When Jerry Springer’s ‘vulgarity circus’ ruled daytime TV and took on Oprah (2023)


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During a run of daytime TV filled with fights, profanity and nudity, Jerry Springer had no idea why his guest was having trouble with his neighbors not liking his wife.

The man named Mark told Springer on his popular daytime talk show in 1998 that he didn’t know why they had an issue with his wife, who, the man said, didn’t make any noise or talk to anyone. Springer, who said years later that he was not allowed to know what the episode was about, looked down at his card and saw the name of his guest’s wife and urged her to come out: “Let’s bring out Pixel!”

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That’s when Springer found out his guest was married to a horse.

The moment delighted the roaring, hysterical crowd that chanted the host’s name — Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! And it left the master of trashy daytime TV, whom Oprah Winfrey once described as leading a “vulgarity circus,” wondering what the hell was going on. “This is pretty sick, isn’t it?”


(Video) American TV pioneer Jerry Springer dies aged 79 | 9 News Australia

“I’m thinking that his wife fell off the horse. You don’t think, ‘Oh gee, that’s his wife,’ ” Springer told Meredith Vieira in 2016. “So I’m going, ‘Oh my God, someone check backstage!’ Then, the producers start yelling at me, ‘No, no, that’s his wife!’ ”

The bestiality episode, simply titled, “I Married A Horse,” never made it to air in some cities. It was a subject that went too far even for Springer, who, in the eyes of critics, pushed the boundaries of decency on “The Jerry Springer Show” in the 90s and made TV history during the program’s nearly 27-year run.

“This actually happened,” Springer said of the horse episode, still in disbelief decades later.

Before Tucker Carlson’s Fox rise, an on-air ‘brawl’ led to his CNN firing

Springer, who had gone from a life as a lawyer, mayor of Cincinnati and network news anchor to one of television’s kings of controversy, died Thursday at his home in suburban Chicago. He was 79. His longtime publicist, Linda Shafran, announced the death in a statement, which did not specify the cause.

In the hours after Springer’s death was announced, fans remembered the role he had on afternoon TV and shared some of his most memorable episodes, including the multiple instances when members of the Ku Klux Klan were invited on the show only to get repeatedly punched in the face. Some also shared his cameo in the 1999 film “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” in which Springer exchanged blows with Mike Myers’s Dr. Evil character.

Say what you will about Jerry Springer. But nobody else would invite KKK members onstage so guests could punch them in the face. Respect. pic.twitter.com/2HEy9NIx4q

— panic! attack at the disco (@tomposting_) April 27, 2023

As a 13-year-old in 1999, Dr Evil on Jerry Springer was the funniest thing I'd seen in a movie. RIP. pic.twitter.com/hPdqOj5eGX

— Buck LePard (@BuckLePard) April 27, 2023

But the show wasn’t always about scandal and sex. In fact, the host and his producers have admitted that the initial run of “The Jerry Springer Show” was more serious — and more boring.

When Springer’s show debuted on Sept. 30, 1991, executives hoped they could make the host into the next Phil Donahue. The show focused more on political issues like gun violence and homelessness, and had guests such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and National Security Council staff member Oliver North to give the show a no-nonsense vibe.


“He wasn’t doing anything that might be controversial or outrageous,” Greg Paeth, then a TV writer for the Cincinnati Post, said in an A&E documentary in 1998.

(Video) Bitter Betrayals 😢 The Jerry Springer Show Full Episode

Richard Dominick, who was a producer in the early part of the show, put it more bluntly to A&E: “It never really took off, it never was exciting. I hate to say it was dull, but it probably was.”

In the spring of 1994, Springer’s show was in danger of getting canceled. Dominick, who had become the show’s executive producer following the departure of Burt Dubrow, was given an ultimatum by Multimedia Entertainment, the company overseeing the show.

“You have until November to make the numbers better, or the show will be canceled,” Dominick recalled to The Washington Post in 1998.

The strategy was to essentially do the opposite of what Springer had previously done, and lean into his personality instead of making him into something he wasn’t. The producers couldn’t book celebrities or politicians, so they focused on finding regular people with everyday problems people could relate to — and other issues that people couldn’t have ever imagined.


As Springer explained it at the end of a 2015 episode, they focused on “regular folks of no fame, little if any wealth and very little influence — folks just taking a moment, which they rarely if ever get, to let the world know something about what they are thinking or feeling or doing.”

“It was time to listen to the public, to show another side of life rarely, if ever seen on television,” Springer wrote in his 1998 biography, “Ringmaster!,” co-authored by Laura Morton.

Dominick had a different spin on it, hoping to attract viewers that also tuned into late-night host David Letterman in the first years of his CBS show. The showrunner wanted to make the program “very sexy” and make television that would be attractive to people who were channel-surfing with the volume off, he said to A&E. Part of that was putting Springer’s name on the screen for the whole episode because no one knew who the host was at the time.


“We decided that we were going to go after what I like to call the Letterman crowd, because there was nobody doing a show for college kids,” Dominick said in the 1998 documentary.

From 1998: King of the Trash Heap

But what pushed Springer to new heights was the content of the show changing drastically to promote more sex, more conflict and more fights — many, many fights. After initially being told by Multimedia Entertainment to tone down the absurdity on the airwaves, the show was eventually bought by Universal Television, which pushed Springer, Dominick and the staff to do what they wanted.

“They said, ‘Do your show and let’s see what happens,’ ” Dominick told The Post in 1998. “So I stopped leaving things on the cutting-room floor.”

(Video) Jerry Springer Last Emotional Video Will Make You Cry | He Knew It

From there, the show’s popularity skyrocketed thanks to episodes such as “Kung-Fu Hillbilly,” “Klanfrontation,” “I Broke The World’s Sex Record!” “I’m Happy I Cut Off My Legs” and “You Slept With My Stripper Sister!” The show also featured episodes where gay and transgender guests were mocked by fellow guests or audience members. The Post declared Springer in 1998 to be the “King of the Trash Heap.”


Springer acknowledged in his book that the direction of the show was a big departure from where he had started, but said the ratings said he was doing something right. By 1998, about 6.7 million viewers were watching the show each day.

“It was rougher, but real — and certainly wilder — but viewers loved it, in overwhelming numbers,” he wrote.

Viewers loved it so much that Springer had even become a challenger to Winfrey, then the queen of daytime talk. At one point, Springer beat Winfrey in a key demographic, women between 18 and 34, and tied her ratings in the last week of December 1997. In three cities — Atlanta, Cleveland and New Orleans — Springer even beat out Winfrey in overall ratings.

Winfrey admitted in a 1999 interview with the Sunday Times of London that what she was seeing from the “vulgarity circus” of Springer’s show made her consider leaving her program. (Winfrey’s show eventually ended in 2011.)


“Unless you are going to kill people on the air, and not just hit them on the head with chairs, and unless you are going to have sexual intercourse — and not just, as I saw the other day, a guy pulling down his pants and pulling out his penis — then there comes a point when you have oversaturated yourself,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

Springer responded to Winfrey in the New York Post by saying she was great, and that he didn’t blame her for not liking the show.

“My mom wouldn’t have liked this show, either — and I loved her,” Springer said.

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(Video) Jerry Springer in the hot seat during a BBC interview Full Programme

The show’s popularity began to fade at the turn of the century, and a dark cloud came over the violence that aired daily. One of Mr. Springer’s guests, Nancy Campbell-Panitz, was murdered by her ex-husband shortly after she appeared in 2000 on Springer’s show, where she was confronted by her ex and his second wife in an episode on love triangles.


The last episode of “The Jerry Springer Show” aired July 26, 2018, ending a run of nearly 5,000 episodes. Springer attempted to re-create some of his TV magic on “America’s Got Talent” and “Judge Jerry,” but didn’t find similar success.

Years before the show ended, Springer reflected on an episode at the start of the 25th season about what the run has meant for him and his life. While he had previously admitted what he had hosted was “a silly show” that he would never watch, Springer shared how he had learned that “deep down, we are all alike.”

“We all want to be happy, we cry when we’re hurt, we’re angry when we’ve been mistreated and to be liked, accepted and respected, not to mention loved, is the greatest gift of all,” he said.

Then, he emphasized that he never thought he was better than any of the people who appeared on his stage to talk to him.

“I’m not better,” Springer said, choking up. “Only luckier.”

He then concluded with the same seven words he had said thousands of times before: “Take care of yourself and each other.”

Harrison Smith contributed to this report.

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How much is Jerry Springer's net worth? ›

Jerry Springer was an English-born American television presenter who had a net worth of $60 million at the time of his death. Jerry died on April 27, 2023 at the age of 79 of pancreatic cancer.

Who is Jerry Springer married to? ›

My wife [Rachelle Wilkos] and I are devastated. We will miss him terribly.” What do you think?

Where is The Jerry Springer Show filmed? ›

The Karamo Show, which was recently renewed for a second season, premiered a few weeks after Povich retired, in September 2022, and tapes at the Rich Forum Theater in Stamford, Connecticut, the same location where Maury and Jerry Springer filmed.

When was the last Jerry Springer show? ›

Springer's namesake TV show was a ratings powerhouse, but often a cultural pariah, knows for its chair-throwing and tabloid-style drama. “The Jerry Springer Show” ran for 27 years – with more than 4,000 episodes – before coming to an end in 2018.

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Did Jerry Springer guests get paid to be on the show? Like most talk shows, Jerry Springer paid for guests' travel and hotel to appear on the show, as well as a small stipend for meals.

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Katie is legally blind and deaf in one ear. She was born without nasal passages, a condition that was fixed through surgery after she was born. During a 2006 interview with Access Hollywood, Katie opened up about her parents and how they've always supported her amid her health challenges.

How many times has Jerry Springer been married? ›

Jerry Springer passed away on Apr. 27, 2023, at age 79. During his life, he was only married once. He and his ex-wife, Micki Velton, share a daughter.

What city does Jerry Springer live in? ›

Death. Springer died on April 27, 2023, at the age of 79, at his home in Evanston, Illinois. A family spokesperson said he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few months before his death.

Does Jerry Springer still live in Cincinnati? ›

The legendary talk show host and former mayor of Cincinnati died on April 27. He was 79. According to a family spokesperson, Springer died peacefully at his home in suburban Chicago after a bout with pancreatic cancer.

Can I go to a Jerry Springer show? ›

The Jerry Springer Show Ticket Information

Get tickets directly from the show. Free tickets to be in the audience. No transportation to the studio is provided. You can request tickets directly from the TV show's website.

Does Jerry Springer have a law degree? ›

Springer's family immigrated to the United States when he was five years old, taking up residence in New York City. In 1965 he graduated from Tulane University with a political science degree, and three years later he earned a law degree from the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago.

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In 2019, Springer launched a new show called Judge Jerry. But the daytime show was canceled by NBCUniversal after three seasons. It caused Springer to "wind down" and devote more time to family time. "I'm 78 and have been in front of the camera now for 40 years, plus 10 years in politics.

What year was the first Jerry Springer show? ›

By the time Springer's show began in 1991, a paradoxical mix of deregulation and self-censoring had settled over the industry, producing edgy shows with lots of bleeps. Audiences experienced bleeped performances as more authentic.

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Winfrey sees herself as both both a Christian and a critic of Christianity, says Lofton. She was raised in the Baptist church, describes herself as a consistent reader of the Bible, and through her television show, basically built the church that she wanted.

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Oprah Winfrey

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Audience Pa The Steve Wilkos Show Salaries
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Is Katie Springer disabled? ›

As Katie faced health issues as a newborn and is reportedly legally blind and deaf in one ear, her parents sought to make sure she got all the support she needed.

How long has Jerry Springer been married to his wife? ›

How long has Jerry Springer been married for? Jerry Springer was married to Micki Velton for 50 years.

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What suburb did Jerry Springer live? ›

The family moved to the United States in 1949, settling in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens in New York City. Springer's first career after earning a law degree from Northwestern University was in politics.

How many children did Jerry Springer have? ›

Springer was married to Micki Velton. The couple divorced in 1994 after a 21-year marriage. They had a daughter, Katie (born 1976). She was born without nasal passages, for which she required immediate surgery after birth, and is blind as well as deaf in one ear.

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Longtime TV talk show host Jerry Springer died peacefully Thursday at his home in suburban Chicago, according to a statement from his family. He was 79.He died after a bout with pancreatic cancer, according to a family spokesperson.

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Beginning with the 2009–10 season, production was moved to the Rich Forum at the Stamford Center for the Arts in Stamford, Connecticut, after NBCUniversal received tax credits from the state of Connecticut to move Springer, along with Maury and Steve Wilkos to the state, along with NBC Sports.

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Talk show host and a former Cincinnati mayor, Jerry Springer, dies at 79 : NPR. Talk show host and a former Cincinnati mayor, Jerry Springer, dies at 79 A remembrance of Jerry Springer, who is best known for hosting the hugely popular 1990s confrontational talk show: The Jerry Springer Show.

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Recently Springer, who's now a Toronto Blue Jay, listed his Houston home on the market. Located at 9422 Fox Bend Lane, is Springer's former home, now listed for $1.8 million.

Did Jerry Springer retire? ›

After a staggering 27 seasons and nearly 5,000 episodes, Jerry Springer's show came to an end in July 2018. Now only previously taped episode of the Jerry Springer Show continue to air - and Jerry had planned on retiring from the entertainment business.

When did Jerry Springer move to Connecticut? ›

For much of the 27-year run of "The Jerry Springer Show," the show's trademark fights, bleeped profanity and blurred-out nudity were filmed in Chicago. In 2009, the show's production was moved to Stamford, becoming a local attraction for visitors, particularly college students.

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In order to participate, you must be eighteen (18) years old. If you are under the age of eighteen (18) years old, you must obtain prior permission from your parent or legal guardian before submitting your Submission.

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Is there a guest you would love to meet on the #JerrySpringer Show? Call Gina at 1-877-735-3779 or text "JERRY" to 88500. Sharice Burgess and 162 others like this. Well then come on down!

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LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - Television personality Jerry Springer, known for a long-running talk show that featured raucous audiences, controversial topics and fist-fighting guests and who briefly served as Cincinnati mayor, died at age 79 on Thursday, his family said.

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In 2018 The Jerry Springer Show was canceled, and production was halted. However, it was announced that the TV show would move to the CW channel, where some previously unseen episodes were expected to air. In 2019 Judge Jerry debuted, with Springer presiding over legal disputes. The show ended in 2022.

How long has The Jerry Springer Show been on television? ›

After 27 years on the air, his talk show was quietly canceled in 2018.

Where did The Jerry Springer Show start? ›

In 1982, Springer tried for the Democratic nomination for Ohio governor and lost. After that he became a news anchor at WLWT in Cincinnati. Jerry Springer at NBC studios, in 1992. Springer's anchor work led to a Cincinnati-based talk show that later became the nationally syndicated, “The Jerry Springer Show.”

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