(CBS) If you’ve ever dabbled in the stock market, chances are you know who Jim Cramer is. Cramer has been a major player on Wall Street for decades. And now he’s got a new and very different television show. It’s called “Mad Money,” airing on cable channel CNBC.

In a matter of months, Jim Cramer's show has become one of the top programs on CNBC. (CBS)
Without question, Jim Cramer is a virtuoso of the stock market. Back in the 1990s, Cramer made a fortune and never has to work again. But the man is so obsessed with stocks that there’s no keeping him home. And having gotten rich himself off the market, Cramer now wants to make you rich.

In the morning, Jim Cramer – always bursting with energy – just can’t wait to get to work at the swanky CNBC headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. His executive producer, Susan Krakower, is already there getting read in on the day’s business news. Cramer and Krakower have a nightly, hour-long stock market show to put on. Every day at their morning meeting, they struggle to find the day’s big business story, sometimes making their pick just hours before the broadcast. The show is called “Mad Money.” And it’s simply about the promise of viewers striking it rich in the stock market. In a matter of months, it has become CNBC’s most popular show with more than 380,000 viewers watching every week night.

“This show is the way for me to educate, to entertain, to help people make money, and I think it’s working. And I’m totally driven by it. It is just a huge amount of fun,” says Cramer.

Unlike most business shows, where analysts are gun-shy about pushing stocks, Cramer lays it on the line. He clearly tells you what stocks he thinks you ought to buy or sell and in the process serves up a basic economics lesson.

“These two big countries, China and India, they’re finally acting like capitalists and you got to understand capitalism, my friends, is about conspicuous consumption,” Cramer told his viewers recently.

The day 60 Minutes spent at CNBC’s studios, Cramer and Krakower chose to lead their show with the topic of diamonds.

“Diamonds! Think about it! Billions of people been gettin’ married without buying diamond rings in that country. They’re communists. They don’t do that kinda thing. But not now. Now when people in China or India decide to get hitched they do what we do. They do what the Europeans do. They buy the darn diamonds,” Cramer told his audience.

Cramer then pushed the stock of Anglo-American. It’s a British producer of gold, platinum and diamonds. Since the show, the stock has gone up over five percent before leveling off.

Cramer’s picks often move the market. But he’s had his share of clunkers, too. After he recommended Dick’s Sporting Goods, the stock got slammed, and Cramer was humbled.

“I blew it. I blew the call,” admits Cramer. “And I think you have to own up to 'em, admit 'em. You can't say, ‘Hey, listen, I was early on that,' or 'the Dicks, hey, you know, hey, listen, it's not so bad. It's only down, hey.’ No! It's horrible!”

Cramer made his reputation and fortune as a smart and shrewd stock market trader. But what distinguishes him now on television is his nuttiness. He’s the Jerry Lewis of business show hosts and he will do anything to grab your attention.

“One day you’re gonna wake up and the whole country will be taken over by India,” Cramer tells his audience.

Cramer says his viewers see the real Jim Cramer on television.

Herb Greenberg, a senior columnist for, is a frequent on-air guest. He and Cramer enjoy duking it out.

Does Greenberg think Cramer is crazy? “I think Jim has great passion. Is he crazy? I think he's got the craziness that comes with intelligence and brilliance and creativity,” explains Greenberg.

Asked how he differs from Cramer, Greenberg says, “We're looking at the world through two very different sets of eyes. I'm looking at what can go wrong, Jim's looking at what can go right. Jim's looking at how you can make money, I'm looking at how you can avoid losing money. But that's what makes markets.”

There was a time in America when the market was the playground of only the very rich. That changed in the 1970s, a decade that marked the beginning of an investing craze. Today, about half of all Americans are in the stock market.

Jim Cramer was among those who helped make stocks popular. And despite the recent scandals at Enron and other companies where executives were accused of corrupting the market, he remains as bullish as ever.

Cramer acknowledges that he has said there are periods during which the market is rigged for insiders, yet he advises his viewers to buy various stocks. How does he reconcile that?

“I think that we are in a period of catharsis now where people who cook books go to jail for 25 years. And that has changed the equation and made business more honest then it was. I think the answer is, is that overall, high quality stocks have out-performed all other asset classes, whether it be gold, whether it be real estate, whether it be bonds,” explains Cramer. “So therefore, you've

got to try to find the high quality ones. Because the averages are in your favor.”

Cramer started studying stocks in the fourth grade, continued the habit through high school, got more compulsive about it at Harvard, and never really stopped.

“I'd go to a ballgame. And it'd be like, ‘Oh, look at that, you know, there's a Budweiser sign. Bud, you know 42 and three-quarters, having a hard time going past 43. And you know, people aren’t drinking beer over there. Take a look it'll be a hotdog company. I'll be, like, Ballpark Franks, Sara Lee…’ And, you know, these are things in my head.”

Cramer says he has several thousand stocks in his head, and has for a long time.

Cramer started out as a newspaper reporter making $15,000 a year, but before you could say “Warren Buffet” he was running a hedge fund where he made his fortune.

He got a group of wealthy investors to cough up at least $5 million each and sunk the money, about $450 million, in the market. Cramer took lots of risks, suffered reverses, and kept over 20 percent of the profits. A middle-class kid from the suburbs of Philadelphia, he became one of the most successful traders on Wall Street.

But success turned Cramer into a monster who screamed and cursed, smashed telephones and computers and terrorized his employees.

Cramer agrees he had a violent temper in those days. “Yeah, I did. Yeah, I'm not going to disagree with that. I mean, I had a very bad temper.”

What made him so angry? “Because I wanted to achieve. And I felt that I could master it. And whenever I didn't master it, it was usually because of a mistake that I made. And I would think that the mistakes should have been avoided. So I was very hard on myself,” says Cramer.

On weekends, Cramer retreated to his 65-acre estate in the New Jersey countryside. It’s the house the hedge fund built, and it’s where Cramer came to escape. But even here, with his wife Karen, herself a former stock market trader, and their two daughters, he couldn’t shake his hedge fund mentality.

He remembers an incident that occurred when he was coaching his daughter’s soccer team.

“Sure enough, we're down four nothing after the first half. And I go in. I say, ‘Girls, you are all letting me down.’ And one girl raises. She says, ‘We all had a sleep over. We were up really late last night.’ And they all start crying,” recalls Cramer. “And it's like uh, uh, uh, uh, girls, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean it. I just…you didn't let me down, you know. It took me awhile to kinda recognize that you had to…you can't be like at the hedge fund. I mean, I was so cloistered at the hedge fund that I didn't even know what it was like to deal with people.”

It took something his father said to finally bring Cramer to his senses. “And he just said to me, he says ‘Look, I just know that, you know, I'm gonna outlive you. I just know that…’ And I said, ‘Well, dad, I am a very successful hedge fund…’ He says, ‘It doesn't matter. I'm gonna outlive you. I'm gonna outlive you. You can't go on like this.’”

At age 45, Jim Cramer went to the office and turned his life around. “I went in after Thanksgiving, and I stood on the desk. And I said, ‘It's all yours.’ Just, ‘I just never wanna be bothered again. It's your company.’ And I just gave it up.”

But he didn’t give up his intensity. He just changed his game. He is said to be worth somewhere between $50 and $100 million. Except for the stake he has in his Web site, he only plays the stock market now for his charitable trust, from which he does not personally profit. Always an optimist, he nevertheless believes that the real estate bubble is about to burst.

“I think real estate is very similar right now to what the dotcoms were like in 2000. Everybody thinks you can’t miss with real estate. Actually I shouldn't say that. In the last five months, I think it's starting to dawn on people that real estate can go wrong,” says Cramer.

On weekends, Cramer now assumes the role of gentleman farmer, feeding his animals, clearing his pumpkin patch and finding time to relax and unwind. But, come Monday, it’s show time.

Rather asked why Cramer comes in every day like he does, beating himself up.

“I have a gift, Dan. I have a gift to turn people on to this stuff, to get them involved… And I love doing it. I love to teach and educate this stuff. This stuff is for me. This stuff is really for me. It is the right thing. I cannot believe how lucky I am, at this age to have come across an unbelievable thing, which is a show that I run, and I love,” Cramer replied.

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