Jerry Springer death: Legendary TV host dies aged 79

Jerry Springer, the politican-turned-presenter whose lurid chat show became by a decades-long byword for exploitative, trashy television, has died aged 79.

For 27 years, The Jerry Springer Show featured a parade of outrageous guests who would argue or even brawl as a studio audience chanted encouragement.

Family spokesperson Jene Galvin said Springer was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and died at his home in Chicago.

“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he tried whether that was politics, broadcasting or just joking with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word,” Galvin said.

“He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humour will live on.”

He was born in the London tube station of Highgate while it was being used as a bomb shelter during the Second World War. He grew up in neabry East Finchley, with his parents moving the family to the US in 1949.

Springer initially worked in politics; he was an aide to Robert Kennedy’s ill-fated 1968 presidential campaign and was later elected mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1977 to 1978.

After politics, he became a TV anchor before landing an eponymous show in 1991 that initially struggled to get ratings until producers favoured the selection of sensationalist guests who would often make the tabloids. It went on to become one of the biggest TV hits of the decade and lasted until 2018.

Jerry Springer hosting ‘The Jerry Springer Show’, which ran for 27 years (Getty Images)
Jerry Springer hosting ‘The Jerry Springer Show’, which ran for 27 years (Getty Images)

At its peak, The Jerry Springer Show even had higher audiences than Oprah Winfrey. He called it “escapist entertainment”, and proudly embraced its trashiness, calling it “the worst TV show of all time” at the start of each episode. Critics saw it as contributing to dumbing down and a decline in social values.

Security guards were on hand to stop fights that would often break out. The show became so popular that Springer featured in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) for a scene in which Dr Evil (Mike Myers), Frau Farbissina (Mindy Sterling) and their son Scott (Seth Green) are guests on the series.

Director Jay Roach told The Independent in 2019: “I wondered if Jerry would go for it because we’re clearly making fun of his circus act. He not only went for it, but he was fully enthusiastic and completely convincing when he started punching Mike [Myers].”

Springer was later known for hosting America’s Got Talent from 2007 to 2008, and, more recently, Judge Jerry, which ran for three seasons, and gave the host the chance to deploy his law school education.

Jerry Springer has died, aged 79 (Getty Images)
Jerry Springer has died, aged 79 (Getty Images)

Springer appeared on British television several times throughout his career. In 1999, he co-hosted several episodes of This Morning alongside Judy Finnigan, as well as The One Show from 2016 to 2018. He twice launched a British talk show, once for ITV in 2000 and again for Channel 5 that same year.

Springer also appeared on US reality shows Dancing with the Stars and The Masked Singer and, in 2008, was the subject of BBC documentary Who Do You Think You Are? During that episode, he discovered his maternal grandmother and paternal grandmother were killed by the Nazis at concentration camps.

Springer was married once, to Micki Velton, from 1973 to 1994. He had one child.