For 25 years, Jerry Springer has captivated America by showcasing the craziest parts of humanity, but he insists his role in changing the TV landscape isn't as tough as it looks.
"Anybody can be a talk show host," Springer tells ET during an exclusive visit to The Jerry Springer Show set. "You do three things to be a talk show host. You have to be able to say, 'You did what? Come on out! We'll be right back.' If you can do those three lines, you've got a career."
Springer, 72, has made his job look effortless over the past two decades, and ET has been with him every step of the way. When we first interviewed the TV host in 1994, the program took on a more high-brow approach.
"Our talk show tends to deal more with news subjects or political subjects, because of my background," Springer said at the time.
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In the '70s and early '80s, Springer was an Ohio politician. After being elected to the Cincinnati city council in 1971, he was made mayor of the Midwestern city in 1977. His political career was put on hold after a failed attempt at running for Governor of Ohio in 1982.
According to Springer, the show practically fell into his lap.
Jerry Springer through his career
Jerry Springer through his career
Portrait of Jerry Springer, lawyer turned talk show host, wearing a jacket and tie, Cincinnati, OH, ca 1970. Springer was a Cincinnati councilman and mayor of Cincinnati. (Photo by Daniel J. Ransohoff/Cincinnati Museum Center/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - OCTOBER 17: Television personality Jerry Springer attends NBC Television Special 'Donahue: The 25th Anniversary' After Party on October 17, 1992 at the Rihga Royal Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 26: Television personality Jerry Springer attends the 30th Annual National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Convention and Exhibition on January 26, 1993 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - JANUARY 25: Television personality Jerry Springer attends the 31st Annual National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Convention and Exhibition on January 25, 1994 at Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
CANADA - APRIL 30: Jerry Springer (Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Jerry Springer during Jerry Springer Promotes Videos at Wherehouse Records at Wherehouse Records in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 26: Television personality Jerry Springer attends the 36th Annual National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Convention and Exhibition on January 26, 1999 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
LONDON - July 01: Chat show host and Politician Jerry Springer poses at a studio session on July 01, 2000 in London. (Photo by Rod Johnson/Getty Images)
397880 01: (ITALY OUT) Television talk show host Jerry Springer walks along Central Park South November 28, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)
OXFORD, OH - FEBRUARY 13: Talk show host Jerry Springer speaks out against the threatened war on Iraq during a speech at Miami University February 13, 2003 in Oxford, Ohio. Springer, a former Democratic mayor of Cincinnati, says he's thinking about getting back into politics. (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 06: Potential Senate candidate Jerry Springer, D-Ohio, receives a doll of himself from Dustin Proehl at the Ross County Democratic Party Spring Dinner in Chillicothe, Ohio. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)
BURBANK, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Talk Show Host Jerry Springer and Host Jay Leno talk during the 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno' at the NBC Studios September 12, 2003 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Jerry Springer during Photocall For 'Jerry Springer The Opera' at The Cambridge Theatre in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
LONDON - MAY 28: Television show host Jerry Springer poses during a photocall on May 28, 2004 in London, England. Springer will join Capital Gold radio station for one week as a special guest DJ. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Jerry Springer eating the sandwich he dedicated to Carnegie Deli. (Photo by G. Gershoff/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 18: DANCING WITH THE STARS - Jerry Springer (left), notorious TV talk show host of 'The Jerry Springer Show,' talk radio broadcaster and politician, will be partnered with Australian beauty, professional dancer Kym Johnson (right), who makes her series debut this season on ABC Television Network's 'Dancing with the Stars.' Kym was the champion of the Australian 'Dancing with the Stars.' (Photo by James Sorensen/ABC via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - JUNE 15: Television talk show host Jerry Springer poses in the press room during the 34th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on June 15, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
SUDDENLY SUSAN -- 'The Wish List' Episode 7 -- Aired 12/6/99 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jerry Springer as himself, Brooke Shields as Susan Keane -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
LONDON - FEBRUARY 17: Jerry Springer (C) poses with cast from Chicago at The Cambridge Theatre on February 17, 2009 in London, England. Jerry Springer will be starring in the hit musical for six weeks from Monday 1 June 2009 playing the part of Billy Flynn. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 07: Jerry Springer performs at America's Got Talent tour at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on October 7, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Jerry Springer (celebrating his 20th year in television) and Steve Wilkos (R) are honored on the wall of fame at The Palm on April 13, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 04: Television Personality Jerry Springer on stage at BritWeek 2012's 'An Evening With Piers Morgan, In Conversation With Jackie Collins' benefiting Children's Hospital Los Angeles at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on May 4, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
SYNDICATION PROMO SHOOTS -- Season: 2013 -- Jerry Springer -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE VIEW - Singer Michelle Williams; Rachel Feinstein ('Top Five') and comedian Mario Cantone guest co-host today; Wednesday, January 7, 2015. Guests include Jerry Springer ('Baggage') and Joshua Sasse (ABC's 'Galavant') on ABC's 'The View.' 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm; ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Fred Lee/ABC via Getty Images) ** Local Caption ** MARIO CANTONE; JERRY SPRINGER
CAMBRIDGE, CAMBRIDGESHIRE - NOVEMBER 05: Jerry Springer during his Cambridge Union address at The Cambridge Union on November 5, 2015 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, CAMBRIDGESHIRE - NOVEMBER 05: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Jerry Springer posing for a portrait before his Cambridge Union address at The Cambridge Union on November 5, 2015 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
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"I was anchoring the news in Cincinnati for the NBC affiliate there, and I had been doing that for 10 years," he says. "One day the CEO took me out to lunch and said, 'You know Phil [Donahue] is going to be retiring, and we're going to start another talk show, and you're going to host it,' and I was assigned to it, because I was an employee. They adjusted the pay and all that, but it wasn't anything I ever aspired to."
By 1998, The Jerry Springer Show (like Springer himself) had ditched politics. The show had become known for baby-daddy fights and electric show tapings.
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"The day I figured out, 'Wow! We're on to something,' there were two cultural moments that impacted me, and I think one was being on the Simpsons," Springer says. "And the other was being on the cover of Rolling Stone. That's honestly the first time I noticed that 'Oh my gosh! People are really noticing me.'"
Bizarre guests like Heidi, the Adult Baby; Charlie, the Woman Whose Husband Left Her for His Sister and Mark, the Guy Who Married a Horse, put the show into the stratosphere of must-see TV.
But even as the show gained more success (in 1998 it scored more viewers than The Oprah Winfrey Show), Springer never seemed to take himself or the show too seriously, which added to his likeability.
"Our show is a circus, period," he says. "It has no redeeming social value."
One of Springer's rivals, Oprah Winfrey, said farewell to her hit talk show after 25 years, but don't expect Springer to walk away anytime soon.
"I just do it because it's fun to do. And I'm not that good at golf. I think I'd go crazy," he says. "I'm always afraid not to be working. It's psychological I'm sure. If I ever have nightmares about something, it's about not having a job, which is crazy I know."
While he might not have given much thought to how or when he'll retire, Springer has figured out how he will "sign off" after his body has been laid to rest.
"I know what I'm going to put on my tombstone," he says. "'I won't be right back.'"