told him if that's your dream, do it, but it's a way of life for us and not just a TV show.

SAGAL: Well there you are. Well, Captain Andy, we are glad to have you with us. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL, Host:

The deadliest catcher.

HILLSTRAND: Oh god.

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SAGAL: So Moe Berg was a Major League Baseball player in the 1920s and 30s, but he also was an international spy. We're going to ask you three questions about the life and times of catcher Moe Berg. If you get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home voicemail or answering machine. Carl, who is Captain Andy Hillstrand playing for?

KASELL: He is playing for Jane Atkinson and Doug Tolly of Fairbanks.

SAGAL: There you are.

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HILLSTRAND: Let me say I'm sorry right now, because I have never heard of Moe.

SAGAL: You've never heard of Moe Berg?

HILLSTRAND: Never heard of Moe Berg.

SAGAL: Yeah.

HILLSTRAND: I've heard of iceberg but...

SAGAL: All right, this is Moe Berg. Yeah, very good. I can see the kind of sense of humor that you hone working with the same guys on a boat.

HILLSTRAND: Oh yeah, close quarters.

SAGAL: Close quarters with your brothers.

HILLSTRAND: Yes.

SAGAL: All right, first question. Moe Berg grew up at a time when Jewish kids were not particular welcome in baseball. So when he joined his school baseball team as a young boy, he played under what fake name? A: Christopher Christian?

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SAGAL: B: Runt Wolfe? Or C: Smith Jones?

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HILLSTRAND: Oh my lord. I'm going to have to go with Runt Rolfe I guess.

SAGAL: You're right. He played under the name Runt Wolfe.

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HILLSTRAND: Yeah.

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SAGAL: Somehow thought that name would be unobtrusive. I don't know.

HILLSTRAND: It's just a unique name, you know.

SAGAL: It is.

HILLSTRAND: Everybody would guess Christian. So, you know, you don't want to go with that one.

SAGAL: So the next question, Moe Berg was highly educated, went to Princeton, could speak ten languages fluently, which caused one of his more typical teammates to say what? A: you mean there's more than one?

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SAGAL: B: I don't think that's Italian. I think he's just drunk? Or C: yeah, and he can't hit in any of them?

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HILLSTRAND: Oh lord. I'm going to have to go with C, he can't hit in any of them.

SAGAL: That's absolutely right. That's what was said.

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SAGAL: Moe Berg was a pretty good defensive catcher, but couldn't hit worth a lick. All right, Berg had an amazing life. He played professional baseball. He traveled the world. But then he became a spy for, of course, the CIA. He parachuted behind enemy lines during World War II. And many urged him later on to write a memoir, but he backed out of the project at the last minute. Why? A: he insisted on using the title "The Greatest Baseball Player in History"?

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SAGAL: B: his ghost writer mistook him for Moe from the Three Stooges?

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SAGAL: Or C: he wanted to write it in Sanskrit, in which he was fluent?

HILLSTRAND: Oh my lord. What was the first one?

SAGAL: The first on was he insisted on using the title, "The Greatest Baseball Player in History."

HILLSTRAND: I'm going to have to go with that one.

SAGAL: Yeah, you like that? You're smiling.

HILLSTRAND: Yeah, I like that.

SAGAL: You're like you'd do that, wouldn't you?

HILLSTRAND: Yes.

SAGAL: I know.

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HILLSTRAND: The greatest crabber in history, yes.

SAGAL: I like it. No, the answer was B. His ghost writer mistook him for Moe from the Three Stooges.

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SAGAL: Apparently the ghost writer said, "So, we're going to be talking about your time with Larry and Curly." And Moe Berg was so upset that he absolutely walked away. And he spent his last decades living with his sister and being crabby. So there you are.

HILLSTRAND: There you go.

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SAGAL: Carl, how did Captain Andy do on our quiz?

KASELL: Well, Captain Andy had two correct answers, Peter, and that's good enough to win for Jane Atkinson and Doug Tolly.

SAGAL: Well done.

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SAGAL: Andy Hillstrand commands the crab boat Time Bandit. You can see his adventures out in the Bay of Alaska in "The Deadliest Catch" on the Discovery Channel. Captain Andy, thank you so much.

HILLSTRAND: Thank you, thank you.

SAGAL: For being with us.

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