Jerry Springer

Springer

SIOUX CITY | Don't ask Jerry Springer how much something costs. "I never look at a receipt," the veteran talk show hosts says. "It's a horrible thing."

But it's also a sign of success -- success that includes a political career, a television talk show, a stint on Broadway and, Wednesday, a visit to Sioux City as host of "The Price is Right Live," a touring edition of the popular TV show.

Springer got the latest gig as an offshoot of his work on "America's Got Talent." In addition to hosting the TV version for several years, he fronted a touring edition and became a regular in the stable of stars who travel with everything from "Family Feud" to "The Price is Right."

"It's a lot of fun," he said by phone from his office. "It's old-time show business and it gives me an opportunity to joke around with the contestants. It's what show business used to be. There's no script and you're engaging."

Screaming is part of the "Price is Right" experience, the 70-year-old Springer says. But it's a different kind of screaming than he hears on his syndicated talk show. "On the talk show, they scream because they're angry."

Now in its 23rd year, "The Jerry Springer Show" has given voice to outrageous behavior. Couples yell and scream, pull hair and throw punches.

"I don't think you can be a grownup in today's world and be surprised by anything," Springer says. "You may be surprised that someone you know is doing that stuff but the idea that exists shouldn't be a shock. I can open any newspaper in any city any morning and by Page 3, I've got 20 shows."

Most people wouldn't think about exposing those problems on television, Springer adds. But there's a small percentage who just want to be heard. "For so many people, no one ever asks them what they think, no one listens to them."

"The Jerry Springer Show" gives them voice one week in their lives. They're flown to Connecticut, where the show is taped, stay in a hotel and given an audience. "They're the center of attention. It's very uplifting for them -- even if they're involved in a ridiculous story."

Most, he says, know the appearance won't solve their problem, "but it's like being part of a fraternity."

The series has become so popular it became the subject of a British, Olivier Award-winning musical, "Jerry Springer: The Opera."

"I had always assumed country music was my show put to music," Springer says. "But, really, it has all the traditional themes of opera -- the chaos, the gender misidentification, the farce, the chorus chanting, the mock tragedy. It was perfect -- they did a masterful job."

Never mind that Jerry Springer -- the character -- is murdered at the end of the first act. "It's a little sacrilegious," Springer says. "But I had nothing to do with it."

Variety, he adds, has always been a part of his life. He served as mayor of Cincinnati, anchored TV news and starred in "Chicago" on Broadway.

"Eclectic is definitely the way to describe my career. Mayor was my favorite job. I've been really lucky because I don't have any talent."

The "Price is Right" gig? It's an ideal next step. "I'm not a hunk or a great actor. I'm just a regular guy. And people can relate to that."

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