"There's a lot of diversity," said Springer during a Wednesday conference call with reporters, discussing America's Got Talent's second season hopefuls. "Clearly there are a lot of singers, but boy, there's a whole bunch of other stuff too, from magicians to ventriloquists to jugglers... Some amazing acts frankly. I haven't seen television like this since the old variety shows. That does seem to be the magic of this show. This really is the old-time Ed Sullivan variety show, or when I was a kid, it was The Ted Mack Amateur Hour... It's really kind of neat because we don't have that on television anymore. So this really is a pure variety show and you get all kinds of acts and community involvement."
America's Got Talent 2 will debut Tuesday, June 5 at 9PM on NBC with a special two-hour premiere, and Springer will be there to take the reigns from the show's first season host, Regis Philbin. The 75-year-old New York-based Philbin reportedly decided not to return for America's Got Talent 2 due to the "heavy travel schedule" the show's Los Angeles tapings required, and Springer said he's not looking to be the second coming of Rege.
"You know Regis is the best there ever was at this business so I'm not even going to pretend I can fill his shoes," said Springer. "It would be insulting to him and foolish of me. I'm going to be what I can be as best I can be. But it's going to be me, it's not Regis. I would never pretend to have his competence."
Springer is best known for his syndicated talk show The Jerry Springer Show, which is currently airing its sixteenth season. He said there's a "tremendous difference" between appearing as the "Ringmaster" for The Jerry Springer Show and hosting America's Got Talent.
"I think some of [the America's Got Talent] acts are really strange," said Springer. "There were a few where I could have said, 'Wow. What a perfect guest [for The Jerry Springer Show].' But I don't know if their behavior in their regular lives would warrant an appearance on [The Jerry Springer Show]. That's probably a plus for them."
Last fall Springer also became a familiar face to reality television fans when he appeared as a celebrity two-stepper on the third season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. After surviving six episodes of the reality competition series, he was eliminated with partner Kym Johnson.
"I guess Dancing was kind of interesting because even though I had been on television in one capacity or another for 35 years, it was the first time I was ever on television as myself," he said. "I always had a role. I was [the mayor of Cincinnati, OH], or I was a news anchor, or I was a talk-show host, but I always had a role to play. Dancing with the Stars was really the first time I was ever on a show just as me. And I think therefor people who might have thought they knew me perhaps realized that they didn't. I think that's why there was such an impact with that show. There was the unexpected... I guess it was the missed expectation of who I was."
Springer said previous television experience aside, he was chosen as the new host for America's Got Talent because "next to me everyone has talent and they liked that set-up." However he said his Dancing with the Stars journey did help him settle more comfortably into his America's Got Talent role.
"I think I kind of know what they're feeling, you know, to be on a contest before a national audience doing something that you really haven't done professionally. So I understand the butterflies," he explained. "On this show I really take the side of the contestants. I don't know if we planned that but that's what I really feel, and I think sometimes the judges are too tough on them. Not with how they grade them, but sometimes with their comments. And I think the people that are trying out relate to that... I'm in their corner... This guy's giving his best shot. There's no reason to insult him. I feel like an advocate for those who are trying out. It's not my job to say who should win, but I certainly want to make it a good experience for those who tried out."
During its first season last summer, the Simon Cowell-produced variety-talent competition was judged by actor David Hasselhoff, former British newspaper editor Piers Morgan and pop singer Brandy Norwood. However last December Norwood caused a four-car accident on a Los Angeles freeway that resulted in the death of motorist Awatef Aboudihaj, whose two sons have since filed wrongful death lawsuits against Norwood. So prior to America's Got Talent's second season, she was replaced with former The Osbournes star Sharon Osbourne.
"[The judges] go at each other quite a bit. I think the three of them are strong personalities, and I think most of the action is among the judges," said Springer. "I think most of the contestants are scared of Piers Morgan. He's very bright but very tough. He plays the Simon Cowell [American Idol] role. They figure if they can get by Piers, they'll move on to the next round. And Sharon tends to be very supportive often times. She plays for the real young ones the kind mother... She's actually very charming."
Having already participated in America's Got Talent's second season audition process, Springer said he was impressed by many of the skills the contestants possess.
"There are a couple of singing groups that are really good... That are funny and good," said Springer. "There's also some totally crazy acts that are weird but good. I'm involved with one magic act, and I don't know how the guy did it. I really feel like I'm Ed Sullivan. I'm bringing out these acts, you go from this great singer to all of a sudden a guy juggling plates, there are animal acts and there are fire acts... And I don't know that there's anything like it on television now."
Never afraid to admit he's a big fan of American politics, Springer said America's Got Talent also encapsulates some of the qualities he feels make this country great.
"I just love this idea that in this country, you can be sitting in your own home, grab a hair brush, stand in-front of the mirror and belt out a song," he said. "And by gosh -- if you like the way you sound or if your mom comes in the room and says, 'Hey Gerlad that's very good!' -- by gosh dream! Be what you want to be! Go out and try out! It's not, 'Well, you're not from the right family. You don't have significant wealth. You're not famous.' None of that. Anybody, anywhere in this country, can try and be what they want to be. You really see this when you walk into [America's Got Talent's] audition room... They're here because, 'Wow! This is fun! I'm going to give this a shot.' And nobody laughs at them for trying."
"What's really neat -- and I might have been cynical when I originally thought about this -- but when I actually went to the auditions, and you go into this huge room and there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people there getting ready... They're all happy," Springer continued. "I mean it's like this is exciting. They're not thinking, 'Gee, I'm going to win the $1 million.' But they're thinking about, 'This is America. Everyone's allowed to try-out... Give it your best shot.' It's a very democratic process. I've really enjoyed the show."