- By Steven McIntosh
- Entertainment reporter
Jerry Springer, the television host best known for his raucous talk shows, has died at the age of 79.
The Jerry Springer Show, which ran for nearly three decades beginning in 1991, brought fights, flying chairs and the fringes of American society to a global audience.
Springer died peacefully at his home in Chicago on Thursday, his publicist confirmed to BBC News.
Gene Calvin, Springer’s friend and family spokesman, described him as “unrelatable.”
“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he attempted, whether it was politics, broadcasting or bantering with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word,” he said.
“He was irreplaceable and his loss is deeply saddened, but memories of his wit, heart and humor will live on.”
Springer’s chat show has become a symbol of low-brow television with disturbing revelations of confrontation, swearing and betrayal over nearly 5,000 episodes.
“I loved working with him at AGT [America’s Got Talent]Loved hanging out with him (we lived in the same hotel for two years), loved arguing with him (he loved his politics), loved everything about him,” she added.
Springer was born in Highgate, a London Underground station, in 1944 during World War II.
His parents, who were Jewish refugees from a part of Germany that is now part of Poland, were at the station sheltering from German bombing raids at the time.
Springer moved to Queens, New York with her parents and older sister at the age of four.
Having studied both political science and law at university, he began his career working in politics.
He was an advisor to Robert F. Kennedy, and served as mayor of Cincinnati from 1977–78, but after an unsuccessful bid for governor of Ohio, he turned to television journalism.
He worked his way up to being a reporter and anchor at a local television station.
Launched in 1991, The Jerry Springer Show began life as a casual talk show, focusing on social issues and American politics, hosted by the then mild-mannered Springer.
But in an effort to boost ratings, Springer changed things up dramatically a few years later, focusing on pricey and outrageous content.
Springer has repeatedly defended his show against accusations that it is too low-brow.
He told the BBC in 2014: “You only put the well-scrubbed, rich English-speaking Queens on TV and do that but it doesn’t reflect society as a whole.”
“If all the shows were like mine, it would be wrong. But you can’t just have TV like Friends, Seinfeld, these rich, good-looking people and you like it,” he added.
“We can’t get enough rubbish on TV talking about who some rich and famous people are sleeping with.”
In most episodes, the guests came to talk about family problems and expose adultery and other transgressions.
Springer reportedly would try to mediate, but the meetings often ended in fistfights, with guests held back by security guards.
The audience usually chants “Jerry! Jerry!” When tensions rise during episodes.
On his Twitter profile, Springer jokingly declared himself “talk show host, ringmaster of the end of civilization.”
Springer called his show “escapist entertainment,” but others saw the show as contributing to the dumbing down of television and the decline of social values.
He often joked to people he met: “You should never be on my show.”
In the late 1990s, the show topped daytime television ratings in the US, beating even Oprah. It ended its run in 2018 after declining viewing figures.
In 2003, a musical based on the controversial television series was launched. Jerry Springer: The Opera ran for 609 performances in London from April 2003 to February 2005 before touring the UK in 2006.
It won four Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical. In January 2005, its UK television broadcast on BBC Two attracted 55,000 complaints.
JERRY SPRINGER: The opera provoked accusations of blasphemy and protest from religious propagandists. But broadcasting regulator Ofcom said it had not breached its guidelines.
From 2007 to 2008, Springer hosted America’s Got Talent, and in recent years he hosted the courtroom show Judge Jerry.
In June 2009, Springer made his stage debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre, London.
Springer BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? The program traces his family through the Holocaust to the small town of Neustadt in what is now Poland.
Last October, Springer starred in the American version of The Masked Singer – one of his final television appearances.
He left the Jerry Springer podcast in December after eight years.
Political critic David Axelrod tweeted: “Jerry Springer will be remembered as the ringmaster of an embarrassing, tabloid-style television show.
“But I’ve met him before, when he was mayor, and he was in the race I ran as the insurgent progressive candidate for governor of Ohio. He’s funny, self-centered and fierce.”
YouTuber KSI said: “RIP Jerry Springer. You made my holidays at school so entertaining.”
Television anchor Matthew Wright remembers How Jerry Springer went to see the opera with Jerry Springer, who loved every second of it, adding: “Top fella, a great mate. [Channel 5 show] Right stuff, hope he’s at peace.”
Springer’s family asked that in lieu of flowers, people make a donation or donation to someone in need or a worthy advocacy organization, paying tribute to Springer’s exit from his speaking engagements: “Take care of yourself, and each other.”