After 27 years and more than 4,000 episodes, The Jerry Springer Show is coming to a close. While Springer conducted himself with the dignity and poise of a talk show predecessor like Phil Donohue, the show usually involved angry people confronting each other about a personal issue, and then fighting each other. Here’s a look at the influence the show had on pop culture.
A lot of politicians would do just about anything to boast the name recognition of Jerry Springer. In fact, before Springer was a talk show host, he was a journalist, and before that he was a politician. In 1971, he won a spot on the Cincinnati City Council, but had to resign in 1974 due to some Jerry Springer Show-ready circumstances—he was discovered to have solicited a prostitute…and paid with a check. After coming clean with the electorate, he won his seat back a year later and in 1977 he was appointed mayor of Cincinnati. In the 2000s, long after The Jerry Springer Show made him a household name, Springer almost ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and 2004. For the latter, Springer spent $1 million of his own money on an exploratory campaign, but ultimately decided the negative association of his own show cast him in a bad light.
Springer is apparently a man of many interests. In 1995, a tiny label called Fiddle Fish Records released his debut album called Dr. Talk. Not a bestseller, the collection consisted primarily of Springer gamely warbling his way through country music covers, such as Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart.” Springer was also the subject of other people’s music. On his 1999 album Running with Scissors, “Weird Al” Yankovic included “Jerry Springer,” a survey of Jerry Springer Show’s craziness, set to the tune of the rapid-fire Barenaked Ladies hit “One Week.”
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The fist fights that inevitably broke out between angry guests on The Jerry Springer Show were such a staple that they made their dutiful peacemaker famous. The show utilized the services of a Marine and former police officer named Steve Wilkos as its head of security. The bald-headed fight-stopper became so well known that in 2007, Wilkos got his own very Jerry Springer-esque talk show (in that it features social issues and casual violence) called The Steve Wilkos Show. Springer serves as executive producer on that program.
Jerry Springer: The Opera is definitely the best English-language opera ever produced about a patient daytime talk show host and his troubled guests who can’t help but throw punches at each other. Okay, it’s the only one, but still—it’s a real thing. Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee wrote the piece, which has been produced to huge success throughout Europe since 2001. Characters include Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos…and the devil.