Also Credited As:Jeffrey Lee Probst
|Actor, Director, Producer, Writer|
|Jeffrey Lee Probst on November 4, 1962 in Wichita, Kansas, USA|
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Born on Nov. 4, 1962 in Wichita, KS, Probst spent his formative years in Seattle, WA, attending Seattle Pacific University. He gained early public performing experience in school plays and in a local rock band, but his first professional hosting job came when he was hired by Seattle's CBS affiliate KIRO to do a local gardening show sponsored by a hardware store. Probst also worked at B ing for a period, where he produced and narrated marketing videos for the aircraft giant. He soon relocated to New York, where he began working for the FX Network on the show "Backchat" (1994-98), which answered viewer mail about the network. Probst soon jumped to VH1, where he served as host of "Rock & Roll Jeopardy" (1998), and then to the NBC entertainment news program "Access Hollywood" (1996- ), where he logged a reported 300,000 miles worldwide as a correspondent.
In 2000, Probst got wind of a new show called "Survivor" by a chance listen to a radio program. "I was driving down the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles, and I heard this crazy British guy, (producer) Mark Burnett, carrying on about this show called 'Survivor,'" he explained. "He didn't give a lot of details, but it sounded exotic, and absolutely the most unique thing I'd ever heard. And literally, from the moment I heard him talking about, I started investigating, and it became my goal to get a meeting with Mark Burnett. If they needed a host, I wanted him to see me for that job." As it turned out, Burnett did want a host, and after a high-intensity meeting in which Probst reportedly got down on his knees to plead his case, Burnett hired him. The first season of "Survivor" premiered in the summer of 2000. The show's combination of survival skills, backstabbing politics, and full-contact physical competition quickly made it an audience favorite, with Probst's frequently repeated catch phrase "The tribe has spoken" (issued after a contestant is voted out of the show) earning its spot in the pop culture lexicon. For his efforts, Probst garnered an Emmy and four nominations, as well as two Teen Choice Award nominations.
However, critical reaction to Probst's role on "Survivor" was not always kind. TV writers labeled him as bland and found his role as host/competition referee/judge confusing and ill-conceived. Probst had even voiced the opinion that even his employers at CBS don't quite understand his role on the show. But with each passing season, Probst's personality asserted itself more fully; a 2006 article in The New York Times discussed how Probst "came into his own" during the 2004 season on the Pearl Islands. Faced with some of the program's most colorful personalities (including the duplicitous "Johnny Fairplay"), Probst seemed unafraid to voice his opinion about questionable decisions. When one participant decided to quit the show due to exhaustion, his tone was professional but unquestionably stern. The new steeliness in his on-air persona seemed to silence critics in later seasons.
Though "Survivor" consumed much of Probst's professional life, he managed to branch out and explore other avenues while still retaining his hosting duties. In 2001, he wrote and directed a feature film, "Finders Fee," starring James Earl Jones, Ryan Reynolds and Robert Forster. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Fest and took home Best Picture and Best Director awards; it later took honors at Method Fest in Los Angeles, the Sonoma Film Festival, and the Sarasota Film Festival. Probst also lent his voice to the quirky and clever Disney Channel animated series "Fillmore!" (2002). He also became a popular guest co-host opposite Kelly Ripa whenever Regis Philbin was on vacation from ABC's "Live with Regis and Kelly," giving rise to tabloid rumors that Probst might be named Philbin's replacement upon the latter's retirement.
But perhaps Probst's most important side project was as the collegiate spokesperson for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Project. He first became involved in AIDS charity work through a "Survivor" season in Africa; Probst helped to launch funding for a hospital in Kenya which received critical equipment, drugs, and education through the show. He continued to support the Glaser AIDS Project through "Survivor," by donating props and memorabilia from each season for auction on eBay. As he continued his philanthropic efforts, the multitasking Probst continued to host his successful reality program, fill in for Regis when called upon, and in 2008, received two prestigious honors: being asked to co-host the 2008 Annual Emmy Awards and winning the new category for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program, beating out his fellow co-hosts and nominees Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Ryan Seacrest and Howie Mandel. His Emmy triumph was clouded, however, by scathing critical reviews following the ceremony, which lambasted the five hosts for their weak performance, particularly the unbearable opening monologue that went nowhere and earned few laughs. In the following years, however, Probst returned to the Emmys strictly as a nominee, winning back-to-back Best Reality Host awards in 2009 and 2010. He was poised to win another after earning a nod for Outstanding Host.