How to Survive Your Own Reality Show
Bruce Jenner is a man of many talents—and many children. On Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which airs Wednesdays at 10:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT beginning February 4 on Slice, the Olympic gold medalist puts his home life on display, alongside wife Kris, daughters Kendall and Kylie, stepdaughters Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney, and stepson Rob. Jenner inherited his new, extended family when he married Kris, whose previous husband was the late attorney Robert Kardashian—so one can’t help but wonder if the title of this popular reality show isn’t a direct reflection of a low-maintenance man’s effort to find sanity amidst the chaos of a high-maintenance life. We caught up with the one-time male pin-up and world famous athlete to find out more about what it’s really like inside the Jenner-Kardashian compound.
In the first episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, you state quite plainly that you’re a pushover for your family. Were you initially against the idea of opening up your personal life to the public?
My life’s been an open book since [the 1976] Montreal [Olympics]. I’ve been doing television shows and all those types of things for a long time—and I saw this as being a show about all the things that happen in your family. So I thought, ‘Do I really want these things to get out? I don’t know…’ But then, this was all my wife’s idea anyway [laughs] – so I figured I can always blame her if everything goes wrong. I did like that it was an opportunity for the whole family to work together, though. We looked at all the positive things that can come out of a successful show, and we decided, as a family, ‘Let’s go for it.’
Your family is obviously well-suited to the reality show treatment.
You know, we look at all the other reality shows that take place in a family setting, and we have so many more things happening in our family. And I’m looking at what’s out there and I’m goin’, ‘Are you kidding me? I got that times ten.’ It was a little scary, especially because we didn’t know if the show would do well, but fortunately it’s worked extremely well. We’ve done two seasons, the third season’s done, and it’s been great for everybody that’s been involved.
Why do you think you’ve been able to draw such a large audience?
I think we’re very honest. We deal with a lot of things that people can identify with in their own families. Whether they have sisters or brothers—but especially if they have sisters—the fighting that goes on… You know, they love each other, but if something goes wrong, they can take each other’s heads off. And that’s like in any family. Any girl that has a sister knows what that’s like. A lot of people come to me and say they like the show because they like the way I deal with a lot of these things as a father, or in Kris’ case, as a mother. Over the years we’ve done some pretty sensitive stuff. All the way down to my littlest girls, as they start to become young women. Every family has to deal with that. And we never let a show end when everybody’s still mad. It always ends as a loving, tight family. No matter what drama you go through in your family, you’ve got to make up in the end.
The meat of the show, though, is edited to emphasize the scandalous stuff, for dramatic effect.
And you strike me as a very positive person—
So when the show plumbs the depths of depravity, does that make you uncomfortable?
I’m always uncomfortable around these girls, are you kidding me? [laughs] Very uncomfortable. But you know, the bottom line is, a lot of families have to deal with this stuff, and so do I. So I just try to be very positive. Kids make mistakes. I made mistakes. I screwed up sometimes growing up, big time. You know, Khloe got a DUI. Horrible thing. People do get DUIs. Kids can do something stupid. The good news is, there was no accident, she wasn’t speeding, she was just over the allowable [limit]. Which is totally wrong. That’s a mistake. But my thing is, ‘Okay, you gotta pay the piper now.’ It was a year and a half of hell for poor Khloe. From DUI classes for a year and a half, to, you know, they tried to throw her in jail… The judge was almost making an example of poor little Khloe. She’s not a big drinker, or a big party girl. But I just say, ‘Don’t make the same mistake twice.’ We all make mistakes, but you’ve got to come out the other side a better person. And I think Khloe did. She certainly realized how they deal with DUI here in California. I mean, it was horrible, and she paid for it. And now she does charity events for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and she’s trying to do everything she can to show that it’s bad, that you can’t do these things. She wants something positive to come out of this.
Khloe’s treatment in that case is a very good example of how her heightened profile could work to her detriment.
Big time. Big time.
How has renewed notoriety affected you?
Well, the media can be brutal, to say the least. And the things that have changed—and I try to tell the girls this—is the internet. The internet is, in some cases, worse than the media because it doesn’t go away. People can say anything they want, and put anything on it that they want, whether it’s true or not, and then it just sticks. I’m not a big follower of the internet. The gossip blogs—I don’t even look at them. I get my e-mails and that’s about it. But the girls live on that stuff, and the things that people say can be very damaging. You know, Kimberly was the most Googled person in the world last year. She’s getting 12,000,000 hits a month now. It’s ridiculous. And some of these people out there are nice, and some of these people aren’t, but you have to constantly try to take the high road, work hard, and do right. The gossip world is cruel.
Have you adjusted to that world?
I have certainly been out there for a long time and seen what the media can do, and how tough they can be. If they put you up on a pedestal, and everything’s going great, then somebody’s gonna try and knock you off. I try and help the girls by telling them to be careful. Don’t give ‘em any ammunition. They’re looking for a very positive story, or a very negative story. In between, who cares? So just be careful.
Do the girls go to you for advice for things like that?
More in the beginning. Kris is phenomenally good at all that stuff. She manages everybody’s careers, she’s the executive producer on this show, she’s on The Insider every night… She works very hard. But she’s been handling me for 18 years now, so when the girls started getting press and publicity, she jumped right in. She’s a sharp, sharp person.
How do you manage that balance of Kris being your life partner as well as your business partner? Does she ever get out of work mode?
My wife never stops working. I try to get her to shut off. She goes very hard, every day, seven days a week, so it’s tough to turn her off. Me, I’m easy. I go hit golf balls.
What do you think about the future of reality television?
I think the strength of reality TV is that it’s inexpensive to shoot. And with the economy what it is, with ad dollars going down, everyone’s looking for cheaper programming. What we are is an unscripted sitcom. To do a scripted sitcom is so expensive. There’s writers, producers, editors, studios… Not on our show. Plus, people are interested in reality TV. If I watch a scripted sitcom nowadays, unless it’s really good, and well-written, it actually seems a little phoney to me. Whereas our show is very natural. These are things that happen in our family.