Jerry Springer Taping

Tuesday March 31st, 2009 – Kansas City, KS

   Today was one for the bucket list. My friend Dale Irvin had an extra ticket to a taping of The Jerry Springer Show and he said after combing his list of contacts to look for anybody who might be warped enough to enjoy something like that he said my named jumped out.

   I took that as a major compliment. I love to experience any kind of entertainment live to see what I can learn and I’ve often talked about wanting to see a Jerry Springer taping. He was a guest on our morning show on the Loop and I really liked him. He’s very intelligent.

   We had him on the air by phone several times and he was always very gracious with us. Our studios were in the Hancock building and he lived there at the time and I’d see him at the bank inside it where we both had an account. He never acted like anything other than a guy waiting in line at the bank and more often than not people didn’t recognize him at all.

   One morning after he was on I walked up to him at the bank and introduced myself and thanked him for being on the show and he was very pleasant. We chit chatted a minute and after that when I saw him we’d nod and smile. He just seemed to be very down to earth.

   I remember I happened to be working in Cincinnati when he was a news anchor there. It was his very last night on the air before going to Chicago to start this show. He had one of his final thoughts about it and wasn’t sure if it would be a success or not but he was going to try it anyway and see what happened. As it turns out he made a pretty good decision.

   Who in America hasn’t seen The Jerry Springer show on TV? His name alone describes a whole genre and he‘s become a part of pop culture and Americana. How many people in life get their name chanted by a studio audience year after year? He is as famous as it gets.

   I wanted to see how it all came together live and when Dale called I jumped at it. Dale is a fan of entertainment too and he’s quite a showman himself. He’s a member of the Hall of Fame of the National Speakers Association and like Jerry Springer he’s a super showman.

   The whole process was fascinating. The studio was a lot bigger than I imagined just like the Craig Ferguson show studio was a lot smaller. We were packed in and told what to do by a producer guy who made it very easy to understand. They have it down to a science at this point and after telling us what we needed to do he brought Jerry out to do a warm up.

   Jerry did a few minutes of old jokes which caused Dale and I to wince. We took turns at hitting the punch lines right before Jerry did and the people in front of us looked at us like we were his writers or something. Both Dale and I would have destroyed that audience if we had the chance but that’s not why any of us were there. We wanted to see the freaks.

   Jerry said the show has been running for 18 years and they tape 200 shows a year so that means he’s done about 3600 shows. WOW. That’s amazing. The shows can all be rerun in perpetuity and they are on in other countries too. The money has to be flowing like water.
I’ve been to tapings before and they can get quite long and boring. This show is taped in real time so it flies right by. Once the tape starts the show keeps moving. There’s music at the commercial breaks and then the show starts back up again. It all flowed very smoothly.

   They made us go through a metal detector much like airport security and they checked us all with a photo I.D. for some reason. If I were a terrorist I don’t think I’d try to attack anyone at a Jerry Springer taping but I’m sure they have their reasons for doing it. It’s all down to a system by now and it’s worked for 18 years so who am I to question any of it?

   A lot of things caught my attention during the process. One was how relatively normal most of the audience looked. They weren’t the trailer dweller types that are portrayed on the show at all. It was just a cross section of Chicago people gathered together in a room.

   Another point I noticed was how easily a crowd can be manipulated. The producer was able to get a group of total strangers to yell and scream and chant and just about anything else he could want just by telling us to do it. It was fascinating to see how we all followed and did whatever he told us to. I knew I was there to be a part of it so I followed him too.

   Still another thing that jumped out was just how absolutely ignorant people can be even when they’re told something over and over again. There were rules that Dale sent me and one of them was ‘no cell phones’. I saw that and didn’t even bring mine into the building.

   That’s what I took ‘no cell phones’ to mean. I left mine in the car, knowing I was going into a TV taping and they didn’t allow them. Not a problem. Then the producer made the announcement again. And then we were warned one more time before the taping started.

   I turned to Dale and said “I’ll bet after all this there will STILL be some pinhead who’ll have a phone go off.” Sure enough. About five minutes into the taping a phone went off in the audience and it stopped the taping. I was still shocked even though I predicted that it would happen. How stupid ARE people? Quite. This is why Jerry Springer is a rich man.

   The actual show formula fascinated me too. There were three segments with people who started to tell their story and then Jerry would bring out more facts and keep it moving. He would then bring out another guest and then an almost fight would happen. It’s a lot like a professional wrestling formula where they don’t actually fight to any clear cut decisions.

   They would run around the stage and almost get some licks in but the bouncers kept it a safe distance away. Again it involved crowd dynamics and the louder the crowd yelled the more the people on stage would chase each other. I found myself yelling along with them.

   I have to believe most of these people are actors. In the wrestling business a staged fight is called a ‘work’. A real fight is called a ‘shoot’. This was a great work and I am fine with that. I love good entertainment and anything done well can be classified as that. Wrestling has been around for many years and that’s a total work. Even so people still pack arenas in droves to see it. Jerry Springer’s work has been going for 18 years and it’s working well.


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