Intern Gets Behind-the-Scenes Look at The Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show
Intern Gets Behind-the-Scenes Look at The Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

Things can get explosive on The Jerry Springer Show, and fast. Fists fly, chairs tumble, people yell and scream and wrangle through all kinds of family issues, cheating, heartbreak and who dumped whom?
But on the inside, it’s a highly organized, well-oiled machine – a very professional workplace, said Joshua Tong `14, an intern with NBC Universal’s The Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show.

Joshua Tong '14

“The level of professionalism allows everything to run smoothly,” said Tong, a music and sound recording major. “The different scenarios on the show wouldn’t flow if the guys with the cameras, the security guards and everybody on the staff weren’t doing the kind of job they are doing. You never know what people are going to do, but the members of the staff are prepared for everything.”

His role as an intern is varied – he does office work, he revs up the studio audience prior to the show and he escorts guests to the stage. “Right before they get on stage, you can hear the roar of the audience echo through the hallways,” he said. 

“It’s an incredible opportunity to be working for two really popular shows,” Tong said. He’s learning the different tone and rhythm of each show.

In its 23rd year, The Jerry Springer Show continues to have strong ratings, and last year saw an increase in female viewers. The show seeks potential guests, posing questions on its website such as “Are you a twin with relationship drama?” or “Do you want to win your ex back?” Springer and his guests play to a packed house at its Stamford studios. Tong said people line up early for tickets, and the show is typically sold out daily.

Wilkos, a former security guard on The Jerry Springer Show, started his own talk show seven years ago. Last year, his show had the largest year-to-year ratings increase among all syndicated talk shows. Guests on Wilkos’s show are often involved in criminal cases, and he has been known to kick them off the set or chase them down the hall if they are eluding his questions. His trademark: tossing a chair when he’s particularly angered by a guest.

Boring and sedate? Not this internship, said Tong. “The job is intense,” he said. “However, it’s a great experience with great people. I’m always up for a new challenge, so I really appreciate the chance that they are giving me. I love talking to guests before they go on. They are people from all different walks of life. I’m learning a lot.”

Last fall, Tong received an email alerting him that representatives from the shows would be visiting the campus to discuss internship possibilities. On the day of the campus visit, he said he arrived early for the appointment to be sure he was the first one there. After a series of interviews, he landed the position.

Three days a week, Tong is on a Stamford-bound commuter train for the long trek from his North Haven home. He gets up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the 5:45 a.m. train. During his commute, he does some school work, and he even meditates to prepare for the day ahead. On the other two days, he’s in classes at the University, and he works at the front desk of a high-end gym in North Haven.

A guitarist, Tong also plays gigs regularly. Since being discovered by an agent at a backyard barbecue while he was sitting with some friends and playing his guitar, Tong has backed up Grammy-nominated artists in venues around the country. He’s played with gospel artist Vashawn Mitchell. Last year, he was flown to Las Vegas to play with R&B artists Brian McKnight and Case. “That was an amazing experience,” he said.

He has many plans after graduation. He wants to build upon his music career and one day hopes to become a music director on an evening talk show such as The Tonight Show. Being part of two NBC Universal shows provides him with a running start, he said.

He said he is grateful to the University for its emphasis on experiential education. “The University has given me some very strong roots,” he said. “It’s small enough so that you know everyone on campus. At the same time, it offers big opportunities – so you just take off.”

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