Survivor Host Jeff Probst Talks ‘Blood vs. Water,’ Speeding Tickets and Real-Life Immunity Idols!

December 3, 2013

Jeff Probst, Survivor’s globetrotting host, has been leading tribes of contestants on the adventures of their lifetimes since the show premiered in 2000. 27 seasons later—27!—Jeff is as excited as ever about the future of the show and, of course, keeping us on the edges of our seats during the final episode of the current season, Survivor: Blood vs. Water.

First off, we hope everyone from the crew is doing OK after the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. The Philippines has been a wonderful location for you.

Thank you. Our crew is fine as we had all left the area. But emotionally, the impact has definitely been felt. We have such a kinship to the people of the Philippines. We are doing what we can to help out.

The show has been on the air for 13 years, and in many ways, you’re the ultimate survivor since you’ve been around since day one. How much longer can you keep going to these remote locations? Have you figured out what you want to explore next? 

No matter how many times I read it or hear it, it still takes me back when I consider I’ve been doing Survivor since 2000. I still love the show. Mark Burnett has given me a lot of opportunity to grow as a host and as an executive producer and that keeps me inspired. It may sound contrived but our fans are so damn loyal that as long as they want the show I want to keep doing it for them. We are beyond blessed to have a nearly 14 year run and we know it.

The travel is, at this point, the hardest part. Being on the opposite side of the world, on the other side of the time zone, for nearly four months at a time is difficult but when you weigh it against all of the positives, I’m still way ahead. Finding locations gets more difficult each year due to increased political unrest in parts of the world, the U.S. economy and just finding places that are remote enough. But we always find a way to figure it out!

As the show has gone on, some fans have noticed that you tend to stir the pot more and more when dealing with the tribes. Do you have fun adding to the stress experienced by the contestants? 

My increased involvement has been a very natural evolution over the years. The game continues to change and as a result I have become more and more involved. I love my job! I know some folks think I stir the pot too much—others wish I did it more often. I always come at it from the point of view of the audience. What question would they ask if they were here right now? That’s the question I ask. Though I sometimes ask very pointed questions, I never bring up a topic that isn’t already known and being discussed by the players. That being said, the toughest part of the job for me is snuffing the torch. I always empathize with the player being voted out. Even though I don’t show it, I always feel for them as I’m aware that their adventure is over… unless of course there’s Redemption Island!

You deal with some really harsh conditions when shooting the show… can you recommend some good shoes that’ll help me survive the urban jungle of Manhattan?

Ha! Great question! I think I learned more about good shoes doing [The Jeff Probst Show] than I did on Survivor. I now buy tennis shoes that are super comfortable. And I don’t mean a pair of white Adidas or some other “sport” tennis shoe. I’m talking the kind of tennis shoe you’d see in a coffee shop in Rome. Style. Yes, you definitely pay a bit more—but, man, if you are walking the streets of NYC you can’t scrimp on the comfort or the style! In that regard I’m grateful I’m a man because women have it so much tougher. Wearing sneakers isn’t always the most fashionable choice but wearing heels… fuhgeddaboudit!

Are you sick of the warm and humid locations yet? Any chance of a cold-weather season of Survivor? We vote for Survivor: Nunavut!

I love the heat! Much more than the cold. We have discussed colder climates but it brings with it a host of production problems with our gear and maybe the biggest issue of all—no bikinis for contestants!

This season of Survivor is “Blood vs. Water.” If your family was on the show, who would end up winning it all?

Great question. Scott, my youngest brother, would end up getting frustrated and vote himself out. My dad would annoy his tribemates by always wanting to explain a better way to build the shelter. My mom is definitely the sweetest woman you’ll ever meet but I think by day three she’d thank everybody for a wonderful time and just take off walking until she found a restaurant serving iced tea. My sister in law would make it far but would get caught trusting somebody. My wife would have a very good shot at winning but I think in the end my middle brother Brent would outlast everybody else. He’s the guy who can make anything, can run forever and never takes a single thing personally. He’d get everybody’s vote in the end.

Oh yes, as for me? My mouth would get me into trouble and I’d be out early.

Have you ever pulled out an immunity idol in real life, just to try and get out of a tough spot? You know that’ll get you out of a speeding ticket or two.

I’ve only gotten out of a speeding ticket one time in 13 years. One time! And it was because of my Survivor celebrity, which I think of as my own personal immunity idol. I was on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. I had just left Mark Burnett’s house. I pulled a U-turn and was immediately flashed the red and blue lights and told to pull over. There was no doubt I was in the wrong. He was all set to write me up and then recognized me and started talking Survivor. After a 10-minute chat, he literally said, “I’m such a fan, I’m gonna let you go on this one.” It’s the one and only time my “idol” has gotten me out of any trouble.

Be sure to catch the season finale of Survivor: Blood vs. Water, Sunday, December 15 at 8/7c on CBS.

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