The History Channel's mad hatter
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A New Yorker with enough adventure cred to run Colorado’s Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS), Josh Bernstein is giving the History Channel a swift kick in its dusty demographics. As host of the archaeology-themed Digging for the Truth, Bernstein, 35, has delivered the channel its highest-rated original series (January marks the debut of season three and the release of his first book) and has done more for fedoras and antiquity thananyone since Harrison Ford. ANTHONY CERRETANI caught up with Bernstein as he rested between takes in Bolivia.
OUTSIDE: Did you really think an archaeology show could be a hit?
BERNSTEIN: The ratings don’t really matter to me, although they are nice to get. But I think it’s great that a show can teach the way DFT does and attract such a diverse audience.
What’s been your secret?
Caffeine. We film three episodes back to back in a month, take a five-day break to do narration and promotional stuff, then shoot three more. It’s like that for nine months.
So what’s with the fedora?
The hat’s been a point of discussion since the premier episode, but I’ve actually had it since 1997, so it’s not like I’m wearing a costume.
How did you go from Manhattan and Cornell to being a survival instructor and adventure host?
My biggest influence growing up was the death of my father when I was almost 15. He died in his sleep, and it set me on a path where I became interested in self-reliance and being a man of action versus a man of talk.
That eventually led you to BOSS, which is where you first dabbled in the entertainment business.
We did a number of high-profile consulting jobs—Cast Away with Tom Hanks, and I took Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu into the desert for three days and nights to teach some skills for Charlie’s Angels.
No shortage of good stories. But that was over six years ago. It feels a bit foolish to be rehashing it now.
Then what’s your most mind-blowing experience from DFT?
The most literally mind-blowing was San Pedro cactus, a hallucinogen I took on an episode about a cult in Peru. Pretty trippy.