"I want to formally apologize... No, I've ruined the culture." -- Jerry Springer
There he was just the other night on the set of the daily RNN/FIOS TV political show "Richard French Live."
The TV ringmaster himself this time on the hot seat, answering questions on topics like LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, (Jerry Springer says Sterling has to go, and that Sterling must sell his team or "the value will go down to almost nothing") to politics, (which is one of his passions -- but Springer says, "Americans engage in pop culture politics" meaning we just scratch the surface of issues) and of course he talked about his show, celebrating 23 years on the air.
Springer dressed down for the occasion -- wearing a suit but without a tie, and admits he knows what some Americans may think of him. "Someone said that I'm responsible for the demise of western civilian."
With his self deprecating and almost deliberate style, I have to admit, sitting across from him, and talking to Springer, you couldn't help but to like the guy.
"The show is stupid, but it's fun." Springer said.
"Are you still having fun doing it?" The host Richard French asked.
"I'm very fortunate. I don't need to make a living anymore. The only reason why I do it is that it is fun."
To be honest with you, I was always embarrassed to watch his show, but you couldn't avoid it. Over the years I did catch a segment or two, and let's not forget Jerry was on the air several times a day, and the spin-off shows. I would sit there for a few minutes watching the train wreck that was guaranteed to happen, day in day out.
Jerry never ran from the trash TV. He embraced it all the way to the bank.
In 1998, he literally took his show to Hollywood in the movie Ring Master.
One of the theme songs for the movie, the classic 1974 Carl Douglas song, "Kung Fu Fighting," to actually symbolize the fighting on his show. Remember part of the lyrics: "Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting. Those cats were fast as lightening."
Recently after backlash surrounding his use of the word "tranny" on his program, one segment titled "Trannies Twerk It Out," where he reportedly caught heat from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Springer told reporters that he will no longer use the term.
23 years later, Jerry hasn't missed a beat.
On the air with Springer in front of me, I did have an impulse. As Springer was talking, a few thoughts raced through my mind. I just wanted to chant, "Jerry... Jerry," like his audience has done so many times over the years, so I did. He took it in stride.
Springer told me in the greenroom before we went on the air that the contract for his show is very clear, meaning the program is about outrageous dysfunctional behavior. In Springer's actual words, if you call his producers with a warm uplifting story, they are not allowed to run it, and must send you to another show. Imagine that. If you have a great idea, contractually Jerry can't run it, but if the subject matter is outrageous and add dysfunctional in there, then Jerry is your guy.
So the newscaster meets Jerry, but wait, Springer was an anchorman in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Springer also talked about the days when he started out in Broadcast Journalism. This was after his career in politics. For two and a half years, he had to fly daily to Chicago to do his brand new show at the time, and then fly back to Cincinnati for his newscast. Jerry told me he never had to audition for the Jerry Springer show. That management had pre-selected selected him, after Phil Donohue's days were numbered and the goal at the time for every TV show was to catch the ratings sensation, Oprah.
Here's one of Jerry's "milder" segment's from just two years ago titled," I cheated to hurt you!" The boxing match bell animation goes off, and there is the on-set fight over a relationship for America to see.
To answer the question of the day as far as Jerry Springer goes.
Has Springer dumb downed American culture?
Of course he has played a role, but don't we also have a collective responsibility? The last time I checked, Jerry Springer was not obtaining the TV ratings by himself.