It was the worst moment of Jillian Barberie’s on-air career.
“I was doing one of those segments where someone from the zoo brought animals to the studio,” Barberie remembers. “So I was doing the weather with a bird in my hand, and the handler brought out a monkey. The bird started flapping its wings, which freaked out the monkey. And then that freaked out the bird. There was chaos, and the next thing I knew, my fingernail had been torn right off and was on the floor by my shoes.”
No, the monkey hadn’t ripped off a press-on fingernail. It was a real, honest-to-goodness fingernail. (We know; we’re squirming, too.)
“So I’m looking down at my finger and there’s no nail there,” she continues. “I’m in such absolute pain, but I’m on live TV. I’m trying not to cry. It was awful! Definitely a very real moment.”
As someone who has made a career out of those “real moments,” Barberie, 48, is hoping to discover a new crop of weather forecasters who can handle the uncertainty of live television.
She’ll next be seen as a judge on Funny or Die Presents America’s Next Weatherman, a “high concept reality comedy series” produced by Mark Burnett.
In the series, contestants will participate in on-air challenges in a quest to win a $100,000 prize and a weather forecasting gig on CNN’s New Day Barberie is one of the show’s judges.
“It just seemed like the perfect project for me,” says Barberie, formerly of Fox’s Good Day LA and Fox NFL Sunday. “It combines Funny or Die, which I love, and Mark Burnett, who turns everything to gold.”
“I’ve been in the business for more than 20 years,” the mother-of-two tells PEOPLE. “I’ve screwed up a lot, but that’s what makes me real. Fearlessness can go a long way in this business!”
“And when you get right down to it, all people want is to know the weather,” she says. “They want to know whether to put on a sweater or not; this isn’t rocket science. The audience just wants to connect with the person giving them their weather.”
So what type of challenges can one expect from the show? (Let’s face it: with Survivor and The Voice producer Mark Burnett at the helm, no challenges are out of the realm of possibility.)
“The things we put them through are not too far off from reality,” she says. “I’ve done things in the pouring rain, with bugs and snakes everywhere. I’ve had unexpected things happen. If you’re going to do a good job on-air, you have to be prepared for absolutely anything.”
“And that’s what we’re looking for: fearless people,” she continues. “It doesn’t matter how you look. We have buttoned-up weather forecasters, beauty queens, even a pastor. It’s all about how these people can relate to an audience.”
And if the show gets a season two, will they come up with even harder challenges? “Anything can happen,” Barberie laughs. “Maybe we’ll have a challenge that involves a monkey.”
Funny or Die Presents America’s Next Weatherman premieres on August 8 at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT on TBS.