Legendary TV personality Jerry Springer doesn’t consider himself the grand daddy of reality TV, he’s just sorry for ruining the culture. On Nov. 8, the former Jerry Springer host sat down with David Yontef's Behind the Velvet Rope podcast to talk about his career beginnings and the legacy of reality TV he left behind.
"I’m just a schlub who got lucky," the 78 year old explained. "There was never a thought in my mind, growing up, that I’d be in show business. I started out being a lawyer and working for Bobby Kennedy. My background is political and legal."
Springer would go on to serve as the Mayor of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1978, after which he was offered a job for the NBC affiliate in his city.
"That was kind of a rational transition," Springer admitted. "You go from politics to reporting to news to anchoring."
Springer hosted Jerry Springer for 27 years. The hit daytime series began in 1991 and ran for 27 seasons. He said that how the show happened was nothing more than "pure luck."
"The company that owned the station where I did the news, owned talked shows. They owned Phil Donahue and Sally Jessy Raphae," he said. "Well Phil was retiring, and so the [station] CEO took me to lunch one day and said, 'Phil is retiring, we’re starting a new talk show, you’re the host.' So I was assigned to it as an employee and then all of a sudden the show took off.”
Yontef asked Springer if he considers himself "the grand daddy of reality TV," sharing that the wide breadth of material he covered, such as the outcome of paternity tests as well as relationship drama, set the stage for modern day reality TV. Springer, however, said he felt guilty for his role in perpetuating toxicity on TV.
"I just apologize. I’m so sorry," he said. "What have I done? I’ve ruined the culture. I just hope hell isn’t that hot."
When asked whether he was "shocked" by what reality TV has become, the Masked Singer contestant responded that he was not.
"It’s just the democratization of our whole culture," h said. "In other words, democracy is always this big thing and now with technology, it has gone into the area of entertainment. It used to be — for thousands of years – you would have someone on the stage, someone in the arena, someone on the screen — and the audience would sit and watch, observe. But now with technology, the audience has become the entertainer."
“It’s not just a few people sitting in Hollywood and New York deciding who our stars are going to be, the people vote for who it’s going to be and that’s reality television.”
Springer has been hosting The Jerry Springer Podcast since 2015.