Jeremy Kyle: ‘I believe The Jeremy Kyle Show changes people’s lives’

In light of the cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show, we are publishing this Letter To My Younger Self with Jeremy himself from the archives, in which the presenter argues his show got to the "root cause" of people's pain

As a kid I lived in the shadow of my hugely successful brother. He was great at school and appeared to be brilliant at everything. People never believe me when I say this, but at school I was shy – I used to go deep red if my name was called out in class. They used to call me Kyle Pile Haemorrhoids. I found it very difficult to talk in public. I learned to grow a skin eventually.

I was very nervous of the opposite sex. I worked out early on, the way to get a girl if you looked like me was to make them laugh. I used to think how weird it was that there was a person out there I’d one day share my life with -I wondered where they were and what they were doing.

I’d reassure my younger self that he doesn’t have to worry that he doesn’t know what to do with his life. I started as a salesman, I ended up on TV – how lucky am I? I have admiration for people who have mapped their years out but I also stick up for people who don’t know what to make of their lives. I think there’s a skill in everybody but it’s not always blindingly obvious.

DID YOU KNOW…

Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.

Being a salesman brought out the performer in me. I loved the competition in selling. Even now, playing Scrabble with my wife, I always love to win. Maybe it’s because I never stood out at anything when I was young. But that made me want to try my best at everything. Yeah, I turned out to be very competitive.

The biggest mistake I made as a younger man was probably spending money I didn’t have following a dream that was never going to be achieved. I got very involved in gambling in my early 20s and painted myself into a corner. My marriage was going wrong at the same time and I stuck my head in the sand.

We get to the root cause of people’s pain,

I did 12 years of confessional radio before TV, I got used to giving my opinion. Sometimes I did ask myself if I should have done things differently, but I had to learn to think of it as a job, and go home. I’d go mad if I went over everything I say and all the awful things I hear.

I had a very secure family unit. Today, one-in-three marriages end in divorce. When you’re growing up you accept your own family as the norm: we played together, laughed together, cried together. I was much older before I got any kind of understanding of what it was like to live a totally different kind of life, without anyone really caring about you. Now I understand why kids go off the rails.

People look down on the people who come on my show but they’re all trying to do something to improve their lives. I believe The Jeremy Kyle Show changes people’s lives. I know, with my hands on my heart, that it does. We get to the root cause of people’s pain and we sort it out. It’s a TV show, and I think you have to find that line between entertainment and counselling and I think we do.

This Letter To My Younger Self originally appeared in The Big Issue in June 2010.

Image: ITV/REX/Shutterstock