A Chat with Billy the Exterminator

When it comes to the A&E reality series known as “Billy the Exterminator,” there seems to be no middle ground: either you’ve never heard of it, you’ve heard of it but can’t watch it because you’re too squeamish, or you’re absolutely addicted to it. I was in the first camp, but after receiving review copies of the first two seasons of the series on DVD (both of which hit stores on Dec. 21), my wife immediately fell in love with Billy Bretherton and his family-filled pest-control operation and demanded that I watch the show with her.

So I did…and now I’m addicted, too.

Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to chat with Billy in conjunction with these DVD releases, but when I first called him at Vexcon headquarters, I was told that he wasn’t in the office. It was never formally confirmed whether or not the reason for his absence was confusion over time zones – I’m in eastern, he’s in central – or the fact that he was battling a bit of a sore throat, but whatever the case, I was told to call him on his cell phone. After listening to his hold music (John Lennon’s “Imagine,” if you were wondering) for a few seconds, Billy picked up and the interview began.

Join us now for…

Bullz-Eye: I understand you’ve got a little bit of laryngitis working on you.

Billy the Exterminator: (Laughs) Yessir, a little bit.

BE: Well, I’m battling a sore throat myself, so you may consider me sympathetic.

BtE: Well, thank you!

BE: I’ve got to tell you that I’ve only just discovered the show, thanks to these DVD sets of Seasons 1 and 2, but my wife and I are now both officially addicted to it.

BtE: Oh, well, cool! I appreciate that, man! I appreciate all the support I get.

BE: Hey, no problem. What’s funny is that I’m a TV critic, but somehow I missed out of the show, so when we got the DVD sets, my wife put on Disc 1 of Season 1 just on a whim, really. But it’s hard to stop watching!

BtE: Cool! I appreciate the compliment, thank you!

BE: So your show was a long time coming, wasn’t it? I mean, they first filmed you for “Dirty Jobs” in 2004, correct?

BtE: Yessir, that’s when we went international…or the United States, at least. (Laughs) But we’d been filmed for the local news since about ’96.

BE: How did that come about? Did the news approach you?

BtE: No, sir, basically…we live in a small town: Benton, Louisiana. There’s about 2,000 people here. In northwest Louisiana, there’s 72 companies, and we just called them all and told them to send us their undesirable work that they won’t do. Of course, that draws media attention, newspapers and magazines. They would upload the information on the internet, and some producers found the footage, fell in love with the family, and the rest is history.

BE: So how did you get involved in pest control in the first place? Did the company exist before you got involved with it?

BtE: No, sir, I went into the Air Force to be a cop, but the ASVAB test determined that my natural aptitude was in biology. So they put me in the field of entomology, and since I was trained in that, that’s the work I’ve been doing for the last 23 years. When my dad retired, we were living in New Jersey. He invested his retirement money into me and Ricky, and we opened up a pest control company in Louisiana. And, once again, the rest is history. (Laughs)

BE: When you left the military, did you ever consider the possibility that you might return to it someday, or were you pretty sure that that was the end of it for you?

BtE: No, I did well in the military and learned a lot of stuff, but I’m just not a…I’m too free of a spirit. I don’t do well in classrooms or anything that’s organized like that. It’s just not my cup of tea. I did very bad in school. It was the worst learning environment for me, because I’m a very social thinker. A lot of people are kind of inward micro-thinkers. They think about themselves and their viewpoint of the world always stems from themselves as the primary. I never really thought like that, so I was always tripped out in large crowds. Like, I don’t like going to ballgames and stuff, because I always feel like, “If a riot broke out, I’m trapped!” I’ve always had those kinds of thoughts. And, of course, now with me being famous, it’s tough sometimes. I’ll pull in for gas, and I’ll get mobbed and I can’t get out. It can be taxing. But I’m always patient. I never yell. But I get yelled at constantly for my time, because I’m late all the time during the day. Everyone gets down on me about it.

BE: Even with the face time on the local news, you must’ve been pretty excited when you got the national exposure through “Dirty Jobs.”

BtE: Oh, yessir, that was the launching pad. Our debut hit 1.72, so I figured we were in good standing. Also, the show had spiked when…we were on 20 minutes into it, and it was running at about .8 or .9 in the ratings, and then it spiked to a 1.72 as soon as we came on. I think that freaky thing that happened there was that the pest control industry tuned in and just shot that rating up. (Laughs)

BE: So what was Mike Rowe like?

BtE: Mike Rowe’s really cool. Discovery Channel had a bunch of jobs that had one thing in common – they were all kind of dirty jobs – and Mike Rowe was doing voiceover work, but he volunteered to go ahead and interview some of these companies. And during what turned into Season 1 of “Dirty Jobs,” they were going to find a company out of the ones he interviewed, and make a reality show out of one of them. Well, people liked him so much that they kept the show, and Mike’s been doing it ever since. He’s the same guy on and off camera, and the cool thing about him is that he didn’t want to be on TV. He was just trying to help out the network, and he got famous kind of accidentally…and that’s exactly what happened to me! (Laughs)

BE: Before you ended up on camera, were you already wearing some approximation of the uniform that we see on the show?

BtE: Yessir. I was born in 1968, and I’ve been following heavy metal my whole life, from Black Sabbath to HIM. I know it all and I’ve heard it all.

BE: So you were always wearing that general attire, then?

BtE: Yes, I was. Actually, Mom forced me to get a haircut for “Dirty Jobs.” So that real short hair where everybody’s, like, “Oh, Billy, you sold out, you used to have short hair,” uh, no, my mom made me cut it. (Laughs) And Mom didn’t want me wearing our normal uniforms, either. She wanted me to dress real nice: khaki pants, polo shirt. I told her I’d cut my hair, and that was it. (Laughs)

BE: The show’s obviously a family affair, with your mom, your dad, and your brother, but the family dynamic has changed a bit. Was that jut the result of Pam and Mary not wanting to appear on camera, or was it just normal family drama?

BtE: Oh, it was a lot of different things. You know, everything gets amped up when it’s on TV. People see it, they talk about it every day, and…like, it drives my brother crazy. He doesn’t like talking about Pam. And Mary’s extremely uncomfortable on camera. Producers tend to manipulate situations for entertainment value, and that upsets a lot of the family from time to time. Season 3 they didn’t manipulate too much, and it seems to be getting better. I’m a very good candidate for television. I’ve got thick skin, I’ll believe in my philosophies ‘til my dying breath. I know who I am, and comments and negative energy…? I just surf right through it.

BE: So do you think the show’s found a pretty good groove at this point, then?

BtE: I think the show has gotten into kind of a groove, but I’ve got plans for amping it up even more and bringing new stuff, so we’ll see in the future what’ll go down. I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to be pretty impressed.

BE: I’ve seen you go up against some intimidating stuff. What assignments have been the most disconcerting for you?

BtE: Maybe the last few shows in Season 3. They’re probably good examples. We had an 8-foot alligator that we had to pull out of four feet of water in a binding area. Me and three other guys got in there, we’re trying to pull the gator out, and he bit two of the four of us, but we finally got him up on land. And then we had to pull a 10-foot alligator out of a culvert that had a 2-foot diameter. I had crawled in there a little bit, threw a lasso over its head, and drug it out…and it was close to 500 pounds and fighting like a wild animal would.

BE: What’s the worst kind of bug for you to deal with?

BtE: I guess I hate cockroaches the most. And fire ants. Cockroaches and fire ants I just can’t stand.

BE: What about small animals?

BtE: Well, rats are probably the worst there. They chew wire, they defecate and urinate everywhere, they’ve got over 33 diseases. They’re just…terrible little things. I mean, I’m firmly of the belief that those are curses and plagues, not parts of the natural order that we should love. I’ll never love a rat, and I’ll never love a cockroach.

BE: What’s the most unique challenge you’ve had?

BtE: Well, as I go around, the last 23 years, I’ve been in meat processing plants, rail yards, hospitals, Masonic lodges, millionaire homes. I’ve seen things, I know things. I was stationed out near Area 51. Because I get into every situation, I think I have a very good view of the world and a perspective that most people don’t know or see. And my opinion is that most of the world has no idea what the reality is. I think that we’re all kind of in dreamland. But maybe one day we’ll wake up.

BE: This is kind of a left-field question, but what are your thoughts on monster films that focus on, like, giant bugs or giant rats? Given that you deal with them all day long for real, are there any that you have a soft spot for, just because they’re so ridiculous?

BtE: Well, you know, I have a soft spot for Mother Nature, and I try my best to…I do my job to be as respectful to her as I possibly can, but…no, I don’t really favor any animal over the other. I guess I really like European hornets, though. I think they’re pretty bad.

BE: (Laughs) Well, actually, I was talking about monster movies.

BtE: Oh! (Laughs) Okay, I gotcha now. You’re talking about, like, that tarantula movie and all that stuff. I mean, that stuff doesn’t scare me. That’s just not scary at all, so it’s hard to take it seriously.

BE: Right, but I was wondering if you’d maybe seen anything that just made you laugh out loud because it was so ridiculous.

BtE: (Long pause) No, I’m sorry, man, I can’t come up with anything off the top of my head. Sorry!

BE: No, it’s cool. I’m a geek about that stuff, so I was just curious. Like, I love “Alligator,” with the giant alligator in the sewer, and then you’ve got “Food of the Gods,” with its giant rats.

BtE: Oh, okay. I mean, I’m deeply disturbed by the alien vampire movies. (Laughs)

BE: I will accept that. Do you watch any reality TV?

BtE: No, sir, I don’t watch hardly any TV. I’m mostly an avid reader. I read philosophy, history…anything that’s non-fiction.

BE: Do you find some people are surprised at how intellectual you are? Because…and I’m absolutely not trying to be rude when I say this…I don’t think a lot of people necessarily think in terms of an exterminator as being a high-intellect profession.

BtE: No, no, absolutely, I get it. But, I mean, I own my own business, I’m on TV, and I’ve had…just this past summer, I was helping out a guy and this homeowner looks at me and says, “Aren’t you a little bit old for this? What is this? Like, your summer job or something?” And I said, “No, it’s my entire career, and I’m internationally famous for it.” He just rolled his eyes and walked off. (Laughs)

BE: Who’s the most surprising person that you’ve heard was a fan of your show?

BtE: I’d have to say Lilith.

BE: Uh, okay.

BtE: (Laughs) Do you know who Lilith is?

BE: Not unless you’re talking about Lilith from “Cheers.” (Laughs)

BtE: Lilith was…well, in Jewish text, she was Adam’s first wife, but…uh, this is going to sound pretty crazy… (Laughs) …but there’s this woman who watches the show, she’s got glowing eyes, and she claims that she’s…well, she likes to call herself Lilith.

BE: Fair enough. Lastly, I have a very serious question that many viewers have been dying to know: are your sunglasses prescription?

BtE: (Laughs) No. They’ve got hot lights on me constantly, and I just can’t look into the lights. It drives me insane. I started wearing sunglasses, but they said, “No, you can’t do that, because you can see the reflection of the camera.” I said, “If I can get a pair that doesn’t reflect, can I wear them?” They said, “Sure.” So I slimmed up a pair of safety glasses and, using a grinder, I shaved them down…and they couldn’t see any reflection. So that’s why they allowed me to wear them. (Laughs)

BE: All right, man, I think that’s it…well, except that one of my friends wanted me to thank you for keeping the mullet alive. And I’m pretty sure they were serious.

BtE: (Laughs) In that case, tell them they’re welcome.

BE: Good talking to you, Billy.

BtE: Thanks, man. You, too!

  

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31 responses to “A Chat with Billy the Exterminator”

  • brooklyn says:

    Hi Billy I see your show every time it comes on.I live in Tennesse with my sister trinity and my cousin whitney.Please call me my phone number is 968-4963 and if I do not answer the house phone call the cell phone 614-0288.thankyou please tell your family i said hi this is my address 951wilson road horon tennesse 38345yourfriend brooklyn

  • shane fowler says:

    hey did yall take the show off of tv

  • Altino Neto says:

    Hi Billy and vexcon!
    Congratulations for very good work, i´m your fan number one in Brasil.
    i work with pest control in Cuiabá-MT, Brasil.
    Exterminator rock´n´roll!!
    Good bye man!

  • elizabeth says:

    i think youer show is awsowm and i wach it every mineit

  • elizabeth says:

    hi billy and the family im asking you have you took off the show you can anwsore that qusterionby calling at 913-602-5168 thank you by for now.

  • Abbey says:

    What was the most craziest job U have been on?

  • Abbey Shanks says:

    Hey Billy its Abbey remember me u met my crazy friend at the World Of Wheels. I couldn’t make it there we had car trouble.I sent u a letter did u get it? I just turned 11 on June 15 :). Ur BIGGEST fan Abbey Shanks :)

  • Anonymous says:

    i love billy i want to see him but we dont have any pest:(

  • Anonymous says:

    billy my number is 816 536 5686 please call please please:) please

  • Anonymous says:

    billy how many jobs have u done???

  • ej nolte says:

    billey you rock i like your show alot and you helpe the anmals and the life

  • Chaz says:

    Hey Billy and family really wanna say love the show and have much respect for u to the point that I have rescued many animals but in need to know were to the really boxy sun glasses

  • amy henry says:

    billy i hope u dont do drugs i hope u dont do what your brother dose drugs are very stupid

  • sharon albritton says:

    billy i need ur help really bad i live alone and have squirrels in my attic and i really need help getting them out .my # is 912-339-2680 please call me .please i watch ur show all the time .they are building nest up there all the time and i need them out

  • helen finley says:

    Hey billy wuz up I sent u a email. so how it life treatin u

  • grace says:

    Hi my name is Grace Marie sterling. I watch yours show on

  • StaceyH says:

    Just wanted to say I love your show, one of my favorite reality shows. All of you rock, keep up the awesome job! :)

  • D.J.Barrera says:

    Hey Billy, I am such a huge fan of your show! Also, make sure to tell Ricky, Donnie, and Big Bill I said hi.

  • D.J.Barrera says:

    Also, if I need an extermination done, you will be the first one I will call.

  • della says:

    CI love your show so does my 2yr old son I live in ontario canada omg just love seeing what yous do its awesome would love if I could give my mailing address and get a singed pic of yous all for me and my son watch you all the time one of your biggest fan

  • Michaela-P. says:

    I love you and your family!! If only you could please just get on facebook, twitter, and ask for more show time because it seems as if the show is GONE!! AND WE ALL KNOW THAT WOULD BE BAD!!!!!! And please let them put more videos on YouTube.

    Love You!!!!!

  • D.J.Barrera says:

    Hey Billy, it’s me again. I might need an extermination done. Because we saw a wasp in the kitchen light yesterday=( But gladly it flew out of the door today. But we know how it got in, yeah! But sadly, another one got in one of the house cracks. YIKES! And I think that the hive might be in the ceiling. Well, I got 2 go so I can finish my hot coco. Make sure 2 tell ur family I said hi. And make sure 2 tell Ricky that if he helps u take care of these wasps, then 2 b extra careful because u know Donnie will beat the u know wat out of him. And u b careful 2.

    Sincerly, ur #1 fan, D.J.

  • Destiny says:

    Hi billy just wanted to say you all rock and when you have time please call me at (850)497-9660.

  • jennifer says:

    Hey Billy did you and Mary get divorced? cause i heard people saying that you. Hope all is well give my favorite person a hug which is your mom Donnie. Text me some time.870-403-1956

  • D.J.Barrera says:

    Hey, can anybody tell me wat Billy’s email address so we can chat by email? Oh and Billy, if ur reading this, then PLEASE tell me wat it is so I can email u. Well I hope that I will get 2 meet u in person. I really want 2 meet u. Oh well, BYE!

  • samantha says:

    i watch your show and my trees are infested and in our porch are bees i need them out i have a dog and a baby sister call at 649-5666 st.joseph illinois zip is 61873 call for an adress

  • jalen says:

    billy i am going to panama city june 16-24, i was wondering that if i could meet you in person i watch your shows all the time i naever missed one my mom,dad,sister,brother all have t shirts they love the crew ricky,bill,donnie,and of course you

  • D.J.Barrera says:

    Hey I might need u 2 come over because my grandfather thinks he heard a rat in my parents bedroom 2 days ago. See, my mom, dad, and young brother is in Mexico because my dad came here illegally but me(11 years old), my mom(40 years old), and my younger brother(6 years old) are american citizens. Luckly he will b able 2 come back next week.:)

  • Sara says:

    why are people leaving their numbers
    its dangerous. any one can search up Billy
    and get your number.
    also he won’t just post his email address where the whole world can getto it.

    Billys cool Rickys awesome

  • mary says:

    Here’s my number to Billy 4083940011

  • Marie-France says:

    Hello Billy !

    I’m french lady ( I’m 35 years old ) and lives at 30 km of Paris. Sorry my english is very bad… I look your show TV when I have time and when I am not in my job. I love what you do : help people, you capture animals and after you leave them in the wild. You know, me too, I interest environnement, Ecology and management natural area in France. I teach wild with children…

    Please reply me… See you soon.

    Marie-France.

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