In March of 2014, reality television series Catch a Contractor, featuring comedian Adam Carolla, licensed contractor Skip Bedell and his wife, private investigator Alison Bedell, premiered on the Spike network. The premise of the show involves the trio meeting with homeowners who were taken advantage of by shady contractors and then, with the help of Alison’s sleuthing skills, tracking down those contractors and offering them the opportunity to return to the home and complete the job correctly, or else wind up in court.
In 2007, Alison began working as a probation officer, and along the way, she became familiar with tracking absconders, record searches, surveillance, working undercover and apprehending suspects; skills which she uses frequently as a private investigator. While on the job as a probation officer, she earned a Distinguished Pistol Expert bar, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recognition award for DWI arrests and a County Legislature’s Probation Officer of the Month award.
A New York native, Alison resides on Long Island with Skip and their many pets. When she isn’t investigating offenders, she enjoys being a biker chick riding on a Harley with Skip, playing with their cats and dogs, vegetable gardening and making her own jewelry. For more about Alison, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about Catch a Contractor on Spike.com.
What was your childhood like, and how did it shape who you are today?
I am the only child of parents who divorced when I was nine. I grew up living with my mom, but saw my dad frequently. My mom and I had always had a close relationship when I was young, and we used to do everything together. But as I got older, she became very overbearing and tried to put limits on my freedom. As a teenager, I felt very stifled and wanted to rebel, because all I really wanted to do was the same things that all other kids did. I was never allowed to go to any high school parties, and when she didn’t like a boyfriend, she would forbid me to see them. I felt very resentful because I was always a good kid; I always had straight A’s, and I never tried any drugs and didn’t like drinking. I found myself finding ways to do what I wanted to do without her knowing, and ultimately that set me up to become a very independent adult. As soon as I graduated from college with my bachelors degree, I found a place to live on my own, and never returned home to mom’s house. I know she did her best, with no rulebook on how to be a parent, but all of the overbearance really made me feel like a caged animal. I ultimately found myself being responsible and taking care of myself, although I always knew I’d have mom and dad there for me whenever I needed help with anything.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a probation officer?
After having difficulty finding a job in my chosen career path after I got a bachelors in psychology, I took a job in medical billing just to pay the bills. As I have always done with everything that I tried, I excelled at what I did, and climbed the ladder from billing through management in doctors offices and in billing companies. After a break-up in my late 20s with someone who I had at the time thought I would spend my life with, it occurred to me that I needed to find a job where I had job security and good benefits, and not just a paycheck. A friend had told me about employment with civil service, and I applied for some tests that I qualified for. I ended up getting hired in civil service personnel in the county where I live. It was a great job in every way, except that I went home at the end of the day feeling like I didn’t really accomplish anything important.
Being in personnel, I had access to all of the other job titles that are available throughout the county. After reading what a probation officer did, it occurred to me that that was the perfect fit for me, a combination of both social work and law-enforcement. A way to help people and a way to help the community and better other peoples lives. I always felt I had a really strong ability to counsel people and to guide them in the right direction. It wasn’t long before I passed that test and got hired by the probation department. Ever since then, I’ve been so fortunate to have a job where I know I’m making a difference every single day, while at the same time making sure that I have job security and benefits for both myself and my family.
How has your psychology degree come in handy over the course of your life and your career?
I had always regretted not furthering my education in psychology. My original intent was to pursue a career in psychotherapy. But as I had previously mentioned, life takes different turns when you’re trying to pay the bills. Thankfully, my degree in psychology facilitated my ability to secure a job where I actually utilize my interpersonal skills on a daily basis for the purposes of helping people, as well as figuring out what is behind the things that they do. When you’re able to communicate with people in such a way that makes them feel comfortable to open up to you, it makes them more receptive to your input. It’s these communication skills that I’ve honed over time that helps me to best advise the offenders I work with, hopefully leading me to be able to make some kind of an impact in their lives. Not to mention I make a great friend who gives great advice. ;)
How did you meet Skip?
There’s a long version and a short version. The short version is that I saw him while I was shopping at Home Depot. The moment I saw Skip, I knew that I needed to meet him. At the time, I was married and in a really lonely relationship with someone who did not treat me well. I hadn’t been looking to leave that relationship, but fate just happened that way and then I was on the checkout line staring at the most beautiful man I have ever seen. It was as if I could see his insides from 25 feet away, I just knew that he was an incredible person with a good soul that I already felt connected to. I left the store and drove to the end of the parking lot and then stopped my car because something in me told me I needed to go back. Something else in me told me that I shouldn’t because I knew it was wrong because I was still married. I ended up turning the car around and going back into the store and finding a way to start talking to him. We ended up having a conversation for about an hour and a half, and the rest is history.
How did the opportunity to star on Catch a Contractor come about?
Skip was a full time contractor looking to find some extra work in the entertainment industry. He had already been in a couple of commercials and had hosted a demonstration segment on The Today Show about giving tools for the holidays. Before we met, he made a demo reel that was compiled by a production company so he could submit an audition to the DIY network for a show they were looking to cast. He didn’t get the part, and I ultimately found this audition on a CD in the back of the filing cabinet. I asked him what is he doing with this thing, to which he replied, “nothing.” I then posted it on YouTube and tagged it up with a lot of words such as construction, contractor, etc.
A couple of years later, he got a call from a casting agent in California who told him that they had spent the last three months trying to cast the host of this show, with no success. They asked if he would audition the next day. He ended up doing his audition on FaceTime, with me holding the phone, and him answering questions and doing things. They loved him, and flew him out the next week to make the sizzle reel. I tagged along, and next thing you know, someone didn’t show up for another part of an investigator on the sizzle reel. I filled in for the day, and next thing you know, producers are asking me what do I do for a living. When they found out that I really was an investigator, and that I carry a badge for real, lightbulbs went off over everyone’s head, as it turned out to be the greatest coincidence and combination for the new show that they were going to make. The rest is history.
Which episodes of Catch a Contractor have been the most fun or memorable for you?
One of the most memorable contractors from our show was Avi. He had such a way about him, he was so full of himself but it was really amusing. The way that he would shake his finger in the air if you didn’t agree with what he said, the way that he would dismiss everybody and speak over everyone, it turned out to be really funny but in an annoying kind of way. It was an early and consistent example for us to see how, when people do wrong, they just continue to insist that they are right, and thinking that they are going to change your mind and have you see things their way. It was a bit of a glimpse into the mind of someone who tries to justify their wrongdoing without having to actually accept accountability for it.
Off camera, what is your relationship like with Adam Carolla?
At first Adam was a bit difficult to get to know. He’s actually kind of shy and standoffish with people he doesn’t know. I think that once we got to see him every day, and learn what he was about, we realized that he is a genuinely good person who has very strong opinions and whether you agree with them or not, you’ve got to respect the guy for standing by them and having the intelligence to justify them. Skip and I have really grown to love Adam and his wife and kids, they’re all just really genuinely good people who are down to earth and easy to talk to. We consider ourselves lucky to be able to call them friends.
Aside from Catch a Contractor, what television shows do you watch regularly?
Skip and I love The Walking Dead, we were addicted to Breaking Bad, and we regularly watch Family Guy. I was so excited when I found out that Adam was the voice of Death on Family Guy, LOL. Skip and I also really enjoy watching all of the other home renovation shows. It’s really cool for us to now be friends with the hosts of the other shows that we had always been fans of before we got into this business.
If you could change one thing about the world or society, what would it be?
Kindness. More kindness to each other. More kindness to animals. Lots more kindness to animals. More kindness to strangers. More kindness to people who you envy or those to whom you feel superior. Just be kind.
What do you wish you’d figured out at a much younger age than you did?
Something I figured out about how to get what you want, is to really go after it and do not accept no for an answer. People always ask me how is it that I always have what I want; the job, the spouse, the house, the life. It’s because I see what I want, and I pursue it. I don’t wait for that person to first talk to me. I don’t wait for the employer to call me back after an interview, I don’t wait for the homeowner to accept my offer on the house, these are all things that I will pursue hard. If I want to meet someone I introduce myself, if I want that job, I will call the boss and tell them why I’m the best one for the job, if I want a homeowner to let me be the person to buy their house, I’ll bring a cake to the front door and tell them why their house means so much to me. I’ll outbid any bid ’til I win. I’ve learned that no one is looking to give you anything. Your hopes and dreams are not going to fall into your lap. You have to know what you want and then go after it and take it.