Verndale grad gains fame for beer can trick
Verndale and Nimrod aren't the names of towns you normally hear on network television, but Wadena County native Jerry Kern was a guest on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" for the March 16 episode.
About eight minutes into the show, Kern was the first of three guests on the "Meal Or No Meal" segment where contestants perform a talent for food.
For his talent, Kern used his mouth as a can opener to saw the top off a beer can.
He chugged it and won a dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Kern lives in Mahnomen, Minn., but grew up between Nimrod and Verndale and graduated from Verndale High School in 1997. He went to school in Verndale all the way from kindergarten through 12th grade.
To get on the show, Kern was "discovered" as one can only be discovered in the 21st Century: a talent coordinator, whose job it is to check out online videos to scout potential guests, found Kern's page.
"They saw my videos on YouTube and contacted me there," Kern said.
Kern had posted videos of himself doing the can opener trick at a deer stand, in icy water and other scenarios as the "World's Fastest Human Can Opener" on YouTube under the username Countrybullet.
When Kern agreed to appear on "The Tonight Show," he was provided an all-expense paid trip. He said the trip was fun and Jay Leno joked around with them in his street clothes before the show.
"I got picked up with a limo and had my own green room. It was pretty crazy," he said.
Kern made the trip to Los Angeles with his friend Pete Bushey, who is originally from Hewitt and went to school in Verndale as well. While they were there, they also hung out with Clarissa native Jeremiah James Korfe.
Bushey and Korfe can be seen sitting by Kern on the right side of the screen as the camera cuts to the audience.
"There is a lot more energy to the show than I would have imagined," Kern said.
While the show was pre-recorded, it was taped quickly and there wasn't much editing before being aired on NBC.
"It was pretty fast-paced and the whole recording process didn't take much more than an hour for everything. And they actually broke four spots exactly where the commercials were going to be," Kern said. "Everybody [was] moving stuff around, and the makeup people would come out. A well-tuned machine."
Kern said one of his favorite moments was recognizing familiar faces from the Eelpout Festival in Walker, Minn., where he was a production assistant for "Rove Across America." The show's host, Rove McManus, was the only one of "The Tonight Show" judges to vote "No Meal." All in good fun, of course.
Beyond that stint as a production assistant, online videos and contests, and local radio interviews prior to the trip to Los Angeles, Kern has not done much work with the media.
He owns his own trenching and excavation business, Git-R-Dug, plays bass guitar and writes his own music. He toured with a band for a year, and prior to owning his own business, he worked as a lineman for Otter Tail Power Company and as a lineman in Ely right after college. He holds an associate's degree in natural resources technology.
Kern said he first saw somebody do the can opening trick at a party while he was at Vermilion Community College in Ely.
"He just punctured the can, like 50 times all around the can, and that's how I started doing it too," Kern said. "But then I modified it over the years ... Stick my tooth in there and twist. And it worked. It was kind of sloppy the first few times, but with practice I've got her down pretty good."