Bert Kreischer didn't start riding roller coasters until he was 37 years old. But in the last six years, he has more than made up for his late start.
Now 43, he hosts Travel Channel's Bert the Conqueror, an adventure show relaunched for a third season on Tuesday. Kreischer gets to do what every middle schooler — and, let's be honest, maybe every adult — dreams of doing for a living. He gets paid to ride roller coasters.
"The Travel Channel named me the professional fun seeker, and that's exactly what I am," he said. "I get to spend months discovering the coolest things to do with your family at these million-dollar theme parks."
Kreischer, a Tampa native who attended Jesuit High School before going to Florida State University, talked with the Times about living in a theme park capital and his most exciting interview so far.
Spoiler: it's with us.
"I remember my dad waking me up when I made All-County Baseball at Jesuit saying, 'Buddy, you're in the paper,'" Kreischer said. "When I was in Tampa, getting in the (then St. Petersburg Times) was an honor."
Having fun has always been Kreischer's schtick.
While studying creative writing and partying with Florida State University's Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, Kreischer was named the university's "top partier" in a 1997 Rolling Stone article. Next thing he knew, he was moving to New York and then Los Angeles to pursue stand-up comedy.
For the past 15 years, he's been traveling the world entertaining with his "never grow up" brand of comedy and trying out local thrills for the camera.
After two seasons of Bert the Conqueror, the show went on hiatus and Kreischer started hosting Trip Flip, in which he invites random people on the street on all-expenses-paid surprise trips.
Relaunching Bert the Conqueror means 10 more episodes of high-adrenaline rides, the tallest and fastest roller coasters and a ton of footage of Kreischer screaming.
In Tuesday's premiere, Kreischer heads to Six Flags New England to take on the Wicked Cyclone and the New England SkyScreamer. Then he's in Maine for the Great Lobster Crate Race.
A fear of heights kept him off coasters as a kid. He conquered his fear by facing some of the tallest rides in the country. He has been catfish grabbing, power-kiting, belly-flopping and even participated in a greased pig competition.
Get him talking about Florida theme parks and attractions, and he just won't stop.
"It's what I remember in Florida as a kid," he said. "The coolest things are the smaller festivals and attractions."
Going to the Tampa-based theme park felt like coming home.
"Busch Gardens was my theme park; it was where I went on my day off from school," Kreischer said.
The ride that eventually hooked him on coasters as an adult: Busch Gardens' Sheikra. He said it changed the way he felt about free fall rides. Now he fondly remembers the trash can he stared down at from Sheikra's far left front seat.
"That ride change me," he said. "Every time I go back to Busch Gardens I pass by that trash can like 'it's you and me, buddy.'"
He was obsessed after the first drop and rode it 10 more times.
This season features two episodes in Florida. In Miami, Kreischer visits Monkey Jungle, which he says is "one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life."
He and his family will be back in Florida next month to film the final episode at Universal Studios. Kreischer says the parks' Transformers and Spider-man simulator rides "freak me out to the next level."
His next goal after 10 more adrenaline-filled episodes also hits close to home. It involves a familiar name, a radio host on Tampa's 102.5 The Bone.
"I want to get Mike Calta to ride a ride with me at Busch Gardens," Kreischer said.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.