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02.13.09

Seven Great Talk-Show Trainwrecks

Joaquin Phoenix wasn’t the first star to lose it in late night—Farrah Fawcett, Andy Kaufman, Andy Dick and even Norman Mailer have all melted down before him. View some of the all-time best couch-tastrophes.

Everyone remembers the day Tom Cruise jumped onto Oprah’s couch, but there are plenty of other memorable talk-show moments where stars lost their cool—or lucidity. And as Joaquin Phoenix recently learned (or was he faking?), there’s something about David Letterman in particular that brings out a special brand of crazy. View some of the all-time best on-air meltdowns.

Farrah Fawcett on David Letterman

In her memorable 1997 Late Show appearance, a rather disoriented Farrah Fawcett tells David Letterman about her slightly Oedipal relationship with her son, then gets confused by a fake window. Hey, at least she looks stunning.

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Shirley MacLaine

Letterman again. This time, reincarnation enthusiast Shirley MacLaine gets in his head—literally. She offers to help him meditate, which to MacLaine apparently means trying to pull all of his hair right off his skull. Never has Letterman looked so relieved to go to commercial.

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Rosie vs. Hasselbeck

Meltdowns don’t only apply to guests—sometimes hosts get in on the act. In this 2007 episode of The View, co-hosts Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck get so enraged that the producers go to a split screen, to ensure every second of insanity is captured for the home viewing audience.

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Norman Mailer vs. Gore Vidal

Probably the only thing keeping literary firebrands Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal from exchanging more than just words is the presence of host Dick Cavett seated between them in this hilarious 1971 clip.

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Andy Dick

On a 2007 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, a weird-even-by-Andy-Dick-standards Andy Dick can’t stop touching Ivanka Trump. When he finally goes too far, security forcibly removes him from set.

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Vince McMahon on Bob Costas

When Bob Costas asks WWE’s Vince McMahon about allegations that mimicking wrestling moves seen on TV had led to the death of a Florida child, McMahon castigates the host for not doing his research and checking his facts. The confrontation, from a 2001 episode of On the Record, is made especially uncomfortable by the fact that the hulking McMahon has several inches and quite a bit of heft over Costas.

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Andy Kaufman on Letterman

After a wrestling grudge match between Jerry “The King” Lawler and comedian Andy Kaufman left Kaufman in a neck brace, David Letterman invited the two rivals onto Late Night in 1982. Kaufman spends most of the appearance baiting Lawler, leading to Lawler slapping the comedian in the face right before commercial break.

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