Springer was born in Highgate tube station in London, England, while the station was in use as a shelter from German bombing during World War II, and grew up on Chandos Road, East Finchley. His parents, Margot (née Kallmann; a bank clerk) and Richard Springer (owner of a shoe shop), were Jewish refugees who escaped from Landsberg an der Warthe, Germany (now Gorzów Wielkopolski, Poland). His maternal grandmother Marie Kallmann, who was left behind, died in the gas trucks of Chelmno extermination camp (Poland). His paternal grandmother, Selma Springer (née Elkeles), died at the hospital in the Theresienstadt concentration camp (Czech Republic). Selma Springer's brother, Dr. Hermann Elkeles, was a renowned Berlin doctor who also died at Theresienstadt concentration camp.
In January 1949, Springer immigrated with his parents to the United States, settling in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York, and attended Forest Hills High School. One of his earliest memories about current events was when he was 12 and watching the 1956 Democratic convention on television where he saw and was impressed by John F. Kennedy.
Springer earned a B.A. degree from Tulane University in 1965, majoring in political science. He earned a J.D. degree from Northwestern University in 1968.
Springer was a partner in the law firm of Grinker, Sudman & Springer from 1973 to 1985, alongside former NBA agent Ronnie Grinker (d. 1997) and current Butler County magistrate Harry Sudman.
Springer became a political campaign adviser to Robert F. Kennedy. After Kennedy's assassination, he joined the Cincinnati law firm of Frost & Jacobs, now Frost Brown Todd.
In 1970, Springer ran for Congress. He failed to unseat incumbent Republican Donald D. Clancy, but took 45% of the vote in a traditionally Republican district. He had previously spearheaded the effort to lower the voting age, including testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of ratification of the 26th Amendment. Three days after announcing his candidacy, Springer, who was also an Army reservist at the time, was called to active duty and deployed to Fort Knox. He resumed his campaign after he was discharged.
Springer was elected to the Cincinnati city council in 1971. He resigned in 1974 after admitting to hiring a prostitute. The episode was uncovered when a police raid on a Fort Wright, Kentucky massage parlor found a check Springer had written pinned to a wall in their office with "for services rendered" written in the memo. Springer came clean at a press conference. Long-time Cincinnati newsman Al Schottelkotte pronounced Springer's career over, but Springer's honesty helped him win back his seat in 1975 by a landslide. In a post-election interview, Schottelkotte good-naturedly reminded Springer that he had declared Springer's career over. Springer told the newsman, "I'm glad that you were wrong." In 1977, he was chosen to serve one year as mayor by the City Council. Springer could only serve one year as mayor due to a political arrangement at the time (Cincinnati has since changed to direct election of its mayor) that required the Democrats to split the mayoral term with a local centrist group, the Charter Party, with whom the Democrats governed in an electoral alliance. In the City Council, and as mayor, Springer supported changing the local election system so that council members would be elected by districts (thus better representing neighborhood interests) instead of "9X" at-large system, but his efforts (as well as those of everyone else, to date, who has supported such a change) did not meet with success.
In 1982, Springer sought the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio. TV commercials for Springer's campaign referenced his use of a check to pay a prostitute, saying that he was not afraid of the truth "even if it hurts". He failed to win the Democratic party's nomination—finishing a distant third behind former Lieutenant Governor Richard F. Celeste and Ohio Attorney General William J. Brown, and his political career was put on hold. In the late 1980s, he played a major role in saving the historic Cincinnati Union Terminal.
Springer considered running for the United States Senate in 2000 and 2004, but backed down due to negative associations with Jerry Springer.
Springer's broadcast career started while he was an undergraduate at Tulane University, on WTUL New Orleans FM, a progressive format college radio station. It continued while he was still mayor of Cincinnati, with album-oriented rock radio station WEBN-FM, which was noted for its laid-back and irreverent radio format. The station featured commentaries by Springer under the banner "The Springer Memorandum." The popularity of these commentaries launched his broadcasting career.
Springer was hired as a political reporter and commentator on Cincinnati's NBC affiliate, WLWT, which had, at the time, the lowest-rated news program. Later, having been named primary news anchor and Managing Editor, he needed a broadcast catchphrase in the model of other great newsmen. With the help of some others at WLWT, he created his signature line: "Take care of yourself, and each other." Within two years he was Cincinnati's number-one news anchor, along with partner Norma Rashid. For five years, he was the most popular one in the city, garnering ten local Emmy Awards for his nightly commentaries, which were frequently satirized by Cincinnati radio personality Gary Burbank. Those commentaries would eventually become his "Final Thought" on Springer. Springer would remain commentator at WLWT until January 1993. He resided in Loveland, Ohio, during this time.
In 1997, the Chicago-based NBC-owned station WMAQ-TV hired Springer to serve as a news commentator. However, this proved to be unpopular among viewers, as it resulted in the resignation of long-time news anchors Ron Magers and Carol Marin. After performing only two commentaries, Springer resigned as commentator.
Jerry Springer debuted on September 30, 1991. It was developed by WLWT to mimic the format and look of fellow talk show The Phil Donahue Show, all the way down to Jerry's haircut and glasses, making him look like Phil Donahue (both were produced by Multimedia Entertainment). It started as a politically oriented talk show, a longer version of Springer's commentaries. Guests included Oliver North and Jesse Jackson, and topics included homelessness and gun politics.
In early 1994, Springer and his new producer, Richard Dominick, revamped the show's format in order to garner higher ratings. The show became more successful as it became targeted toward tabloidish sensationalism. Guests were everyday people confronted on a television stage by a spouse or family member's adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, transvestism, hate group membership, or other controversial situations. These confrontations were often promoted by scripted shouting or violence on stage. The show received substantial ratings and much attention. By 1998, it was beating The Oprah Winfrey Show in many cities, and was reaching more than 6.7 million viewers.
On July 10, 2002, the sons of guest Nancy Campbell-Panitz – who was murdered by her ex-husband after they appeared on a May 2000 episode with his girlfriend – filed suit in Sarasota County against Springer, his producers, and his distributor, claiming he created "a mood that led to murder." Ultimately, the estate of Ms. Campbell-Panitz dropped all monetary claims against Jerry Springer and the show agreed to waive its claims for malicious prosecution against the personal representative of the estate of Ms. Campbell-Panitz and his counsel.
In 2005, a UK version of the show aired on Britain's ITV network titled The Springer Show. A subdued and more tongue-in-cheek version of the U.S. show, it beat its talk-show rival Trisha Goddard five to one in the ratings.
The VH1 "celebreality" series The Springer Hustle, which took a look at how Jerry Springer is produced, premiered in April 2007.
In April 2015, Springer debuted The Jerry Springer Podcast on his website, JerrySpringer.com.
Jerry Springer is the second American talk show host to travel to Cuba, after Conan O'Brien, for the Jerry Springer Podcast.
Springer hosted America's Got Talent on NBC in the U.S. for two seasons, replacing Regis Philbin, before leaving to concentrate on other projects.
From January 17, 2005, to December 5, 2006, Springer hosted Springer on the Radio, a liberal talk show on Cincinnati's WCKY-AM. He did the show from the Clear Channel studios in Kenwood on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and in Chicago (where his television show tapes) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Air America Radio syndicated the program for most of the show's run.
He hosted Miss World 2000 and the Miss Universe 2008. He was also the guest host for WWE Raw on February 15, 2010 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. Springer has also hosted the live stage show version of The Price Is Right.
From 2010 to 2015, Springer hosted a dating game show called Baggage, which aired on GSN.
In July 2012, he hosted Price is Right Live! in Vancouver's Boulevard Casino.
From January 2014, Springer hosted Investigation Discovery series Tabloid.
He hosted The Adam Carolla Show on April 25, 2014, where he sat in for Adam Carolla.
Springer guest hosted the 22nd-season premiere episode of WWE Raw on September 8, 2014 in an attempt to conduct an intervention with The Bella Twins.
After a few years of his US talk show being broadcast in the UK, ITV approached Springer who temporarily co-hosted This Morning with Judy Finnigan in March 1999 and again in 2000. In summer 1999, ITV made 12 episodes of the UK-based version of the series, Jerry Springer UK, filmed at the same studios as his US show.
In September 1999, Jerry made a pilot for a Letterman-style talk show for ITV called Jerry Springer on Sunday. The show received good reviews and ratings and a further four episodes were commissioned to be broadcast in May 2000. Five were actually broadcast during May and June 2000 under the name Springer.
The series was picked up by Channel 5 and renamed Late Night with Jerry Springer. Two series were made in 2000 and 2001 with 16 episodes. While working for Channel 5 In 2001, he was the host of the UK version of Greed, and a stand in host for The Wright Stuff. On April 16, 2006, Springer was the guest host for the opening show for the third series of The Friday Night Project for Channel 4 and guest hosted Have I Got News for You on December 12, 2008. In 2007, he was the host of Nothing But the Truth, the UK version of Nada más que la verdad. In 2009, he appeared as a guest on the long-running British game show Countdown. Springer appeared on the Chris Moyles Show in April 2009, along with Davina McCall and Alan Carr. On May 31, 2009, Springer was a guest on The Andrew Marr Show talking about politics and his upcoming projects. He was also a guest panellist on an episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats in 2014.
Springer appeared in an episode of BBC One's television series Who Do You Think You Are? on August 27, 2008. In the episode he traveled to Poland, where he discovered that his maternal grandmother had been sent to Chelmno extermination camp by the Nazis and killed. His paternal grandmother died at Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. He wept openly when he learned of how they died. In 2015, he was a panellist on an episode of Through the Keyhole.
Springer covered the 2016 United States Presidential Election for ITV's Good Morning Britain.
On June 10, 2016, he guest hosted an episode of the BBC's The One Show with Alex Jones.
Springer portrayed his own talk show host character in the 1998 film Ringmaster, using the name Jerry Farrelly. Ringmaster offers a behind-the-scenes look at would-be guests who apply to a Springer-like show. The same year, Springer also released an unrelated autobiography named Ringmaster. He quipped, "I can only think of one title a year."
In 1996, he appeared on an episode of the ninth season of Roseanne and on The X-Files episode "The Post-Modern Prometheus". In 1998, he voiced a cartoon version of himself in the Halloween episode of The Simpsons titled "Starship Poopers", that same year, he appeared as himself on an episode of The Wayans Bros.. In 1999, he appeared in the episode Mrs. Kraft of the third season of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch with his talk show. In 2004 he played the US President in "The Defender" directed by Dolph Lundgren. In 2007, he appeared on episode No. 1301 of MADtv as himself.
Jerry Springer made a cameo appearance in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me as himself during an episode of his show featuring Dr. Evil and his estranged son Scott Evil.
In 1999, he was in an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
Springer appeared in an episode of Married... with Children as The Masculine Feminist, in which he was for women getting the men's bowling night and eventually taking over at a bowling alley. Al Bundy and his friends tie Springer to a chair and take over his show with a stripper who jumps up and down for the crowd's delight. He was in several episodes of George Lopez as Benny Lopez's ex-boyfriend Wayne and made a July 2007 guest appearance on Days of Our Lives as "Pete", a high roller in Las Vegas who helped Nick Fallon win $50,000. On October 19, 2007, Springer made a cameo appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien as a "random" audience member. In June 2009, he appeared in Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre London as Billy Flynn for a short period of time, starring alongside Aoife Mulholland and Leigh Zimmerman.
Springer has been a guest in the following shows: the UK daytime programme The Paul O'Grady Show on Channel 4 on November 12, 2007, Question Time on June 19, 2008, Saturday Kitchen on June 21, 2008 along with chef Theresa Griegson and Kristin Dawson, Verdict with Dan Abrams in June 2008, two appearances on Whose Line Is It Anyway? in 2003 (from the same taping), The Jason Ellis Show on June 20, 2008, Desert Island Discs on November 1, 2009, and Hell's Kitchen on October 13, 2010.
Springer also co-starred in Dolph Lundgren's directorial debut The Defender (2004).
He was interviewed by satirist Chris Morris in his surreal radio series Blue Jam (Series 2, Episode 6). On January 23, 2004, Springer was featured in an episode of This American Life titled "Leaving the Fold".
In 1995, Springer recorded the album Dr. Talk for Fiddle Fish Records, which mostly consisted of country music covers.
In late 2006, Springer was a contestant on the third season of Dancing with the Stars, with his professional dance partner, Kym Johnson. He wanted to appear on the show so he could learn the waltz for the wedding of his daughter, Katie. Springer and Johnson were eliminated in the seventh week of competition.
On May 16, 2008, Springer delivered the Northwestern University School of Law commencement address. Although many students had criticized the University's choice of speaker, he received a standing ovation from about half the audience and reviews of his speech were generally positive. In a March 2009 interview on Anytime with Bob Kushell, Springer said that in his speech he talked about "the ethical judgments we all have to make in whatever business we go [into]".
Springer is the executive producer of The Steve Wilkos Show, which is hosted by Steve Wilkos, the long-time head of security on Springer's own talk show.
It was announced on March 29, 2015 that Springer will host Too Hot For TV on the WWE Network.
Springer married Micki Velton in 1973 and had one daughter, Katie Springer (born 1976). They divorced in 1994. Springer tends to keep his personal life private. A lifelong New York Yankees fan, he can be seen at Yankee home games from time to time.In 1998, the MTV animated show Celebrity Deathmatch had a clay-animated fight to the death between Jerry, Oprah Winfrey, and Rosie O'Donnell. Jerry is the first to be killed by being ripped in half like a wishbone.
A musical by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, Jerry Springer: The Opera, is based on his show. It first became popular at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2002. It has since played at the Royal National Theatre and the West End in London before embarking on a UK Tour in 2006. It opened in 2007 in Chicago, in the US, and plans were to move onto regional productions throughout the United States. It was also screened on BBC 2 Television, causing some controversy. The televised version is now available on DVD.
Springer and his television program are mentioned in Mark Knopfler's song "Devil Baby". The songs "Jerry Springer" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Mr Springer" by Fascinating Aïda, "Jerry Rules in the Land of the Free" by the Dutch punk band De Heideroosjes and "Mr. Unfaithful" by the Swedish art-rock band A.C.T were inspired by him. On Jay-Z's album Blueprint 3, Kanye West says "I am never sprung, but I spring her (Springer), Jerry" in the song "Hate". The Peter Gabriel song "The Barry Williams Show" pokes fun at "The Jerry Springer Show" and many other reality talk shows. Tim Minchin's song "Some People Have It Worse Than I", mentions The Jerry Springer Show, as well as "...the brilliant insights for which Jerry is known".
At most New York Yankees home games, whenever a fight breaks out, the crowd will start chanting "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" in reference to the chanting by his talk show audience when guests of his show are fighting.