This is an expanded, unexpurgated version of my biweekly column for the local newspaper. As a loyal AHAU reader you get bonus links, video, photos and other bits from the cutting room floor. Enjoy!
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Since NBC Universal moved the folks who put the sin in syndicated talk show (that would be Jerry! Maury! and That Bald Guy Who Used to Work for Jerry!) to my hometown, many here have predicted the Cultural Apocalypse.
Of course, it hasn’t happened.
A quick check of the lineups currently being offered by our local Center for the Old Farts shows we are still getting a steady diet of rock and jazz musicians decades past their relevancy along with the usual bevy of violin virtuosos clad in gowns so tight it's a wonder they can reach their G strings and that their audiences can't see them.
But when in Rome, never pass up a trip through a vomitorium. That's why last week I attended a taping of The Jerry Springer Show.
If nothing else, Jerry-atrics are putting dollars into the city's parking fund. A dozen cars were queued up trying to enter the theater lot when I arrived. Signs by the meters advise those attending the freak show to pay the all-day $5 fee rather than try to save a buck using the hourly rate. Apparently, the show's taping time is never as well choreographed as its fights.
This was the first of many courtesies I encountered that morning. The staff and security people couldn't have been nicer, happier or more helpful throughout the morning even when they made me go through the metal detector. Twice.
Topping my list was the woman checking in ticketholders. She chatted spiritedly with me about skiing after she noticed an old lift ticket on my jacket. Of course, this may have been planned to distract me from reading the liability waiver I had to sign. Sarah, my partner-in-crime for the morning who actually read the waiver, said my signing had forfeited my right to, among other things, sue in the event my face impeded the trajectory of an amputee Nazi dwarf tossed by the transgendered alien he cheated on.
"Oh, no," insisted peppy ticket lady when I checked with her later. "It was just your standard generic waiver. Trust me."
“Dress your best. You’re going to be on TV!” exclaims the show’s Web site. So I wore a sweater in the recommended “solid, jewel toned” shade of Buckets o’ Blood red.
While the crew set things up for the taping, we had our appetites whetted with videos of classics from the show's two decades on the air. These included legendary episodes such as "Kung-Fu Hillbilly," "Stripper Wars" and "Pimps, Hos and That's Just Our Studio Audience." The audiovisual high it offered made me crave live catfights and non-pixelated nudity even more than usual.
First, Jerry came out and did a few minutes of self-depreciating standup. Our ringmaster was in on the joke and he wanted us to know we should be, too. For example, in commenting on the thousands and thousands of people who had appeared on his stage over the years, he deadpanned: "That's an awful lot of perverts."
After Todd, the stage manager, instructed us in the art of hooting, booing and performing fist-pumping choruses of "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" on cue, the action began. Within a few minutes the day's first guests, who audience members affectionately referred to in a later segment as "crack whore" and "bitch," were going at it.
However, before their dresses rode up or slid down (all depends on fashion style and body type) and their wigs flew like wounded synthetic birds, they each kicked off their shoe. This appears to be a mandatory requirement for female pugilists on Springer or else all the women at our taping had prepped by watching hockey fight highlights and noting the players always drop their gloves before trying to pummel an opponent. If I didn’t think Todd would toss me out for breaking ranks, I would have started chanting, "Potvin sucks!"
As the taping wore on, it was apparent each new segment's triangle of spurned lovers was comprised of people with progressively less talent for acting or even keeping a straight face. However, that didn't matter to those of us in the audience who ate up the ham Uncle Jerry had set before us. The fact Springer tickets are free is just the honey glaze that makes it all slide down a bit easier.
When all was done, we headed out but not before I convinced Sarah to pose with one of the very smiley, very beefy security guys. Note in the photo that his bicep is roughly the same size as her noggin.
As I made my way out to the parking lot, I passed a few other audience members debating whether what they witnessed was real or not. Word from some veteran audience members is that each story has some truth to it, but things are greatly exaggerated and relentlessly rehearsed. Does it really matter?
Then I passed and high-fived the guy who proudly won some coveted “Jerry beads” during the audience participation segment by dropping his pants. Todd had encouraged us to be as funny as we could (“Jokes! I want some good yucks!” he said) and this guy obviously could not survive by wits alone.
When I reached the Minivan of Manliness, I turned and I looked at the back of St. John’s, one of the oldest Catholic churches in the region and also the immediate neighbor to the Springer theater.
And I laughed.
If the pastor played his cards right, his business could be just as big as Jerry’s. They share the same demographics, don’t they? Sinners and those who enable them. Hey, that’d be a good episode title!
Final thought: Is this art? No. But it doesn’t claim to be either. Yet Springer, the TV show, did beget the British stage success Jerry Springer: The Opera. Now if the local arts council booked that into our town, they would really put the sin in synergy.
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Just prior to the show’s taping, we got to be part of an extra segment they will use on a future DVD or specials. A band called Wavy Space that Springer people had spotted on YouTube performed this song called, duh, “Springer.”
The key difference between what we saw live and this YouTube performance? At our taping, the bass player wore a Catholic schoolgirl outfit. Well, that’s not explicitly banned by the show’s dress code.
Also during our performance the guitarist’s instrument got unplugged at one point. Didn’t matter. Everything on Springer is done in a single take – except audience questions which sometimes were done two or three times to capture the best delivery -- then patched, overdubbed and pasted by little men with horns and pitchforks.
It’s a decent song they did, but it’s no Weird Al:
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Final final thought:
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode as much as I did. I’ll be taking next week off for a cause near and dear to me, the annual Cure JM Foundation National Fundraiser and Education Forum. We have a record 200+ people attending this year, so My Love – the foundation’s chairman -- will have me working double OT for her all week. I hope you will consider supporting my family’s efforts by donating through out FirstGiving page even if its with only smallest amount of spare change.
In my absence, I’ll be running a special series titled “When ‘Always Home’ Leaves Home” that features three awesome bloggers discussing there their, uh … memorable? … meetings with me on those rare occasions in which I ventured beyond my Colonial-home comfort zone.
Please be as generous to them, through your attention and comments, as they have been to me with their time and talent.
As Jerry Springer would say: Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.