Jerry, Jerry, Jerry

POPPY DAMON interviews Jerry Springer and finds more than just stories of bestiality lies behind his pretty face…

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After the chants of ‘Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!’ died down in The Union chamber everyone expected Springer would talk about men marrying horses and white-trash incest. But Springer is more than just a pretty face.

A vocal Democrat, he stated the close election campaign for the Republicans was going to mean ‘Barack Obama would win the next election.’ He also continually stated that he was pro-liberalism. He said that this meant people should be able to get married to whoever they wanted to and that he was pro-choice on the issue of abortion. His rhetoric was ‘common sense’ and straightforward but sometimes glib: ‘If you want to have a child, don’t have an abortion. That’s probably not a very good tactic.’

In our interview, tucked away in a quiet room in The Union, he expanded more on his libertarianism. I asked him how far it extended, as many of the issues he claimed were so ‘libertarian’ were those which in England had become more broadly accepted. He responded by saying he’d made a ‘practical decision not to go for legalising drugs or prostitution’ as American conservatism would dominate the conversation. He wants to focus on his passion, ‘issues of discrimination and economic opportunity.’ Springer has spent much time advocating on behalf of these issues, and attended university in New Orleans in the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.

But what did he say about the infamous programme? He began by proclaiming: ‘May you never be on my show’ and justified its creation by insisting that he never watches it, that he simply fell into the role when the network asked him to do it. Moreover, Jerry never knows anything about the guests before he meets them. The only rules are that guests have to call the show, tell the truth and be inappropriate.


Honest or exploitative?

One audience member asked a question which was on all of our lips: what was the most bizarre thing he’d ever seen? The answer: The episode in which a man married a horse named Pixer. His second ‘most bizarre’ tale was that of a man who cut off his own penis to avoid a stalker. As Springer said, ‘couldn’t he have just changed his phone number?’ He was amused that the audience was more appalled by the fact that the man had then flushed his own penis down the toilet than the fact that he’d cut it off in the first place.

He also argued that TV for too long only showed the white, middle classes. The show demonstrates that all people are, at the core, the same – episodes on topics like interracial marriage helped to break down prejudices. But he went on to claim it was ‘silly’ and purely for entertainment. People with real problems should ‘see a doctor.’

In further defence of the show, which places minorities groups in the limelight but, undeniably, paints them in a negative light, Springer claimed he was balancing what was shown on television. He suggested that 95% of TV focused on white, middle-class celebrities who did just as morally questionable things in front of audiences who didn’t bat an eyelid: ‘Just look at The Kardashians, The Bachelor: on every one of these shows they show the most beautiful people. [It’s great] to have a couple of shows that show another side.’

His defence seemed well rehearsed – he’s had 21 years of practice – and he obviously could talk politics till the cows came home, so I turned our discussion to his personal life. He talked of a fond affiliation with the UK, and felt ‘honoured’ to have been invited to Cambridge. His time as an Under-grad at university had been a ‘hoot’, spent wondering who he was going to ask out next.

I asked him if the show had any negative consequences for him, but he seemed to be perfectly aware of his own financial wealth and success, claiming it would be the ‘height of arrogance’ to complain: ‘What am I going to complain about? Jee, the price of jet fuel?’

Despite his fame, he’s probably not what most were expecting. The man is a politician. The show is his day job and it’s made him a very rich man. Kudos to the guy.