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Talk Show Host Jerry Springer Plays Not My Job

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Talk Show Host Jerry Springer Plays Not My Job

Talk Show Host Jerry Springer Plays Not My Job

Talk Show Host Jerry Springer Plays Not My Job

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  • Transcript
Talk show host Jerry Springer is shown in New York, Thursday, April 15, 2010.
Richard Drew/AP

Jerry Springer's career has spanned television, music, film and politics — he even had a stint as the mayor of Cincinnati in the 1970s. His talk show, The Jerry Springer Show, debuted in 1991 and is celebrating its 20th season this year.

To mark the anniversary, we've invited Springer to play a gamed called "Nothing ever happens on this show." Three questions about the most boring TV shows we could find.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

And now, the game where we ask giants questions more fit for dwarves. It's called "Not My Job." This week, we are honored to host a guest considered to be true media royalty. Host of one of the most groundbreaking, globally popular daily talk shows, produced for many years out of Chicago; somebody who jumps from TV to politics to music to film; somebody whose cultural influence may be greater than the president's - ladies and gentlemen, let's give a warm WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! welcome to Mr. Jerry Springer.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: There you go. They know how to treat you.

JERRY SPRINGER: I just want to open with an apology.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: I've ruined the culture. I'm so sorry.

SAGAL: Really?

KYRIE O: So you're the one.

PJ O: Jerry didn't mean to...

CHARLIE PIERCE: It didn't have far to drop.

SAGAL: On your show, you tend to feature people who have problems.

SPRINGER: You think?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But what's interesting about the show is a lot of times, the people's problems aren't as bad as they think - until they get on your show and find out.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That seems to be a hallmark, and then they react badly to the news.

SPRINGER: They don't react well.

SAGAL: No.

SPRINGER: But, you know, first of all, the only way you get on this show is by calling us.

SAGAL: Right.

SPRINGER: So the only way you'd know the number is by watching the show 50 times, you know.

SAGAL: Right.

SPRINGER: And by then, you kind of know what the drill is. So people that come on aren't surprised what the show is like. You know, I've often maintained you could take the same person and put that person on Oprah's show, and they would act perfectly appropriately.

SAGAL: So you think it's you that's making them get nuts and pick up chairs?

SPRINGER: Well, I think it's the furniture.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The furniture, there's something about the furniture that makes you want to grab it and hit somebody over the head with it.

SPRINGER: Yeah. It's crazy. But interestingly enough, when you come on the show, you're given a list of 21 possible surprises.

SAGAL: Really?

SPRINGER: Yes. And you have to agree to all of them before you could be on the show.

PIERCE: Are they just generic surprises?

CONNOR: Wow.

SPRINGER: They don't know which of the 21 it's going to be.

SAGAL: So they can't complain later, wait a minute, they sandbagged me. I didn't know that it was going to be...

SPRINGER: Right, because...

SAGAL: My wife's transsexual chiropractor...

SPRINGER: Yeah, because we're not censored.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: Yeah.

CONNOR: But they must have kind of a rough idea of what their life has been like.

SAGAL: What sort of surprises? If I came on your show, let's say, what sort of surprises would I have to agree might occur that I have to be OK with?

SPRINGER: That, you know, your girlfriend used to be a man.

SAGAL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: You know, something having to do with cheating. You know, every show is exactly the same.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: It's just - the only thing that is different is the personality of the guests.

SAGAL: Right.

SPRINGER: Now, if I got serious for a moment, I would say - and everyone will be offended - but we're all alike. Some of us just have more teeth.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: They have fewer after they've been on your show, I can't help but notice.

SPRINGER: Yeah. Or better educated, had better luck in the gene pool of parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Sure.

SPRINGER: You know, but the fact is, there is such a fan base - I guess you would say - people, really, that come on the show, honestly, are people that watch it all the time. And they're mostly young people, and it's kind of cool. Look, we don't deal with life-changing situations.

SAGAL: I think if my girlfriend was a man, that would change my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Significantly.

SPRINGER: Oh you're saying it now because the people are here.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: How did the show come about? I mean, my understanding is that when you started the show, you had been a successful - at that point in your remarkable career, you were a successful radio guy in Cincinnati.

SPRINGER: No. How it came about - for 10 years, I was the main news anchor on the NBC affiliate, and I did the news every night at 5:30, 6 and 11. The company that owned the NBC affiliate, a multimedia, also owned talk shows. They owned Phil Donohue, Sally Jessy Raphael - a bunch of them.

Well, Phil was getting close to retirement. So one day, the CEO of the company, Walter Bartlett, he took me to lunch and said Jerry, we're starting a new talk show, and you're going to host it. So I was assigned to it. I didn't audition. I didn't try out. I had no interest in it. But I still wanted to do the news, so they let me do both. I would fly to Chicago in the morning to do the show and then in the afternoon, I'd fly back to Cincinnati because I had to do the news every night. So that's how I got the talk show.

In the beginning, it was serious - and boring, but it was serious. And the only decision I ever made, it's one of unintended consequences. At the time, there were about 20 talk shows and all of them were trying to be - all of us were trying to be like Oprahs. Then along came Ricki Lake. She was really the first talk show to appeal to the kids. When I say kids, I mean high school and college age. And so I just thought, why are we trying to be one out of 20 going after Oprah's audience? Let's be just one out of two, going after Ricki's audience, and we'll get a much larger share - which is what we did.

We decided then to go young - which meant young people in the audience, college kids, young people onstage and young subject matter. Well, the truth of the matter is, young people are much more open about their lives - much wilder, much crazier, whatever. And so then, the show started to grow crazy.

Then Universal bought us. And when Universal bought us, they said: From now on, you're only allowed to do crazy.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: And that's the truth. If someone calls us with a warm, uplifting story, we're required to send them to another show. We're not allowed to do it.

SAGAL: Really?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: I swear to God.

SAGAL: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SPRINGER: Swear to God.

SAGAL: All right. I've got to get into this because you were uniquely qualified to host this talk show because, of course, you had been the mayor of Cincinnati, which - most people don't know this about you, that you had this very serious career in politics and public policy before getting into media.

SPRINGER: Yeah, I did it for 10 years. It's what I'm most passionate about - is political issues.

SAGAL: Right.

SPRINGER: That's what I love. My job is to be an entertainer, or whatever, in television. That's how I make my living. But I never confuse it with a political message. But I don't, you know...

PIERCE: I wouldn't be too sure that you're that far out of politics, though.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

PIERCE: I'm thinking Berlusconi.

SAGAL: Right.

PIERCE: I mean, I think he could do your show.

SAGAL: I think he could.

SPRINGER: Well, I never met a politician that couldn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: You have to include yourself.

SPRINGER: Sure.

SAGAL: Because you, of course, had your own scandal when you were a young man.

SPRINGER: Yes.

SAGAL: Mayor of Cincinnati. What was interesting about that is you actually, basically, if I understand correctly, you paid a professional companion with a check.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: Yes, because my credit's real good.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: No, I did. It was the wrong thing to do. Not that it's an excuse, but I was in my 20s. I went to see a hooker, and I wrote a check.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You write...

SPRINGER: Well, here's the thing with...

SAGAL: Your name is printed on the check. You're aware of that?

SPRINGER: Oh, yeah. I wasn't particularly hiding anything.

PIERCE: How many hookers in the history of the world have taken checks?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: Well, here's the thing...

SAGAL: It's the Midwest, we're nice.

SPRINGER: Well, here's the thing, I didn't really pay for it, because she never cashed it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: There you go.

SPRINGER: She was so amazed that - oh, my God - so actually, it was free.

SAGAL: Yeah.

SPRINGER: No, I...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I've got to ask you this question: How does it feel to be Jerry Springer, that icon of a certain kind of entertainment?

SPRINGER: I'm just a schlub that happens to have a famous show. But I'm the only person I've ever been, so I don't know how to answer. I mean, I don't know how to compare that. OK, I used to be a woman. But other than that...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Well, Jerry Springer, we are delighted to have you here. We have invited you here today to play a game we're calling...

CARL KASELL, Host:

"Nothing Ever Happens On This Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Which, we assume, is not something you've ever heard said about your show. We are going to ask you three questions about the most boring TV shows we could find. Answer two out of three correctly; you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl Kasell's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Jerry Springer playing for?

KASELL: Jerry is playing for Amanda Mezoff of Westport, Connecticut.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: All right, here we go. Westport fans.

SPRINGER: Oh.

SAGAL: You can do this.

SPRINGER: We can't. I know Amanda.

SAGAL: Oh, you do?

SPRINGER: No, I don't. I was just...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Here's your first question, Jerry.

SPRINGER: Yes.

SAGAL: We were amazed to discover that there are at least three different TV shows you could watch, devoted to what rather boring activity: A, pencil sharpening; B, ice fishing; C, hair tweezing?

SPRINGER: I'm going to say ice fishing.

SAGAL: Ice fishing? You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: Popular ice fishing TV shows include "Ice Men," "Ice Fishing Today," and "In Fisherman's Ice Fishing."

ROURKE: You guys don't watch that?

SAGAL: No.

PIERCE: And you've never seen "Law and Order: Moosehead Lake"?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That would be four, then. That's good. All right, that's good. That's one right, two to go. Here's another question. There is a TV show which scientists have agreed - scientists - it's the most boring of all time. Is it A, a three- minute clip of President Nixon talking that was broadcast into space in 1973 for the aliens; B, a 10-minute compilation of images put together to test the power consumption of new TVs; or C, "Who's the Boss?"

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: Well, that's a gimme.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: Well, I'll just say "Who's the Boss?"

SAGAL: Absolutely, you're going to say "Who's the Boss?" It should be right, but it's actually the 10-minute compilation of...

SPRINGER: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah, well, I understand. You did that for the joke because that's how you are. You're a showman. I'm with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: This is great, though. You still have one more chance. So here we go. Last question: As you know, there is a reality show for just about every hobby or activity. Which of these is a real reality show that's premiering this very spring? A, "Pest Control of Orange County"...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, "Mad Crochet"; or C, "Extreme Couponing"?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

CONNOR: Wow.

SAGAL: They seem to like the latter.

SPRINGER: Yeah, I think I do, too. Yeah, because most people - yeah, I'll say that.

SAGAL: "Extreme Couponing"?

SPRINGER: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right, "Extreme Couponing."

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: "Extreme Couponing" premieres April 6th on The Learning Channel. So everybody go home and reserve your space.

SPRINGER: On The Learning Channel?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: On TLC.

SPRINGER: What the...

SAGAL: Oh, you're learning how to coupon. Carl, how did impresario Jerry Spring do on our show?

KASELL: Jerry had two correct answers, Peter, and that's enough to win for Amanda Mezoff. Congratulations, Jerry.

SAGAL: Well done.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So I know - Jerry, I know that you end your show with kind of a thought from Jerry. Do you have one for the end of your appearance with us?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPRINGER: May you never be on my show.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Ladies and gentlemen, Jerry Springer. He's the host of "The Jerry Springer Show," and a new dating show called "Baggage." Jerry Springer, thank you so much for being with us today.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

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