"These people were told not to procreate," jokes the 66-year-old schlock TV legend. "We are probably the only show that grows its own guests."
His show is a joke, one which Springer has played along with for years, but when the program first aired in 1991, Springer played it straight. Early guests included Jesse Jackson and Oliver North. After the show bombed in the ratings, producers went in a different direction, and the rest is history.
Springer understands why The Jerry Springer Show turns off many viewers: It's not his cup of tea either. "I don't watch it. ... It's not aimed at 66-year-old men," says Springer, who adds that politics remain his passion, while the talk show is "just my job."
Next Up: Politicians Who Patronize Prostitutes
Springer, whose parents fled Germany to avoid the Holocaust, was born in Great Britain and emigrated to the U.S. in 1949 at the age of 5. He grew up in Queens, New York, along with his sister. After graduating from college and law school, Springer worked on the presidential campaign of Sen. Robert Kennedy until his assassination in 1968. He then took a job with a law firm and moved to Cincinnati. Springer lost a race for Congress in 1970, but a year later was elected to Cincinnati City Council. He resigned amid scandal in 1974 after he was discovered to have patronized a prostitute because he paid her by check. But voters later forgave his indiscretion, and reelected him to City Council, which tapped him to serve as mayor for a year when he was 33.
After losing a race for governor in 1982, Springer became a television news anchor at a local NBC affiliate, where he won several local Emmys and brought the station to the tops of the ratings. His bosses at the time considered him to be an ideal replacement for the retiring Phil Donahue. At the time, Springer says, he was skeptical of the whole endeavor.
"My first contract was for six weeks," he says. "I was just assigned it as as employee."
His show has legions of detractors who accuse it of glorifying anti-social behavior. But the most common accusation against the The Jerry Springer Show is that it's fake, everything from the guests to the fist fights to the shouts of "Jerry, Jerry, Jerry." Springer, for his part, insists that the stories on the program are real.
"The behavior has existed since the beginning of time," Springer says, adding that "maybe in the beginning" the show got duped but no longer. "Now, they sign statements in front of the camera saying what they are saying is true."
Springer has not gotten politics out of his system. For a while, he hosted a talk show on the now-defunct politically liberal Air America radio network. When asked if he would ever run for office again, Springer replied "never say never," but seemed to think it unlikely. Like many people, Springer expects the Democrats to lose big this November.
Springer's Still Going Strong
Success may be Springer's best revenge against the naysayers. This fall, The Jerry Springer Show delivered its highest household ratings for a season premier week in three years. Ratings among women viewers were especially strong. The talk show host, though, isn't resting on his laurels -- or indeed, resting much at all. He has found time to record a country music record, host America's Got Talent and dabble in acting.
Even now, idle seconds are a rarity.
He tapes The Jerry Springer Show two days a week in Connecticut. Then he flies to Los Angeles to tape Baggage, a dating game show he hosts on GSN where potential couples try to guess each other's secret flaws. The irony of someone with a notorious past is not lost on Springer, who joked that his baggage would be a "steamer trunk." Then there's the America's Got Talent tour where he introduces the acts. Springer's schedule has eased somewhat now that the taping for Baggage is done, but not by much.
Springer, who has been immortalized on both The Simpsons and in Jerry Springer: The Opera, admits he is a workaholic. He says he won't have any time off until the holidays.