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Theatre / Jerry Springer: The Opera

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Jerry Springer: The Opera is a British musical written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee, based on the television show The Jerry Springer Show. It starts with Jerry presenting an episode of his show (complete with sensational guests) before he is accidentally shot. The action then moves through limbo into Hell, revealing that Jerry has been chosen by Satan to mend the schism between Heaven and Hell.


The musical is notable for its profanity, its irreverent treatment of Judeo-Christian themes, and surreal images, such as a troupe of tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members. Sparking protests, picket lines and even some death threats from Christians, the show closed after three yearsnote , coming to an end after the UK Arts Council gave into pressure and pulled funding.

The show was also broadcast once on The BBC in January 2005 (generating over 50,000 complaints) with David Soul playing Jerry. This performance was later released on DVD.


The main characters of the show are:

  • Jerry Springer — The talk show host.
  • Jonathan Weiruss/Satan — Weiruss, the warm-up man whom Jerry fires for incompetence.
  • Steve Wilkos — Head of Security at the Jerry Springer Show.
  • Dwight/God — Dwight, a guest on the show who is cheating on his fiancee with two other people. God appears in Act III.
  • Peaches/Baby Jane — Peaches, a guest on the show, who is Dwight's fiancee in Act I. Baby Jane is another guest, the adult baby that Montel hangs out with. Baby Jane appears in all three acts.
  • Tremont/Angel Gabriel — Tremont, a guest on the show, who is a male-to-female pre-op transsexual, having an affair with Dwight. Angel Gabriel appears in Act III.
  • Zandra/Irene/The Virgin Mary — Zandra, a guest on the show, is the best friend of Peaches, and is having an affair with Dwight. Irene is Shawntel’s ashamed mother. Mary appears in Act III.
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  • Montel/Jesus — Montel, a guest on the show, enjoys dressing as a baby and fouling his own underwear. Jesus appears in Act III.
  • Andrea/Archangel Michael — Andrea, a guest on the show, is Montel’s partner. Archangel Michael appears in Act III.
  • Chucky/Adam — Chucky, a guest on the show, is Shawntel's redneck husband, who does not approve of her career desires. Adam appears in Act III.
  • Shawntel/Eve — Shawntel, a guest on the show, dreams of becoming an exotic dancer, but her husband, Chucky, disapproves. Eve appears in Act III.

This show provides examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: "The hallucinations of a dying man" can be a valid interpretation of events, in that the characters who show up in Hell mirror the appearance and some mannerisms of Jerry's guests.
  • Ass Shove: Jerry's primary motivation in Hell is to not be "fucked up the ass with barbed wire!"
  • Back from the Dead: Jerry comes back just long enough for his Final Thought.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Steve has only one line in the entire show. Still, he's not Head of Security for nothing, to the point where it's the first sign that Satan is legitimately dangerous when Steve is no longer able to handle himself in a fight.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "My ratings are low, I've got a class action suit pending, not to mention this bullet wound in the chest..."
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Most main characters do this, if only for a few lines. Also Jonathan's introduction to the (in-universe) Jerry Springer Show is directed to the audience and sometimes they're even encouraged to join in the "Jerry, Jerry!" chant.
  • Captain Obvious: While Jerry is hosting, he states things for the audience which he really didn't need to.
    (Peaches learns about her partner's cheating, and she lets out a Cluster F-Bomb)
    Jerry: (Beat) Peaches, you seem upset.
  • The Conscience: Jerry is haunted by his "Inner Valkyrie".
  • Cluster F-Bomb: It's Jerry Springer. What did you expect?
    • Detractors, including national newspapers, reported that the show contained over 8,000 instances of swearing. It was revealed that they had counted every chorus member singing a word at the same time as one to inflate their numbers. The writer said there are 174 instances of swearing in the show.
    • While the F-word and C-Word are used many times, and the F slur for gay people appears, the N-Word is not spoken once (not even when the Ku Klux Klan show up).
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    Jerry: "Accidentally shot by a man in a diaper, trying to kill a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Not exactly the epitaph I was hoping for. Still, it might look good in Latin..."
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Satan and his minions deliver one of these to Jerry and Steve (while singing) before dragging them to Hell. A much messier one occurs between the opposing sides of Heaven and Hell towards the end.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Poor Steve Wilkos.
  • Downer Ending: Jerry dies from his injuries in the end. Dampened by the epilogue where Jerry Springer becomes an Angel.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: By Satan himself.
  • Dying Declaration of Hate: Even though he's technically dead at this point, Jerry gets a variation of this before he's to be condemned to hell.
    Jerry: "In conclusion... fuck you. Fuck you all."
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Where Jerry is sent. Complete with a terrifyingly charred version of The Jerry Springer Show's set. The audience are even chained up behind cracks in the walls.
  • Greek Chorus: The trailer-trash studio audience fill this role.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jerry and Steve. Steve even (somehow) manages to follow Jerry to Purgatory and gets sent to Hell with him. Then there's the ending...
  • Hidden Depths: Surprisingly, Chuck.
    Chuck: I like flowers more than people.
    • Also, to some degree, Jonathan. Despite this, neither are portrayed very sympathetically.
  • High-Pressure Emotion: During "Fuck You Talk", Steve actually starts steaming from the effort of keeping Satan and Jesus apart.
  • Honour Before Reason: The logic Jerry uses to justify bringing the Ku Klux Klan into the studio.
    Jerry: Well, I guess it would be rude not to...
  • Large Ham: Satan. Also some of the guests (especially Tremont, Montel and Baby Jane). And the Inner Valkyrie. Honestly it borders on becoming a World of Ham at points.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Shawntel doesn't receive much time in the spotlight (given that she's just one of ten guests in the first half), but her song (I Just Wanna Dance) is the most well-known of the show.
  • Mood Whiplash: Jerry being shot can come off as this, considering that a few seconds ago you had the hilarity of seeing the Ku Klux Klan tap-dancing. It only happens increasingly regularly from that moment, with the Purgatory sequence having the most instances.
  • Never Trust a Title: Downplayed. While the majority of the show is clearly a pastiche of epic Wagnerian opera, there are several moments that are pure musical theatre and it is often classified as being a musical rather than an opera.
  • Obviously Evil: Satan. Though his introduction song feels the need to put it even more bluntly than that.
  • Precision F-Strike: Somewhat surprisingly, the show is famously rich in profanity which should dilute its impact, but the song "I Just Wanna Dance" manages to pull off a Precision F Strike with full emotional effect.
    Shawntel: I wanna do some living, 'cause I've done enough dying. I just wanna dance. I just wanna fucking dance.
  • The Quiet One: Steve is quite possibly the ultimate example in a musical, having just one spoken line early on.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jerry delivers a mass one at the end:
    Jerry: Go ahead and burn me if it'll make you happy! See if I care! You're never gonna agree about everything, and what's so bad about that?! Satan, you'll never get your apology. God, you just don't get a shoulder to cry on. And Jesus? Grow up, for Christ sake, and put some fucking clothes on! Haven't you people heard of yin and yang? Love and hate? Attraction, repulsion, it's the human condition we're talking about here! Energy is pure delight. Nothing is wrong and nothing is right, and everything that lives is holy... And in conclusion, fuck you. Fuck you all.
  • Race Lift: Played With. Jesus is played by Leon Craig, a black actor. Arguably closer to Jesus' Middle Eastern roots than the white man he is usually portrayed as.
  • Reprise Medley: The final song is called Martin's Richard-esque Finale de Grand Fromage. It's a cheery epilogue to lift audience's spirits after the Downer Ending, with a whole chorus of Jerrys performing a medley of numbers from the show.
  • Take That!:
    Ensemble: "Who'll speak for us when you are gone?"
    Jerry: "You've got Oprah Winfrey!"
    Ensemble: "She's too tame"
    Jerry: "Sally Jessy Raphael?"
    Ensemble: "She's too old"
    Jerry: "Dr Phil?"
    Ensemble: "He's too shit!"
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Doubles as a Funny Background Event. While Satan and Jesus are arguing, Steve is ordered by Satan's minions to break it up, resulting in this kind of reaction.
  • Villain Song: Satan gets three: "Him Am The Devil", "Every Last Motherfucker Should Go Down", and "Once In Happy Realms Of Light".