updated 7/5/2005 5:53:27 PM ET 2005-07-05T21:53:27

The main difference between Jim Cramer off the air and Jim Cramer on the air is the chair. He actually sits in one — but just barely.

The hyperactive host of CNBC's "Mad Money" scooches forward, then leans back. He props his feet up on the office waste basket, then shifts again and tucks a foot beneath his thigh.

It's this kind of non-stop energy that makes his show so different from the other programming on the channel, and has earned him the coveted 9 p.m. time slot once occupied by Dennis Miller, whose political talk show was canceled in May.

(CNBC content is distributed by MSNBC.)

Pacing around the set at CNBC's New Jersey headquarters, Cramer screams and points at the camera, throwing his arms in the air with his shirtsleeves rolled up. As the former hedge fund manager takes calls and gives investment advice, he resembles a cross between a pro wrestler and an air traffic controller. With the press of a button on his sound board, out comes the Hallelujah chorus, or the noise of a bear roaring or a bull snorting (with accompanying bear and bull graphics that fly across the screen). The camera roves almost constantly, adding to the fast pace.

"Other people want to make friends," he said during a recent episode, with a smile and an impish twinkle in his eye. "I just want to make money."

But at 50 and balding, Cramer has become an unlikely sex symbol. Women routinely call in and gush about how much they love him, what a cutie they think he is, how they can't get enough of his show. (The married father of two daughters, who lives with his family in Summit, N.J., seems genuinely embarrassed by such attention.)

"I think that the current way of doing it — you have a fund manager come on, he talks — it's not working. And I know that if you aren't educating and entertaining, it's not working. And I know that we can wait forever for the market to come back, but that's not a plan of action. And I think you have to reinvent," Cramer told The Associated Press.

"My attempt to reinvent it is to do it in a way that gets people interested in their money, makes them feel that they are better investors, better traders, more thoughtful people about their money. And that doesn't go out of style. I think that's the key."

No stranger to television — he previously shared the screen with Larry Kudlow on CNBC's "Kudlow & Cramer" — Cramer said he had an idea for a new series, which he brought to NBC Universal Television group President Jeff Zucker.

"I said, `Look, I want to do this show and it's never been done before. I don't know if anybody's ever seen it. I don't even know if I can describe it — I think I just have to do it. I think you just have to let me do it.' I said, `It will take a trait that I have, a manic trait, and turn it into a positive. And you've got to let me try it.' And he said, `You know, be my guest, we'll see what it's like.'"

Ratings
Since debuting March 14, weeknights at 6 Eastern, "Mad Money" has averaged 167,000 viewers and pulled in an average of 178,000 viewers in June, which is the best that regular CNBC programming in that time slot has done since March 2003. The 9 p.m. broadcast — a rerun of what airs at 6 p.m. — is drawing 91,000 viewers, almost as many as Miller's average of 113,000. ("Mad Money" also airs a third time at midnight.)

"We're not really promoting it off our own air and it's grown essentially every week," said CNBC President Mark Hoffman. "We just put it out there and it's just growing virally."

Airing "Mad Money" at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern is part of the CNBC's strategy of offering business news from coast to coast until prime time, Hoffman said, and not necessarily an attempt to counter the other cable channels' strong personalities (Larry King on CNN, Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes on Fox News Channel) with one of its own at the same hour.

'This is how he is'
"There's no contrivance here. We're not making him into anything," Hoffman said. "This is how he is. He has 5,000 stocks in his head. He's a brilliant guy who is kinetic when you're with him. Jim is focused on a couple of things: making the subject accessible, making it relevant and making it interesting."

Cramer himself has been interested in business since he was a boy growing up in Philadelphia. After graduating from Harvard, where he was editor of the Crimson newspaper, he ended up as a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, where he wrote about semiconductors in Silicon Valley.

After that, as a reporter helping start American Lawyer magazine, he was constantly checking the stock market.

"My boss at that point, Steve Brill, instead of berating me about it, gave me money to make," Cramer said. "Made some money, had a couple good hits. Then I put myself through (Harvard) Law School with it, and when I got out I said, `I don't think I'm going to be a lawyer.' I went to Goldman (Sachs)."

Discussing stocks and investment strategies on the TV show, he said, basically represents what he did all day at the hedge fund he founded — only without the wealthy clients badgering him about their money every afternoon.

"All day it was a day of narration where I would narrate what was happening to my colleagues, much to their own chagrin — though there were some guys who just loved it," he said. "I just love to talk about it. After the close, I would talk about it with people. Then I would go out for drinks and I would talk about it with people."

Even though "Mad Money" eats up a big chunk of his time and energy, Cramer also plans to continue doing his syndicated radio show, the columns for his Web site TheStreet.com and writing books, because this is what he believes he does best.

"The analogue is the sports guy — the sports guy who knows all the times that there were runners at second and third with two outs in the third inning in the fifth game of the World Series," he said. "That's me. That's me for this."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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