BRANSON, Mo. —
Jerry Springer sees similarities between the guests on his talk show and contestants in game shows.
"The truth is everyone wants to be liked," Springer said. "What I like about these live shows is just talking to people. That's what I enjoy."
The talk-show host will star in "The Price is Right Live" starting this week at Welk Resort in Branson. The show is a stage adaptation of the classic game show and features all of the same games, from the opening price-guessing to the Showcase Showdown -- and the Big Wheel.
The show returns to Branson this month with a run that starts today and goes until Nov. 30. Springer will host the show until June 8.
Springer started out without a single desire to be in show business -- politics called out to him. After earning a law degree, he became a political campaign adviser to Robert F. Kennedy then joined a Cincinnati law firm.
There he became a city councilman in 1971, after a failed run for Congress. A scandal over a bounced check for prostitution forced him to resign, but after coming clean about the episode, he earned his seat back and was chosen to serve a year as mayor in 1977.
But throughout his political career he also worked in broadcasting. While earning an undergraduate degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, he worked for WTUL-FM. His work for the station continued even while he was mayor of Cincinnati, featuring his commentaries on politics.
After serving as mayor, Springer said he got hired as a news anchor on WLWT, Cincinnati's NBC affiliate, winning local Emmy awards for nightly commentaries. That started him down the path to getting his own show in 1991, he said.
"At the time, I didn't have a clue what it took for a talk show," Springer said. "I was an employee assigned to do a show."
The first versions of "The Jerry Springer Show" were political in nature, covering everything from Jesse Jackson to Oliver North. But after three years, Springer had learned enough to make a critical decision: He geared the show to target a younger generation.
At the time, shows such as "Oprah" targeted older crowds, but Springer saw the energy that Rikki Lake got on her show.
"She was the first to go after young people, and I thought it was a good business model," he said. "Why try to be Oprah's show? Let's be young, and that meant a young audience, young people on stage and a young subject matter."
The new format spiked the show's ratings in the late '90s. Its reputation for revelations of infidelity, blue-collar guests, fighting and a carnival-like atmosphere earned Springer a unique place in cultural history, earning mentions in songs by Mark Knopfler, Weird Al Yankovic and Kanye West.
The show is still in syndication and filmed in Stamford, Conn. Springer said the subject material is as crazy as ever.
"We're with Universal, and they have told us we're only allowed to do crazy," Springer said. "If we come across an uplifting show idea, we know we'll be handing that off to another show."
Still, between the fights, revelations and chants from audience members, Springer said there is plenty of humanity to be found on the show.
"(Young people) turn out to be more open, wilder and crazier," Springer said. "But really, it's the personality of the guest more than the subject matter. That's what makes the show work for all these years."
The only true shock behind the show is that those stories made it on TV, Springer said. The show features nothing that isn't found everywhere in real life.
"You can read the headlines any day and by the time you get to page three, there's ideas for 20 separate shows," Springer said. "Some people are luckier in the gene pool of parents, but deep down, we're all alike. The idea that rich people are more moral or have a greater worth than middle income people just isn't true."