6 Times ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ Was Radically Outrageous

6 Times ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ Was Radically Outrageous

Jerry Springer, who died Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer, had one of the most bizarre careers in entertainment. Best known for hosting the trashy, anti-Oprah daytime hit The Jerry Springer Show, Springer first entered the public eye as a politician. From there, he dabbled in acting, country music, and more reality TV, even competing on The Masked Singer and helping Dr. Evil and his son Scott repair their relationship. There was no one more recognizable for strange career choices—and strangely measured while doing so, despite his salacious credits—in the 1990s than Springer.

But the former mayor of Cincinnati will always be connected to his eponymous talk show, in which he invited guests with all kinds of beef to work it out in front of the cameras. Secret baby mamas, Nazi sympathizers, and incestuous couples were among the melange of absurd characters that populated Jerry Springer throughout its 27-year run.

While it guiltily delighted those of us who loved gratuitous, sloppy, unbelievable antics, however, the show also had a habit of turning trans people and folks of other marginalized identities into side-show figures. Throughout it all, Springer played a tame mediator, using his Northwestern University law degree to bring an antithetical sense of gravitas to the proceedings. Perhaps that’s why we lapped it up: Jerry Springer was a forum for the most attention-hungry Americans willing to beat each other up for airtime, under the careful, watchful eye of a legit lawyer who left them go at it. He was the consummate straight man, for better or worse.

Following Springer’s death, those on social media and elsewhere have reflected on some of the show’s most emblematic moments—the ones that represent both Jerry and Jerry Springer at his most iconic.

The audience fights the guests, and vice versa

Springer had a very participatory audience; in fact, their interactions were encouraged, especially if they were violent ones. Take this episode: In a moment dubbed “Klanfrontation,” Springer hosted Klansmen on his set. As any good human should, he then stepped away as the entire audience decided to throw punches at these deplorable humans. Other than the unforgettable chant of “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” when Springer would try to intervene, the show’s most memorable sound was the loud “bleep” of the censors. And this abrupt, full-on attack was full of those bleeps.

Couples with absolutely inane reveals

Springer would often invite couples to come and hash out their issues on his stage, whether it was secret babies or shocking affairs. Their problems were always over the top—like in this clip, where a woman admits that she cheated on her partner’s best friend. Apparently, the men orchestrated the affair behind her back, for … a pack of cigarettes.

Deplorable people—who were proud of it

In a video called “Is This the Most Hated Jerry Springer Show Guest of All Time,” Springer invites a horrible freeloader with a barely legal girlfriend to brag about how he impregnated her in order to live in her house rent-free. Springer rarely judged his guests; he let his audience do that for him. But he had no problem letting self-admitted terrible people brag about their awfulness in public.

Online love affairs

In its later years—the show ended in 2018—The Jerry Springer Show invited people whose online crushes or partners misled them with false information or images, aka catfishes. But he also brokered confrontations between online and offline partners, both of whom are being played by the same guy: A very 21st-century problem that showed how the trash TV program sustained itself in a changing world. And of course, fighting would ensue too.


Women of all ages loved to take their tops off in front of Jerry. A regular part of the show involved him asking the audience for their opinions on the guests’ predicaments, which gave them the chance to score their own big TV moment—or, for some women, to show the world a blurred-out image of their breasts. But this rampant sexual harassment was somehow not the worst thing to happen on this show…

Extreme transphobia

Springer loved to trot out transgender people for shocking relationship reveals, or to allow the audience to ask them horribly invasive questions. Sometimes, though, these transgender guests had great comebacks for the horrible transphobic jeers the crowd tossed at them, like in the above clip. That never excused the show’s discriminatory tone, but it did at least bring some humorous relief from the hate.


The Daily Beast

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