Richard Hammond Works a ‘Crash Course’

Richard Hammond takes on unusual and dangerous jobs on BBC America's "Crash Course."

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

Be honest. You wish you had Richard Hammond’s job. If you don’t, you should probably quit reading and hand in your Man Card because there’s a distinct lack of blood in your veins and weight in your trousers.

He spends his time as co-host of the BBC’s “Top Gear” traveling the world and driving the hottest, most exclusive cars on the planet. When he’s not doing that, Hammond gets a shot at everyday adventures tackling different jobs on his BBC America hit, “Crash Course.”

On every episode, Hammond has only a few days to master complicated professions. He’s worked the big machines of a landfill site. He’s hustled to become tank pilot with the U.S. military. And he’s set himself aflame as a Hollywood stuntman.

To promote the new, ongoing season of “Crash Course,” Hammond parked it for a press conference discussing his ongoing experiences doing a proper job.

The show’s first season took Hammond’s “Top Gear” gig and translated that to driving new mega-vehicles. But this campaign opens up the experiences to cab driving and stand up comedy.

“It was great because we really threw the whole brief wide open by getting me out of the cab of vehicles and saying, ‘Let’s take on largely iconic American jobs,’” Hammond said. “So yes there was a lot of fear, a lot of embarrassment. I am British after all, so I made a fool of myself and felt suitably embarrassed a lot of the times.”

“I’m just watching an early cut of one where I’m an American bullfighter and I was terrified watching it again because there is a moment when the bull and I had very nearly a nasty coming together.”

To find the sort of jobs that might put Hammond in that kind of dramatic danger, producers looked around for jobs that seemed typically American.

“So I was a cattle rancher,” Hammond said. “So it’s going to be funny. It’s going to take me right out of my comfort zone, and that’s important – because if I just sashay in and can do the job easy, that’s not entertaining.”

“And the production team had to make me uncomfortable, so we had a lot of conversations saying, ‘What aren’t you very good at, Richard?‘ My biggest, biggest fear – and I didn’t even confess this when we were in the early planning stages – my biggest fear is doing stand-up comedy. I’m a TV host, I’m in control. I know the words. I know where the cameras are. I can do that job. I’ve done it for 24 years. To be a stand-up comic, that’s kind of taking what I do but twisting it where you can’t go out armed with a subject. You can’t go out armed with a other people. It’s just you. You’re standing there saying I shall now be funny and entertain you.”

“I didn’t suggest that. They did. And the moment they suggested it from my huge silence they knew they’d got me and I knew I had no choice. I was doomed. I was going to find myself on a stage. And I truly did find myself onstage doing stand-up — which was tremendously exhilarating as a result.”

Through all of his travels and temporary jobs, Hammond stressed that it was the people – the working men and women who really do the tasks every day – that made shooting the show special for him.

“Every single job I did the one thing that shines through – all the people I met doing their jobs were great. They were each and every one of them a fascinating individual taking on a job that was sometimes challenging or unique and difficult.”

“I’d love to have more time at all of them, but obviously the measure of the program is that I only have a maximum of five days to master these jobs. In each one there were moments when I thought, ‘Yes, I’ve got this,’ and then moments when I thought I really haven’t. It’s got me.”

“I’d love to revisit them all, but I think that is what we’ll do in the future. I very much hope people enjoy watching me in my dopey British way trying to master them. It was great fun.”