Cramer defends his record, pointing out that his show rewards regular viewers — he will sometimes reverse his own picks and he will occasionally chastise himself when he’s wrong. He’s also more than willing to chastise those who challenge him. “The people who want to say that I’m just a cheerleader for stocks, well, my reaction to them is, if that’s all I am — to be blunt about it — then how did I get so rich? The reason I like a stock is because I think it is going higher, not because I’m looking for something to say. And the corollary is true, too. If I’m wrong all the time, then why would you watch me? There’s no gun attached to any TV set in this country.”

Well, there certainly aren’t 180,000 guns attached to TVs nationwide. That’s about the number of households tuned in to Cramer’s show on any given night. For CNBC, Mad Money’s ratings are crazy good. The show is drawing about 80 percent more viewers than watched a string of failures that preceded it in the six p.m. slot. So many people are watching, in fact, that traders are seeing volume spikes the day after Cramer mentions a stock on the air.

Still, let’s not call Cramer a juggernaut yet. Even with 180,000 households, his viewership is tiny in comparison to, say, The O’Reilly Factor, which draws more than 2.4 million households a night. Then again, Cramer is getting known enough that people are stopping him in the grocery store. “I go to buy some fish, and the guy behind the counter says, ‘Booyah, Jim!’ It’s crazy.”

Those are the kinds of people Cramer loves. Even though his blazingly fast delivery makes it almost impossible to hear every stock he mentions on a given show, much less remember them, he’s convinced that he’s connecting with and genuinely helping average investors, the “non-Wall Streeters” as he calls them.

On the day I visited Cramer, the market had the kind of day that scares individual investors away. Stocks tanked. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 166 points. That night, Cramer told viewers off the top that he felt their pain. The first call came from a dejected Lauren in New Jersey, to whom Cramer acted like a sort of financial Dr. Phil. “Talk to me,” he said. “We shake our heads, we moan, we feel bad momentarily. And then we get clearheaded and we figure out how to take a situation that is obviously not good and [make it better].”

That touchy-feely stuff didn’t last. Eventually, Cramer got back to being, well, a goofball. When another sad caller asked, “Is today still booyah, Jim?” Cramer replied, “Hey, it’s still booyah — even down 166. That doesn’t change the booyah factor.”

"the people who want to say that i'm just a cheerleader for stocks, well, if that's all i am, then how did i get so rich?"