Kyle takes on the US
FOR someone who admits to narrowly missing out to Osama Bin Laden in a poll for the World’s Most Hated Man, Jeremy Kyle is surprisingly pleasant.
“Apparently Pol Pot was at five, Hitler at four, Saddam Hussein at three, and I was two. My agent said to me, “You can’t even win that!” he laughs.
Disarmingly honest from the start, it’s easy to understand how Kyle’s easy, opinionated banter – he talks non-stop – and self-deprecating sense of humour have helped him gain access to more than a million viewers’ homes daily with his controversial talk show.
The 44-year-old presenter readily admits he is human marmite – you either love him or you hate him – but it’s hard to hate him in the flesh.
“If I wanted to court popularity, I would say what I thought people wanted to hear,” he says of his famously critical approach to guests on his show.
“What I’ve learned about the British public is that even if they disagree with you completely and would spend a lifetime disagreeing with you, if they know you’re being honest and saying what you feel, people buy into that.”
Honesty is a big deal for the former salesman, who has three children with his second wife Carla, and a daughter Hattie, from his first marriage.
If you’re going to spend your days, as he says, moralising to the Great British public about their misdemeanours, you have to keep your nose clean.
“Every single person in the public eye is going to be the centre of press attention at some point. If you don’t like it, pack it up and go back and do a nine-to-five and don’t moan and bitch about it. If you’re on television every morning being moralistic, the press are going to see if they can make you out to be whatever – and if you score an own goal, then they have every right [to report it].” Three years ago The Jeremy Kyle Show was condemned by a judge as being a “human form of bear-baiting” after a guest appeared in court for head-butting his wife’s lover on air.
Today, thick-skinned Kyle has moved on from the ensuing media circus, which he refers to as a “tsunami of attention”, penned a best-selling book I’m Only Being Honest, in which he talks openly about his former gambling addiction and his OCD, and is about to take his brand of talk show to the States.
It’s a gutsy move considering America practically invented the talk show and have exported some of their most famous hosts, including Jerry Springer, over here.
But as Kyle reveals in his new book, You Couldn’t Make It Up, his American Dream has been two years in the making.
Just before the recession took hold, Kyle and his agent flew out to Manhattan to meet producers from a US network. Then came the credit crunch and as Kyle explains, “the money to strike new deals dried up”
Back in the UK, Kyle and his team who make the show in Manchester were living in fear of getting the boot, as hundreds of staff were made redundant and there was no news from ITV on the UK show’s renewal.
“I just got my head down, I didn’t hear anything, but the vibes weren’t good at the time,” admits Kyle.
Then, bizarrely, it was ITV who suggested Kyle have a stab at America, and, with the backing of Granada USA, Kyle will be jetting off to Manhattan next May to do a promotional tour before filming starts in August.
Kyle is well aware of the pitfalls – “It’s impossible to crack America” – but he’s already had a positive response from some of the locals.
“I was at a meeting in Vegas the other day and they all sat there and said, ‘They’ll love the empathy and they’ll love the voice’ and this American lady said, ‘We think it’s classy’,” he says, pointing out that American talk shows have gone “so far outside the box” that it’s not unusual to watch a host interview a paedophile while the police wait at the studio door to arrest them.”
The Jeremy Kyle Show is on weekday mornings on
ITV1. You Couldn’t Make It Up by Jeremy Kyle is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £16.99.