The Jerry Springer Show has been bringing its unique brand of trainwreck TV to sets across the culture for 26 seasons now, cementing its place in history as one of daytime’s biggest success stories.
But if you ask Springer himself, the secret to the show’s longevity is very simple.
The 73-year-old former Mayor of Cincinnati and former news anchor stared his talk show in 1991, where he spent its first two seasons focusing on more serious issues. But by season 3, the more outrageous and salacious guests had proven to be ratings gold — setting the show off in a direction it hasn’t walked away from since.
“It’s got a niche, and no one else kind of goes in that niche so I think that’s one of the reasons it’s lasted,” Springer said. “And the personality of the guests — no one is watching ’cause of me, they’re watching because the stories are crazy and the people are outrageous.”
While Springer jokingly apologized for “ruining the culture,” he said the show never draws the line when it comes to who they’ll have on.
“We’ve had on our show neo-Nazis, and my family was exterminated by the Nazis. If I can do a show where I’m okay that they’re on, then what am I going to say no to?” he said.
As for why people come on his show in the first place, Springer said that his provocative guests are never seeking fame. “They’re not coming on to be famous, and they don’t even use their real names in most cases,” he said. “They’ll wear disguises — though the wigs do come off.”
So what is it?
“If I had to guess, for so many of our guests, no one ever asks them a question,” he said. “They live their whole lives — they don’t have kids who ask them their opinion, they don’t have parents who ask them their opinion, they’re not in a job where their opinion is valued — for one day in their life, people are really paying attention. They’re talking about something that is important to them. We take it for granted.”
“Every day of your life, someone asks, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ or says, ‘Nice job,’ ” Springer continued. “So many of these people, no. We don’t deal with serious issues. Truthfully, we don’t do pregnancy tests or any of that stuff. So they’re angry, and that’s legitimate. But the next day, they’re dating someone else. It’s not a life-changing issue that we do on our show. It’s just a circus.”
Also on Today, Springer explained the origin of his popular “final thoughts” line, in which he tells the audience each episode, “Take care of yourselves and each other.”
“Well I used to do that when I anchored the news for 10 years for the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati,” he said. “And I would end every broadcast that was because that really does reflect my liberal philosophy. We shouldn’t just take care of ourselves, but each other as well. The whole show is crazy, so at the end of the show I just wanted to do, ‘Hey — you’ve watched all this, so this is my opinion of how it should be dealt with.’ ”
The Jerry Springer Show airs weekdays (check local listings).