After seeing Jim Cramer scream and stomp through his nightly financial advice inferno on CNBC, Mad Money (think Wall $treet Week meets Jerry Springer), one might wonder how this 51-year-old Harvard grad, author, and co-founder of TheStreet.com can be so filthy rich (estimated worth between $50 million and $100 million) and yet so insane. The answer is simple: He’s from Philly (Wyndmoor, to be precise), as became evident when Cramer compared an Eagle to Gandhi and a former mayor to Mussolini, and discussed the finer points of throwing an office tantrum. Italicized capital letters denote screaming that reaches a nearly inaudible vocal range, much like that of a dog whistle.
Exit Interview: Is what we see of you on television a manifestation of some Philly childhood rage?
Jim Cramer: My show and my persona are the sum total of having been brought up in a town where there are people who are heroes, and there are people who are bums. The owners of the teams are BAD GUYS who are GAMBLERS and GO TO ATLANTIC CITY and LOSE THE DAMN TEAM while everyone else is BUILDING HALL-OF-FAME LINEUPS! I grew up in a house of ANGER! I grew up listening to my father tell me how great Rizzo was, okay? And to me, Rizzo was a FASCIST! So when I get a TV show, suddenly it’s like, “THAT GUY’S A FASCIST!” I don’t trust CEOs like I don’t trust politicians. Some of these CEOs would drop a bomb on a house.
EI: So there’s no chance we’ll see Wilson Goode on your show?
JC: NO! NO! But LOOK, there was a 1985 team from Villanova that won the national championship. Every one of those guys could call me and say, “I need a loan,” and it’s DONE! YOU MADE MY MOM HAPPY! DONE! There’s guys who are winners, and there’s other guys that wouldn’t know the playoffs from a HOLE in the wall.
EI: Like the Eagles this year.
JC: I’m a season ticket-holder. If Andy Reid was a CEO, it’d be like, “Look at this bum!” But in that world, no, man! CHAMPIONSHIPS!
EI: How was Terrell Owens as a guest?
JC: I asked him if he should buy Russell Corp., where his grandma worked. I think he was stunned someone actually read his book. I tried to bid on [his championship] ring. I told my friends I’m up to $20,000 and then I’m out. But you can’t forgive him for what he did.
EI: Do you think Donovan McNabb needs your fire and brimstone?
JC: No! He’s got to stay exactly like he is. When Limbaugh said that stuff about him and he just stood there — he’s GANDHI! He’s GANDHI! The “he’s a company man” thing? I don’t buy that at all. HE PLAYED ON A BROKEN LEG! HOW MANY GUYS PLAY WITH A SPORTS HERNIA? How many guys come out with a smile on their faces, take any amount of criticism, and keep ticking? This is what we WANT!
EI: Your day starts at 4 a.m. and includes a radio gig, a few online columns, and the TV show. Why put yourself through all that?
JC: For years, all I did was work with wealthy people. It meant nothing! Now I’ve got impact, and it is just remarkable. It could all be phony, but people tell me the stories, and I feel like I’m making a difference.
EI: You also call yourself out on the show, and slap a Post-it on your head with your misses on it.
JC: CONSTANTLY! I recommended that stupid Dick’s Sporting Goods, and I should have seen it coming. They delivered the damn foosball table and it was broken. Jokers.
EI: What do you see in the future for that little local start-up, Comcast?
JC: They have to decide that they’re not going to make Wall Street estimates for a couple years, and they’ve got to cut rates. Longer term, they’ve always been visionary, and now they’re like a lot of American companies. They’re just running it for the quarter. It’s a mistake. I’d rather own Crown Cork than Comcast.
EI: How devoted are your fans, the “Cramerholics”?
JC: It’s very exciting. But let me tell you my one disappointment about Philadelphia, okay? When I retired from my hedge fund, my assistant reached out to Merrill Reese to get him to say congratulations in that voice of his. Wouldn’t do it. Just CRUSHED me. I’m one of those guys, I’m NEVER going to listen to national commentators. I HAVE to listen to Merrill. I called Merrill Lynch “Merrill Reese” on TV!
EI: We build bridges here. Maybe we can hook you two up.
JC: I never met Richie Ashburn, either. Harry Kalas is fabulous. These guys are so big! I remember when I ran track at Springfield High, and Don Tollefson came to one of my meets. My mom calls me over and says, “Do you see who’s here? Don Tollefson!” HE CAME TO MY MEET! DON TOLLEFSON CAME TO ONE OF MY MEETS! That was like, TOUCHED BY GREATNESS!
EI: Oddly enough, you’re not the first person we’ve interviewed who’s mentioned the profound effect that Tolley had on his life.
JC: It was like this movie where the natives in New Guinea light fires, hoping a cargo plane will land. It’s like, YOUR CARGO PLANE LANDED BY MISTAKE ON OUR FIELD! MAYBE HE MEANT TO GO TO LA SALLE! IT WAS SO HUGE! HE WAS IN THE STANDS! [unintelligible adulation for Tolley] What a town, that these guys meant so much.
EI: It also speaks to your madness. On that note, what possessed you to post picks from ex-Phillie Lenny Dykstra on TheStreet.com?
JC: He starts e-mailing me about a year ago with his stock picks. I’m thinking of the interview where he didn’t know where London was, y’know — c’mon. But it dawns on me that he is playing this game the way he played that game. He’s the most competitive guy.
EI: Was he juicing when he made those picks?
JC: NOOOO! NO! HE’S CLEAN AS A WHISTLE!
EI: So what’s the most satisfying object to hurl in a fit of office rage: a telephone, a computer, or a coworker?
JC: The damn keyboard. The greatness of hurling keyboards is that each letter goes a different way when it hits. When you do a phone, what happens is, invariably, the ear part splits in two. But when you throw that keyboard — the Q’s here, the W’s there, the T hits that guy in the eye. It’s like, GRENADE! Everybody knows that you’re unhappy. The keyboard speaks loudly.