In 1994, the 11 most watched syndicated TV talk show hosts in America were:

1. Oprah (black)
2. Ricki Lake (Jewish)
3. Jenny Jones (Catholic by religion but probably ethnically Jewish; born in Jerusalem)
4. Sally Jesse Raphael (Jewish)
5.5. Regis (Gentile) and Kathie Lee (Jewish)
7. Maury Povich (Jewish)
8. Phil Donahue (Gentile)
9. Geraldo (50% Jewish, 50% Hispanic)
10. Jerry Springer (Jewish)
11.Gordon Elliot (Gentile)

It is interesting that Oprah’s massive brain made her perhaps so intelligent that no other blacks could compete at her level. Indeed even white gentiles could hardly compete at her level. You have to go all the way up to the top of race IQ totem pole (Ashkenazi Jews) for Oprah to find serious competition.  It is quite astonishing that in a field dominated by Ashkenazi Jews, a black woman reigned supreme.  It’s almost as unlikely as an East Asian woman beating all the black men on the NBA at basketball.  Such an East Asian woman would have to be blessed with some freakish genetic gift to overcome the athletic superiority of black men, just as Oprah was blessed with perhaps a freakishly large cranial capacity, to overcome the cognitive superiority of Ashkenazem.


Demographically, top daytime talk shows hosts (and the peak of their power) were 5% Hispanic, 9% black, 27% white gentile, and 59% Jewish (amazing considering Jews are only 2% of America). Thus, if IQ correlated perfectly with race, and thus racial IQ gaps were much bigger, it would imply that talk show hosts had an average IQ of 0.05(79) + 0.09(70) + 0.27(106) + 0.59(130) = 3.95 + 6.3 + 28.62 + 76.7 = 115.57, which is 19.57 points above the U.S. mean of 96. See this post to understand where I got these numbers.

But since the actual correlation between general intelligence and race is only 0.48, and the correlation between general intelligence and IQ is 0.9, their actual average IQ was likely (19.57/0.48)(0.9) + 96 = 133.

Of course, estimating the average IQ of a group of people from their racial demographics is risky since many other factors besides just IQ can correlate with race, and thus skew the numbers. So how else can we estimate the average IQ of a groups of elites?

Elite college attendance of daytime talk show hosts

One could use Jonathan Wai’s method and determine the percentage of top talk show hosts who attended an elite college, and use this as a proxy for the percentage with IQs of 133+.  Two of the 11 above mentioned talk show hosts (Jenny Jones and Gordon Elliot) were not raised in America, and thus were unlikely to attend to American schools.  Of the remaining nine, five hosts had attended elite schools: Sally Jesse Raphael (Carnegie Mellon University), Regis (University of Notre Dame), Maury Povich (University of Pennsylvania), Phil Donahue (University of Notre Dame), Jerry Springer (Northwestern Law school).  This suggests 56% of top daytime talk show hosts had IQs of 133+.  Of course some hosts who attended lesser schools have IQs above 133, and some hosts who attended elite schools had IQs below 133, but such exceptions tend to cancel out.

If 56% of top daytime talk show hosts had IQs of 133+, then assuming a normal distribution with a standard deviation of 15, the average daytime talk show host had IQ around 135.  This estimate (based on elite school attendance) is remarkably similar to the average IQ of 133 I estimated based on the racial distribution of these hosts.  Averaging both estimates gives an IQ of 134.

The 18 point rule

In some ways it’s quite surprising that daytime talk show hosts should have such a high average IQ, because these shows were known as tabloid talk shows and dismissed as trash TV, and the audience for such shows are people who are home during the day, and thus could not have been much above the U.S. average, and may have even been well below the U.S. average when one considers that a great many people home during the morning and afternoon are unemployed.

As commenter “Lion of the Judah-sphere” has mentioned, it’s widely believed that the ideal IQ of a leader is about 18 points higher than his or her followers.   Any lower, is too low to get respect.  Any higher, is too high to relate to, or too high for effective communication.  I believe this theory is largely credited to scholar D.K. Simonton.

So if the average viewer of daytime TV had an IQ around 94, you might expect the daytime talk show hosts they worship to average IQs of 94 + 18 = 112.  Instead, they appear to average IQs of 134.  Why is there such a huge IQ gap between the hosts and the audience who loves them?

It could be that an IQ of 112 really is the optimum IQ for hosting a talk show, but television executives have no confidence in people with IQs below 115, and so they are seldom even given the chance.  Indeed people with IQs below 115 are often screened out of the industry long before they ever get offered their own show, either because they lack college degrees, or do  poorly in entry level television jobs, like being a producer, or reading the news from a teleprompter.  Some of them may even react violently to their limitations:

A more likely possibility is that Simonton’s 18 point rule is simply wrong.  Perhaps there is no optimum IQ for being a good leader or entertainer; instead the higher the IQ, the better you do.  This makes sense because intelligence is the mental ability to adapt, so smart people might figure out how to adapt to low IQ people better than low IQ people can adapt to themselves.

Indeed, who would you rather have looking after your Down’s Syndrome daughter (IQ 50)?  Someone with an IQ of 68, which is theoretically optimum, since it’s 18 points higher than your daughter’s, or a professional psychologist with an IQ of 125 (75 points higher than your daughter)?  Most parents would choose the latter, and most daytime TV viewers chose people with IQs 40 points higher than their own to entertain them in the afternoon.

In the 1990s when top talk shows attracted over 12 million U.S. viewers a day and raked in hundreds of millions of dollars a years, it’s not surprising that extreme competition for one of these coveted hit shows could drive the average IQ of the hosts well above the mean IQ of Harvard, or any other university on the planet.

I think takes TONS of intelligence to be a good talk show host.  Thinking up all kinds of witty comebacks and creative facial expressions to amuse the audience.  Making split second decisions about what would amuse them.  If you look at all the best talk show hosts, they’re all very quick.

Jerry Springer’s IQ

It’s interesting that of the 11 talk show hosts who dominated the airwaves in 1994, the one who would go on to have the dumbest and trashiest (and eventually super popular) show, was Jerry Springer, who, with an advanced degree from an elite college, was also the most formally educated of those hosts.

Assuming the 0.65 correlation between IQ and academic success holds among talk show hosts, and assuming Springer is 1.33 standard deviations (top 9%) more educated than the average host, his IQ was possibly 0.65(1.33 SD) = 0.86 SD higher.  Assuming daytime talk show host IQs are normally distributed with a mean of 134 and a standard deviation of 15, Springer’s IQ might be somewhere around 0.86(15) + 134 = 147. Just based on how competitive both his occupation and education were, we might say with 95% confidence that Springer’s IQ is anywhere from 124 to 171,  with 147 being the single most likely number.

Only one in a 1000 white Americans (and just under 1% of U.S. Ashkenazim) have an IQ of 147+, and if Springer really is this brilliant, he ironically used  his incredible smarts to create a show that even he considers very dumb.