When British television viewers tune in to the final weeks of the U.S. presidential race, they'll be getting their news from an unlikely source: Jerry Springer, who has been tapped as a correspondent by the popular BBC morning show Good Morning Britain. Or maybe it's not so unlikely. This year's political contest has at times resembled nothing less than an extended episode of The Jerry Springer Show, which is now, astonishingly, about to enter its 26th season.
Springer, 72, has a long history in both politics and news. A former mayor of Cincinnati who went on to run the news division of the city's NBC affiliate, Springer is a longtime Democratic Party activist and host of a weekly political podcast. Along the way he's had one of the weirdest careers in showbiz, showing up in dozens of TV shows and movies, performing in musicals in New York and London, even hosting the Miss Universe pageant. His boss? Donald Trump.
What do you make of this presidential race? At times it's played out like an episode of your show.
I tweeted that to the Republican Party: "If you're going to do my show, you have to pay me." But my honest reaction was, "Oh, my God, this is the schoolyard when I was in junior high." We're talking about the leader of the free world, and they're talking about the size of Donald Trump's, you know . . . his body part? Everyone was embarrassed. It was like, "What if the world is watching this? What if our kids are watching?"
You know things have gotten weird when Jerry Springer is embarrassed.
[Laughs] You're right. But this is our country. No one can seriously believe that Donald Trump is equipped to be president.
You occasionally cover politics for British TV. What do the Brits think?
They are astounded. And obviously Brexit makes them even more worried. They're wondering, "Can America do what the Brits did?" And then Trump says, "We're going to break our treaties. We're not going to guarantee protecting NATO." Good lord. It is so wrong, so irresponsible.
You've met Trump. What was he like?
I was the host of the Miss Universe pageant in 2008 in Vietnam, so I worked with him. He's only ever been nice to me. I've got no personal gripe against him.
The debates should be interesting. Maybe you should host one, do it like an episode of your show.
Trump would never go on my show, because he wouldn't want anyone pulling his hair. And Hillary wouldn't go on my show, because she just wouldn't go on my show. She's too proper. God bless her.
It's amazing to think that The Jerry Springer Show is 26 years old.
I'm sorry. I apologize for that.
It sort of prefigured our current culture of oversharing and social media.
Yeah, I guess. No one complains about the show anymore, because there's nothing on our show that the kids aren't putting on their iPhones every single day.
What do you think accounts for the show's longevity?
It came along at a time when people were starting to be more open about sharing their personal relationships. In the beginning, people had never seen behavior like this on television. American television had been all upper-middle-class white. When we came along, the great shock was that you could see another part of America.
Where do you find your guests?
We don't find them. They find us. We get thousands of calls. You can't talk someone into being on a show like this.
You don't think you're exploiting people?
This show is totally voluntary. We never do anything without permission. In fact, if there's going to be a surprise, you're given a list of 21 possibilities of what the surprise could be. If you say, "I'm looking at this list, and if I'm gonna find out my girlfriend's a guy, I don't want to be told that." Well, fine. You're not on the show, or we won't do that.
You've done so many unusual things in your life. What's the secret?
You can't map out your life. Work really hard at whatever you're doing, and someone will notice. Opportunities come about because people are impressed with what you're doing at the present moment. Now I'm 72, so the only things I do are things that are fun or important. I do the political stuff because it's important. The rest I do because it's fun.