Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Dirty Dozen, with Dan Riskin

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Dan Riskin

Looking at the natural world, it's hard not to marvel at its beauty. But lurking under the pretty flowers and sunsets is a world that will have you gasping less in wonder than in terror or revulsion. That's the world that Daily Planet's Dan Riskin explores in his witty, rollicking take on just what's happening out there in nature — and in our bodies. After reading Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You: A Lively Tour Through the Dark Side of the Natural World (Simon & Schuster Canada), you might find yourself convinced that something is trying to poison you, eat you or live in you at any given moment — and you wouldn't be far off.

Dan's tour of the terrifying, gross and fascinating is a brilliant resource for those with interest in the natural world. Today, he joins us as part of our Dirty Dozen series, where instead of revealing surprising facts about nature, he shares twelve unexpected facts about himself. From viral videos to handing leeches to Cameron Diaz, Dan's Dirty Dozen is just as lively as his book.

  1. I was in the audience at the wedding that would produce one of the most watched videos in history — JK Wedding Entrance Dance. My wife Shelby is the first bridesmaid on the left. I’m visible at the beginning of the video.
  2. The day after that video was shot, I passed a kidney stone. That’s why I look uncomfortable in the video — the pain had already begun.
  3. I once had a parasitic botfly maggot in the flesh of my head. If you want to know more about that you’ll have to read the first chapter of my book.
  4. My first time on a live TV show was the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I was introduced as the “parasite guy,” and put leeches on Cameron Diaz’s hands. I was terrified, but I faked being comfortable as best I could.
  5. I once met Jeff Bridges backstage at The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and managed to not drop a single Lebowski reference the entire time. He was super nice, and folded an origami “cootie-catcher” for me, which I framed and keep in my home.
  6. The best vacation I’ve ever taken was a trip to Morocco with my wife Shelby. We stayed with a Berber family, and then rode camels out into the Sahara desert and slept under the stars.
  7. I was a huge Gowan fan when I was a little kid. I dressed up as him for Hallow’een in grade five.
  8. I am an expert on how bats crawl. That’s what I did my PhD on. Incredibly, I had a question about vampire bat walking behaviour in Trivial Pursuit the other night, so yes, that is useful knowledge.
  9. If you did a scan of every cell in my body, less than 10% of them would be my own cells. The vast, vast majority would be the bacterial cells that live inside me. That’s true of you, too, by the way.
  10. My father lives on the tropical island of Anguilla.
  11. My mother is a writer and editor, and is the person who has most shaped my ability to communicate.
  12. I don’t have any games on my phone because once I start playing a game, I can’t stop until I finish it.


Dan Riskin is an evolutionary biologist and passionate ambassador of science to popular audiences. Since 2011, Riskin has cohosted the world’s only hour-long daily science show, Daily Planet, on Discovery Canada. He is also the host of Animal Planet’s wildly successful show Monsters Inside Me, about parasites. He lives in Toronto.

Check out all the Dirty Dozen interviews in our archives.

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