My viewers know the difference between the lightning round and the rest of the show. What really gets to me is this nasty impression so many of my critics have of the Mad Money audience: that they’re people who are too dumb to know the difference between a prepared story and an answer to a question. I’m a loudmouthed, obnoxious idiot with too many faults to list, but my viewers are great. They’re incredibly smart, probably a lot smarter than some of the journalists who characterize them as mindless drones, doing whatever I tell them to do on the show.
In TV, there’s a really pervasive sense that the audience is stupid and should be treated accordingly. I don’t do that. It’s standard operating procedure on television to dumb things down for the audience because the last thing anyone wants to do is say something his viewers can’t understand (call it the Dennis Miller effect). While this may have been right ten years, or even five years ago, it’s not right anymore. I make dozens of comments in passing every show, and there is no way that even the best-educated guy in the world is going to know what I’m talking about all the time. But that’s okay because my audience isn’t just smart, it’s Google-smart. You hear something you don’t know about, and instead of feeling stupid, you go to a computer and look it up. Mad Money may be the first show to be made for the Google-literate. I believe people are smarter than most of the media expect, and I know that people can make themselves smarter. The old canard that I have always heard—pitch it to the trailer-trash people because that’s who watches—just isn’t true. They may live in them, but they are not trash, and they want to get rich like the rest of us.
This is all well and good, but it still doesn’t answer my big question: Why do people hate me? I listen to my critics, perhaps a little too much for my own health, and they generally fall into two groups. There are people who don’t like my style. They’re the ones who don’t like it when I wear the diaper or swim in the pool of lettuce. There’s no accounting for taste. That said, the people who don’t like my style are not the people I’m trying to reach. The guys who think that my shtick is obnoxious and impossible to watch are already well served by the conventional outlets for information and entertainment. My target audience probably has trouble sitting still through the evening news, and there’s no one out there, aside from Cramer, making the market interesting or compelling for this cohort.
Then there’s the second group of “Cramer-haters,” as I call them on the show. This group is supremely well intentioned, and for the most part right. They’re skeptical about my ability to make people money. It makes sense to be skeptical (although my most recent internal performance review found that the stocks I pick for the show beat the S&P 500 63 percent of the time). They warn individual investors not to immediately buy any stock I recommend and often caution that investing is hard work that takes patience and practice. I agree with these critics so strongly, in fact, that I make these points on Mad Money almost every night, telling my viewers to do their homework on my stock recommendations and wait at least a day or two before making any purchases to let the hubbub subside. I can’t blame most of these critics for not raptly watching the show every night before determining that I am just a tout doling out stock picks to the weak-minded and lazy. I too caution that investors should be skeptical about the advice they take, and if I heard about some screaming guy with a TV show telling people they ought to own this or that stock, I also would be pretty unwilling to give the madman a chance.
For the people who still can’t stand me, anything I do, or what I claim to stand for, I can offer only one thing. Despite the fact that wherever I go I get asked for my autograph, and if I stop for too long I end up getting my picture taken with a dozen strangers, I remain completely and utterly repulsive to myself.