15 Greatest Talk Show Trainwrecks

Mel Gibson's disastrous interview with a Chicago’s WGN-TV won’t help his career, but it’s far from the worst-ever talk show appearance. From Norman Mailer to Joaquin Phoenix, WATCH VIDEO of our favorites.

Mel Gibson Cusses Out Reporter

Note to journos: Asking Mel Gibson whether he's become "a better person" over the past few years will likely lead to decidedly not better behavior. "I've moved on, I guess you haven't," Gibson tells WGN-TV Chicago's Dean Richards. Snap!

Joaquin Phoenix Spaces Out on Letterman

Was it Andy Kaufman-like brilliance or is this dude just on something? One year later, we’re still not sure.

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.

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.

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.

Mackenzie Phillips Defends Dad

Call it a slow-moving trainwreck. The media blitz over Mackenzie Phillips' revelation that she and her father—The Mamas and the Papas singer John Phillips—engaged in a years-long sexual relationship was about as disturbing as talk television gets. On Today, Phillips says her father "was not a bad man."

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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.

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.

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.

Crispin Glover’s Epic Letterman Meltdown

It doesn’t get any better than this: In 1987, an agitated Glover, appearing on Late Night with David Letterman, rambles about press coverage, challenges Dave to an arm-wrestling match, then nearly kicks the host in the head before the segment is abruptly ended.

Jim Everett Tackles Jim Rome

In April 1994, New Orleans Saints quarterback Jim Everett appears on Jim Rome’s ESPN 2 talk show to confront the smartass host who constantly taunts him with the nickname “Chris Evert.” Let’s just say Rome falls.

Charles Bukowski Says “Au Revoir” to the French

At first things seemed to be going well on Charles Bukowski’s 1978 appearance on the French talk show Apostrophes. That is, until host Bernard Pivot—the same Bernard Pivot who inspired James Lipton’s famous questions at the end of every Inside the Actor’s Studio—had the temerity to compare Bukowski to Henry Miller. Guess we know the answer to the question, “What makes you angry?”

Geraldo Fights Nazis, Loses

In the classic Geraldo episode from 1988, Geraldo Rivera gets his nose broken and, arguably, his career made.

Michael Richards’ Apology Only Makes Things Worse

After Michael Richards’ notorious racist breakdown onstage in 2006, he went on Letterman to apologize. Alas, the apology is undercut by his use of the phrase “Afro-Americans.”

Tom Cruise Exposes Need for Psychiatrist

Back in 2005, we got our first glimpses of Tom Cruise’s descent from matinee idol to maddening enigma when he called Today’s Matt Lauer “glib” and went on a condescending tirade about the history of psychiatry. Makes you nostalgic for the Oprah couch surfing, huh?

Marlon Brando Plants One on Larry King

This one coulda been a contender for our first set of trainwrecks, but at least we’re showing it to you now. On a 1994 appearance on Larry King Live, Marlon Brando and Larry King share a song—and then a kiss. It’s not quite a meltdown, just a sad, surreal moment between two titans.

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