RD Carson — The Rugged Dude — and I go way back. Like waaaay back…to a band we had together in the early 1990’s. I was a kid back then, still in high school, and RD (who went by a different name in those days) was the old-school mentor to the rest of us. Flash forward a couple of decades, and RD is still going strong in the entertainment biz. What he is; and why he’s here; has to do with reinvention. I had a teacher once who said, “don’t measure success by the number of things that work according to plan. Measure it by the number of total disasters you’re able to recover from.” Well, RD is the perfect model of success in this light: a guy who’s taken his lumps and come back stronger than ever at every opportunity. Stoic, honest, patient, and of course rugged, RD Carson is the kind of guy most of us wish we could be. And he knows more venison recipes than any man I know.
Name: I’m known professionally as “RD, the Rugged Dude.” My legal name: Rugged Dude Carson. Passport, driver’s licence, federal firearms licence, the whole shebang. Honestly, I had it changed in 2002 on the advice of a marketing agency in Minneapolis. They said it would be “good for the brand,” you know, all that TV crap and of course, I bought it. But, looking back I wish I hadn’t have legally changed it, just kept it as a “stage name,” as they say. I have a lot less privacy now.
Age: At this time, I am 49, although I look 29… at least that what the mirror tells me. Kind of… well, actually sometimes when I look in the mirror, I look like I’m 149.
Occupation: For the last twelve years I have been working as a television host and producer. Most of my stuff iscomedy-based and pretty “out there.” I did eight seasons (150 episodes) of “Officially Rugged with RD,” which was a fishing comedy series (stupid as hell, actually, but a decent family friendly show.) That was series was seen across Canada, the USA, and parts of Australia and New Zealand.
I just produced another comedy-based fishing called “Moccasin Trails with RD.” We currently have agreements with five or six good sized broadcasters for 2013. If all goes as planned, we’ll start peeling those episodes off this June. The show will be on the air all across North America, along with seven countries in Europe.
For the last two years I’ve been trying to get into the cooking show TV biz… all wild fish and game and again, comedy-based. I did do a show on the Food Network in 2009, as a guest on one of Bobby Flay’s shows and a couple of the director / producers down there suggested I do a pilot. So, I did… but, I’m having no luck finding an executive producer to pitch it for me. I’m doing another one in a couple months.
In fact, I have a phone conference tomorrow with a production in Ottawa who has been producing shows for the Food Network already. So, wish me luck…I think I’m going to need it. [Good luck! ~ ed.]
Relationship status: I’m single… single as hell, actually. And, I have been for quite a while and if I even get married again, it will likely be to a pick-up truck or a four-wheeler. No more chicks! I’m all “chicked out” at this point. ‘Nuff said?
How many kids do you have? I couple of grown girls, both in their twenties. Doing fine, one is working and one is in college. Neither of them turned out to be a junkie, a hooker or the mother of nine kids all from different dads. So, at least so far, we’re in god shape kid-wise. I’m really proud of them actually.
Pets: At this time I don’t have any pets, although I used to always have a lab or two in the kennel. They are the best all around dog in the world in my opinion. The best retrievers, no doubt. Since I travel off and on (and live by myself) I just can’t have a dog right now. I hate cats.
What are you driving? I couldn’t possibly live without a pick up truck, a 4 x 4. Besides, for anyone who knows anything at all about me, could they see me driving a (shudders) car? Especially a bright little red foo-foo sports car with a pair of fuzzy dice hanging on the rear view mirror? Jesus…
Gadgets: I’m not much of a gadget guy… at all. Electronic things with all those buttons freak me out and drive me absolutely nuts. What has happened to us as a society when virtually everyone is glued to their Blackberry, iPhone or whatever the others are called? I don’t get it at all. I have never sent a text message and I never will.
Stats: I am 6’4” and I weight 220, solid throbbing masses of incredible sheer power. I work out cutting, splitting and piling firewood seven days a week. I find great pleasure in going into a redneck bar and beating the living crap out of everyone in the place. Okay, I might be exaggerating slightly… I’m 5’9” and I come in at about 160 or so, depending on how many suicide wings I had the night before weigh-in.
Favourite instrument: Love, love, love pounding the daylights out of my Pearl drums. Full camo, of course. I’m not very good, but it’s kind of fun to pretend I’m Neil Peart, legendary drummer for Canadian band, Rush.
Sports: I don’t play any sports these days, not that I have since I was about 20. Hockey, of course, being a frost- bitten Canadian boy and all. I don’t really even watch sports anymore. Too busy doin’ rugged stuff! Hunting, fishing, checkin’ (rugged for “checking”) my rabbit snares and cutting firewood keeps me pretty busy these days.
How did you get started on your current career/lifestyle path?
Back in 1999, I was watching a really crappy duck hunting video with a buddy of mine and I made a smart ass comment about how I could make a better video or something like that. My buddy said “Well, why don’t you?” So, I went out and bought a second hand video camera and I produced a goose hunting video. It went over pretty well, although I couldn’t stand to sit through it now. But, it got me started and I learned a lot while working on it. A couple years later, after a chain of circumstances and tons of hard work (and starving) I began shooting the first season of Officially Rugged with RD.
Did you have any mentors who helped steer you on this path?
No, not really, to be honest. I learned about video production by doing it myself and making a lot of mistakes. After my show was on the air for a couple of years, I started networking (cool buzz word, apparently) and before I knew what was happening I was getting (and sometimes giving) advice from a few guys in the business.
How has your work contributed to a) your development as a person and/or b) the lives of others?
Being a TV guy has taught me to not trust people anymore. Sounds brutal, but anyone else who works in the field would very likely know what I mean. It just seems that every time I turn around someone is trying to carve me a new asshole. That includes business managers, accountants, lawyers and in some cases, even network executives. I don’t think my work has contributed to the lives of others apart from giving people a few laughs on the Saturday afternoon outdoors programming block.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just entering your field, what would it be?
Go for it, but be very careful who you get hooked up with and I’m not even kidding. If you’re still young enough and have a couple of years open, go to school and learn broadcast or film production. I didn’t even know what a white balance was, did or what it was for. And, that’s pretty basic stuff.
Do you have a personal work philosophy?
Concerning a career in television, or any job where you are in the public eye (even small time stuff like a fishing or cooking show) don’t think it’s a big deal. For everyone who likes you or your show, there is someone hates you or your show. And, they’ll let you know too. As far as work ethics go, learn how to operate an alarm clock. It’s not hard… just make a commitment to haul your ass out of bed in the morning and work. Try your best that way if you screw something up at least you can say you tried.
What do you do for fun?
After travelling so much over the last ten years or so, to me, fun is just being home. My own bed, my own woodstove, my own kitchen, way back in the bush away from people. Not that I’m unsociable or anything, but I like my peace and quiet when I’m home. I really don’t do a lot of “fun things” like sports, going out to clubs, movies or things like that. To me, fun is going down to my local lake with my little boat and catching a few fish for dinner. No cameras, no microphones, no worries about what comes out of my mouth. Just fishing for the sake of fishing.
What motivates or inspires you?
Having a low bank balance… being hungry and cold is another motivator. (Gotta have lots of firewood for the stove, eh?) Seriously, I just like to do good work. I don’t make nearly as much money as some people might think. Just because someone is on a show or in a rock band for example, doesn’t mean they’re loaded with cash. So, it’s not just about the money. It’s about creating something that hopefully you can be proud of and that others will like and appreciate. But, the money is definitely part of it. We all need to eat.
What has been your greatest achievement (personally, professionally or both)?
Personally, I think this past summer was a big deal for me. I sold my house, bought a huge piece of property way back in the bush, off the grid, in fact, and built a new house… almost by myself. I’m not exactly “Dan the Builder Man,” but I got through it and at least so far, it’ still standing. My elbows are still shot and my back is a little rough, but I’ll recover just as soon as I get back out fishing this summer!
Professionally, I’d say getting the very first show on the air in the US was a big achievement. I worked my ass off, nearly starved to death for two years and did something that many people said I couldn’t do. Again, not that I think producing a fishing or hunting show is really big deal, but, for me it was. My mom thought it was kinda cool…
I’d really like to get my wild fish and game cooking show on the air. I’m finding it much more involved than getting a fishing show to broadcast was. I think because cooking shows are considered more mainstream programming and the production values have to be way up there. It’s also critical to have an executive producer who is well connected, whereas in a fishing show, you can do most of that work yourself.
Who’s your hero?
I have a few… Writers, Ayn Rand, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins for their knowledge and commitment to say what they really believe without fear of backlash or repercussions. Drummer Neil Peart for his never ending desire to be better. He is one of the best drummers alive because he works very hard and is always prepared to learn. Don Cherry is also a hero of mine because again, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what anyone else thinks. He says what he really means. Very few media personalities can boast that. He pisses off a lot of people, but at least he’s honest. I’m kind of like that myself. David Suzuki is another hero of mine. If our government officials would listen to this guy for once, we wouldn’t be destroying our planet quite as quickly as we are. He is one smart little dude.
What are you reading (or watching) these days?
I normally don’t read a lot, but I have read a few of the Jack Reacher series by Lee Price lately. He’s a great mystery writer. “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens is a literary work that will make people think… hopefully. I finally read “The Old Man and the Sea” by Hemingway recently. It was a scaled down story, but cleverly done. It’s Hemmingway, so what would we expect? I’ve all but given up watching conventional TV. Even mainstream news broadcasts like CNN have become too much like tabloid news outlets. I don’t give a shit that Kim Kardashian is doing this or that. And, reality shows are nothing but crap in my opinion. They’re all the same… as long as the people on the shows know there’s a camera aimed at them, it really isn’t a reality show. It becomes a “let’s see who can act the most retarded with hopes of cashing in on their own stupidity next year.”
It was a difficult choice to put an end to the Officially Rugged series after producing it for nearly ten years. I knew I had taken it as far as I could creatively, so it was time to pull the plug. There just isn’t money in a fishing show’s budget to hire professional writers and my rugged little brain was running out of gas. You can only get locked in the outhouse or duct taped to a tree so many times before it no longer makes people laugh. I know I made the right move and I’m now looking forward to my new fishing show and with any luck, my new cooking show. It’ll be a fresh start!
If you had it all to do over again, would you change anything?
I would NEVER allow other people to sign cheques… that much I can assure you
What one piece of advice would you give to your own son (hypothetical or otherwise) in the hope of making him a better man?
Be honest to a fault and conduct yourself in a manner that will earn you the reputation that your hand shake is better than all the signatures in the world combined.
Here’s a funny bit and it just shows us how people react to so-called, “celebrities.” Back in 2002 or so, me and one of my camera dudes were in the airport in Edmonton waiting to catch a connecting flight to Yellowknife. We were wearing our fancy little Officially Rugged jackets in those days (which I stopped wearing soon after) and a couple guys from Tennessee approached me and asked me what “Officially Rugged” was all about. So, I explained it to him briefly and he immediately asked if he could get a picture and an autograph. He mentioned something about how his wife back home would be impressed when she heard about all this.
I did a little impromptu experiment using this guy as the subject. I said, “Actually, I’m just the cameraman. The ‘star of the show’ is standing over by the water fountain.” As expected, the guy dropped me like a bag a wet dog poop and went right over to my cameraman for autographs and pictures. His buddies followed suit. My poor cameraman looked like a deer in the headlights… it was hilarious (for me, at least) and I nearly pissed myself laughing. My cameraman nearly killed me afterward. This experience says something about all this so-called “celebrity” bullshit. The guy had never heard of me or the show, but as soon as he found out it was a TV show, he lit up. And, in the end, got an autograph from a cameraman.
Visit RD online at www.ruggeddude.com