Jeff Probst: Naked bits and bacon in ‘Two and a Half Men’ cameo

When Jeff Probst tweeted that he would not be wearing his trademark blue shirt for his cameo on “Two and a Half Men,” he wasn’t lying.

Image: Jeff Probst on
“Survivor” host and executive producer Jeff Probst: “I don’t really eat bacon.”Cliff Lipson / Today

The “Survivor” host and executive producer has four Emmys to his name for his deft handling of skinny, stinky island dwellers. Could another golden statuette be on the horizon when he makes his acting debut on Thursday wearing only his birthday suit? Stranger things have happened. 

“I’m playing a version of me,” Probst told TODAY. “I just jokingly mean that I’m not typically walking around naked with a plate of bacon. I don’t really eat bacon.”

Well, that’s why they call it acting. TODAY caught up with the 52-year-old and very fit host (we can say this with all certainty now), who is having a big week. In addition to his “Two and a Half Men” appearance, the third installment of Probst’s children’s book series, “Stranded 3,” releases on Nov. 19. And then there’s also the disgusting food challenge and two tribal councils on Wednesday’s “Survivor.”

The following is a condensed version of the interview.

Q. How did you end up naked on ‘Two and a Half Men?’
A: Even though it sounds weird given that I’m on CBS, it was really straightforward. I got a call from the casting director. I happen to be friends with [Jon] Cryer and I texted him and he said, ‘I just read the script. It’s really funny. You should do it.’ That was it. And then they said, ‘Oh by the way, you’ll be naked.’ I mean, how can you turn down ‘Two and a Half Men?’ — one of the greatest comedies of all time. I was really excited. I’ve done a lot of MAD TV and that kind of comedy but I’ve never done a situation comedy like this. 

Did you tape in front of the live audience?
No. And probably just as well! I have to say — they move quickly. It’s pretty much, get undressed, let’s go, shoot you’re done. Let’s go, see you. It’s a small part but it’s very fun. Definitely a highlight. When I left that day, I did call my wife and say ‘Well, that’s one for the books.’ Getting to work with stars with the magnitude of Cryer and Ashton [Kutcher] on a show of this magnitude created by one of the biggest TV creators of all time—and be naked. That will go down in the scrapbook.

Don’t you think they’re going to require you to be naked on ‘Survivor’ now?
That’s what I told myself in my trailer — I like this. I thought it would be a little bit more intimidating to walk onto the set. You’re wearing very tiny underwear. You are wearing something. It’s like being European. Or it’s just like being on a beach in Brazil. No big deal.

You’re going to have to answer a lot of questions about your fitness routine now.
That’s called I’m not 20 anymore. If you want to stay fit, you have to work at it. It’s definitely not a case of (I was born with) good genes and I eat McDonald’s every day. I definitely put effort into staying fit. You have to if you want to live a long time, why wouldn’t you? And if you’re in this industry, you better. And if you work on a show like ‘Survivor.’ There’s lots of reasons that I work to stay in shape. And it’s a good thing because they don’t give you a lot of advance notice. It’s not like they called in June and said ‘Hey, in November, we’d like to use you.’ It was like 48 hours later we were shooting.

So there was no hesitation whatsoever?
I don’t hesitate when someone offers me something like that. And all jokes aside, being naked, couldn’t care less. That was fun. It was fun to put myself in that position. It’s also fun to make fun of yourself. Really, seriously, who is going to turn down a chance to be on that show? I’m all in. And if they call again and say we need you again, and we’d like you to get naked again? Let’s go. My slate is clean.

Speaking of clean slates, things are getting dicey back on the island after the merge. Is the Blood v. Water premise working out from your point of view?
It’s exceeded our very high expectations. We had no idea the layers, the complexity, that the players would find. I found myself behind many times at Tribal Council thinking — oh my God, I don’t think I know what’s happening here. The problem with this loved one thing is that only one person wins. And everyone knows that two people voting together are much more dangerous than one. So there’s a lot of things working against a pair of loved ones making it far in this game because two votes are dangerous and blood is dangerous and yet there’s the question of when do you get rid of your loved one? Or when do you get rid of a pair? When you bring that kind of emotion, it becomes a perfectly different game. When you have a mother who knows she’s about to go up against her daughter in a physical confrontation and has to beat her to stay alive but in beating her, she defeats her daughter — the girl she gave birth to — there’s no easy answer.

What’s up with everybody burning Idol clues?
It’s a really good example of group dynamics. The first person who decided to do this threw down a gauntlet that said from this point forward, if you take an Idol, you’re saying to everybody: I think I need it and I’m going to go get it. And that’s going to put a target on your back. I’ve asked myself what would I do? I would have done the same thing. The minute someone threw it in the fire, I would have followed suit. You don’t want to give people a reason to vote you out. The other twist of it was that we made you give the clue in front of everybody. Often on ‘Survivor,’ people don’t necessarily know you have it, then you can work anonymously and then it has more power.

Congratulations on your third ‘Stranded.’
My wife had the idea when we got married and now have a blended family. We were looking for fiction. There’s a lot of self-help books but nothing on families just existing. That was the original premise — take a mom and dad who each had two kids and bring them together and send the kids on a sailing adventure to get to know each other. And they wind up shipwrecked and abandoned with no adults. The underlying premise is you’re watching four kids learn how to be a family.