TV host in Atlantic City for the ongoing 'Price Is Right' live game show at Harrah's Resort.
He has one of the most eclectic careers in or out of show business: Attorney; mayor of a major American city; TV news anchor for a network affiliate; political consultant; host of a long-running, syndicated talk show; actor in movies, on television shows and even on Broadway; recording artist and game show host.
All of which begs the question: Jerry Springer, what do you want to be when you grow up?
“I’m looking for something I can do and then I’ll settle on it,” the affable and surprisingly soft-spoken entertainer says with a small laugh.
Speaking on the set of the live game show The Price Is Right, which he’s hosting at Harrah’s Resort through Oct. 21, Springer quickly and easily admitted success has come easily for the 68-year-old former trial lawyer.
“I’ve been really lucky,” he says. “I’ve had these great jobs, [but] it really is luck. I mean, I work hard, but lots of people work hard. But I just got lucky, and I’m very grateful.”
They say you should never count someone else’s money. But it’s hard to believe that after hosting one of the longest-running and most highly-rated talk shows on daytime television for 21 years that Springer would need to supplement his income by helming a live version of another long-running TV game show in an Atlantic City casino.
Truth be told, he doesn’t. With various sources including Forbes magazine putting his net worth at $75 million, Springer acknowledges that he isn’t kibitzing and joking with casino customers for the paycheck.
“It’s not the money. I’m lucky, I don’t need [money] any more,” he says. “I just enjoy working, and I enjoy live shows. I enjoy interacting with regular people, not celebrities, just regular people. And this gives me an opportunity to do that. This becomes a comedy show. I mean, there are rules to the game, but I’m joking around with the contestants all the time. I just love doing that. That’s fun.”
The live version of The Price Is Right mirrors the television show that’s been airing regularly since 1956. The set, the games — even some of the prizes, including a new car — are virtually identical to the TV version.
And Springer is right in the middle of all the fun, cracking jokes with and about the contestants, zinging them with ad-libs that are funny but never insulting and moving the 80-minute show along with a glib and good-natured attitude.
“They know that if I’m hosting, it’s not going to be the traditional game show host,” Springer says.
“There’s nothing slick about me, so they’re going to get a little bit of comedy from me, and we have great fun.”
The game show is a complete departure from his syndicated Jerry Springer Show, which began airing as a traditional talk show in 1991 and morphed into a mayhem-filled slugfest about three years later.
The Springer show made the switch from mainstream to tabloid to pursue a different audience. The program debuted as one of 20 talk shows all chasing the same audience demographic that had been monopolized by Oprah Winfrey and now-retired chat show talker Phil Donahue.
When Ricki Lake brought her talk show to television and began targeting a younger audience with her subject matter, Springer’s producers decided to chase Lake rather than try to compete for Winfrey’s audience of “middle-aged housewives,” Springer explains.
“We decided we were only going to have young people in the audience, young people on stage and young subject matter,” he says. “Young people, by definition, are much wilder in their lives, much more open. And the show started to go crazy.”
When the Springer show was acquired by Universal, the new owners were adamant the program remain completely over the top.
“Universal bought us and said from now on, you’re only allowed to do crazy,” he says. “It’s in the contract. So ... if you call us with a warm uplifting story, we are required to send you to another [talk] show. We’re only allowed to do stories that are either inappropriate, outrageous or outside the mainstream. So I know every day they’re going to hand me a script with a story that’s out of the mainstream.”
A one-time Congressional candidate who lost an election in 1970, Springer was elected to Cincinnati city council in 1971 and served as mayor for one year. He also tried but failed to win the Democratic nomination for Ohio governor in 1982.
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