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Top 10 Memorable Talkshow Appearances

Barns . . . Comments

With the talk show occupying so much time on our TV screens, it also occupies an important place in contemporary popular culture. Perhaps its most notable function is the opportunity it provides for famous faces to show off a different persona from what we’re used to used to seeing (be it serious, playful, or totally off-the-wall). It’s also a great way to get celebrities to feel like they’re in a safe zone, allowing the host to coax out new, interesting or embarrassing information. Talk shows allow us to feel a little bit closer to celebrities, and that is why they will always exist: because we will always keep watching.

The following appearances are in chronological order.

1955: Marilyn Monroe on ‘Person to Person’

Edward R. Murrow’s ‘Person to Person’ set the standard for TV celebrity interviews, practically inventing the format in the days of network TV’s infancy. Here his cameras go into the home of Marilyn Monroe and her producing partner Milton Greene, showing a sweet, seemingly very innocent young woman who is excited about her career and perhaps a little bit nervous in front of live cameras. Murrow’s 60+ a day habit is evidenced here by the trademark cigarette locked between his fingers.

Wikipedia: Edward R. Murrow

1957: Salvador Dali on ‘What’s My Line’

I’m stretching the definition of ‘talk show’ to include panel quiz shows just so this excellent Dali appearance can be included. The legendary surrealist painter, writer and filmmaker walks into the particularly controlled environment of a 1950s television studio, armed with only the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at his disposal; very soon the audience is captivated and the panelists – for a time – are completely befuddled.

Wikipedia: Salvador Dali

1974: Peter Sellers on ‘Parkinson’

“There is no me. I do not exist,” said Peter Sellers, when told to ‘be himself’ on ‘The Muppet Show’. Somehow, Michael Parkinson managed to get him to ‘be himself’ for at least some of this interview. Many parts are hilarious, such as the ‘That’s What You Are’ and Lawrence of Arabia stories, while other parts offer a melancholy glimpse into his inner workings, such as when he talks about his past wives. (Probably my favorite of all the clips on this list.)

Wikipedia: Peter Sellers

1987: Crispin Glover on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’

Was Glover high on LSD? Or was he just acting? Either way, he unsettled David Letterman on his own show, an incredible feat in itself. I’d like to think he knew what he was doing, with that wig, those pants, and those shoes…

Wikipedia: Crispin Glover

1991: Members of Queer Nation on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’

This was actually an appearance by Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee), but a few members of Queer Nation stole the show with their heckling from the audience. They’re not the star of the clip, though – it’s Hall, who starts off with considered retorts, and gradually builds himself into a rage so violent that he practically forgets to interview Hogan. “You don’t see Dan Quayle here! You don’t see Milli Vanilli here!”

Wikipedia: Arsenio Hall

1993: Marilyn Manson on ‘The Phil Donahue Show’

Manson appeared on Donahue with bandmates Twiggy Ramirez and Madonna Wayne Gacy to respond to claims that their music was having a negative influence on young people. It appears to be a setup: Donahue and members of the audience hit Manson with tough questions, expecting him to trip up, but his intelligent (and disdainful) replies make him a force to be reckoned with. I don’t particularly like his music, but he’s a very smart guy.

Wikipedia: Marilyn Manson

1996: Bee Gees on ‘Clive Anderson All Talk’

The Bee Gees, especially Barry Gibb, don’t take kindly to Anderson’s patented put-downs and storm off the show. Compared to the next clip this seems rather tame, but the witticisms were enough for Barry to get up out of his seat, say “You’re the tosser, pal,” and march off the set with his brothers in tow.

Wikipedia: Clive Anderson

2001: David and Victoria Beckham on ‘Comic Relief: Say Pants to Poverty’For a segment of the BBC’s 2001 Red Nose Day extravaganza, Ali G conducted this hilarious interview with the Beckhams. It’s basically a roast, a showcase for Sacha Baron Cohen’s quick wit, but both Victoria and David are very good sports about it, and even come up with a few jokes of their own.

Wikipedia: Ali G

2007: Paula Abdul Drunk

I know this is not a talk show – but I couldn’t resist adding this one to the list. Here we see Paula Abdul being interviewed on television regarding the most recent American Idol series. This is serious cringe material. [jfrater]

2005: Tom Cruise on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’

Everybody knows about it, and has seen parodies of it, but the actual appearance is more bizarre and hysterical than a hundred of those parodies combined. This is genuinely odd behavior. A new popular phrase – ‘jump the couch’ – entered the lexicon, and one superstar was never taken seriously again.

Wikipedia: Jump the couch

Contributor: Barns

  • Hobolad

    I was expecting Frank Zappa and the Heather Mills one from a few days ago (Thought that was the reason for this list now).

    Good list though!

  • NestorV

    I’m surprise that the Andy Kaufman/Jerry Lawler confrontaion on David Lettermans show wasn’t on here.

  • What about that odd interview with David Blaine and his eye-hand…
    thats a link to watch it

  • Hobolad

    goregina: Oh yeah! Remember that, ’twas kinda creepy.

  • Safira

    I was expecting the Tom Cruise one with Oprah when I saw this. :)

  • StewWriter

    Though recent (I believe early October) and really only memorable for the fact the David Letterman (my personal favorite) is easily the most calmingly condescending host I can remember, the show where he interviewed Paris Hilton (gag) was as hysterical as it was uncomfortable. All Letterman wanted to talk about was her jail stint and what she learned, and so on, but Hilton consistently avoided much of the questions by looking dour and basically lost and only wanting to promote her newest wastes of time. Letterman, ever persistent, plodded on unabated and at one point even asked Hilton if she was going to cry to which she nodded forlornly. Man, it was just fall down funny to see her squirm. Finally, Letterman conceded and asked her a quick few questions about whatever she wanted and cut to commercial. Best interview of that useless waste of carbon ever!

  • Wooow. That one with Tom Cruise was nuts. What do you think he was on? I loved the Salvador Dali one!

  • Kelsi: I think he was on Scientology :)

  • jadedink

    the one I will never forget is Johnny Carson’s last show. Bette Midler sang to him and he cried.

  • DiscHuker

    i gotta agree with nestor that the fight between kaufman and lawler was the only one that i expected.

    tom cruise is outta his friggin mind. how creepy/wierd/wtf was that interview?

  • trebek

    Chuck Liddell of the UFC on Good Morning Texas.

    I’m sure anyone who knows who he is has already seen it, but man, Chuck is so out of it. Any grown man should know better than to take ambien at 4 am when you’re going to be on morning television.

  • NestorV/DiscHuker: the Kaufman/Lawler confrontation is a good catch – totally forgot about that one. Maybe we could add it as a bonus?

    StewWriter: that Hilton interview was good stuff, but I figured it was too recent to be really memorable.

    Kelsi: that Dali clip is one of the best things I’ve seen on YouTube – if you search for his name, you can see a lot of other good stuff too.

  • Interesting one from Marilyn Manson. I don’t care for his music myself either, but he seems to be fairly intelligent.

  • flaminio

    No John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the Mike Douglas Show? You’re slipping, jfrater…

  • Salvador Dali has been my favorite artist for as long as I can remember even being into art. Just seeing him on What’s My Line…that just adds so much for me. That is awesome.

  • flaminio: I couldn’t find a decent clip for Lennon/Ono on Douglas. Certainly memorable, though, especially the random ‘I love you’ phone calling.

  • Denashi

    Letterman has had many odd and/or funny guests, I think my favorite was when Drew Barrymore danced for and flashed him on his birthday:

  • pete

    Hugh Grant on Leno- after the whole… whore thing…

    It changed the ratings of late night TV for a decade- it was after this that Leno took over the lead from David… for good.

  • Mary

    (The) Late Night(/Show) With David Letterman has had too many crazy interviews – Madonna, Andy Dick, Courtney Love, Drew Barrymore, Richard Simmons, Jerry Lawler/Andy Kaufman, Farrah Fawcett, Paris Hilton, Cher, Harvey Pekar. That could be a list in itself.

  • WearShades

    What about the tomahawk incident years back on Johnny Carson? Easily should have been number one.

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  • AnotherEngine

    I would also add the Sex Pistols on the Bill Grundy Show which led to the “Filth And The Fury” headlines in all the British papers. The Pistols were basically provoked into cursing up a storm.

  • Funny

    Also, Heather Mills’ outburst on a chat-show the other day was hilarious!


    How about the fight with the skin heads on Geraldo and his nose getting broke from a flying chair.

  • AmazingThor

    The Lennons on Dick Cavett

  • AmazingThor

    pete- I always heard that the event that pushed Leno to the top was when JFK Jr. appeared

  • teacherman

    Skinheads on Geraldo must be on this list. I remember rushing home from 8th grade to watch it.

  • Shane S.

    Hulk Hogan on the Richard Belzer show was memorable too. Hogan put Belzer in a chin lock, and knocked him out cold! Hogan got sued too! lol

  • Shane: haha brilliant – got a youtube clip?

    I am blown away by how many people have extras for the list – well done guys – bring them on!

  • pete


    Yeah it was after the Hugh Grant thing that Leno took over the ratings. Also- on a side note- anyone ever see the movie ‘The Late Shift’ ?

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  • iain

    old one where oliver reid appeared on ,think it was parkinson, blazing, was hillarious

  • iain: that would’ve been Aspel ( – I strongly considered it, but decided the available online clips weren’t good enough to sustain a place on the list. If there was a longer clip out there, it would’ve made it in easily.

    That’s a new list idea: tales of Oliver Reed drunkenness. What a man.

  • agreeing sortof with mary above …..when dave letterman had cher on and he asked her why she had refused to come on the show for so long .and she replied because she thought he was an ass…i almost pissed my pants laughing.

  • Tyree

    Honestly, I don’t understand what the big deal is about Cruise’s couch-jumping. It really doesn’t strike me as that weird. I mean, my impression was just a really hyper guy, talking his new girlfriend up as much as possible, trying to make the biggest statement he could. I didn’t really think it was weird, or freaky, or anything–after all, the man’s an actor.

    As for the scientology stuff, I really don’t think it’s that serious. I mean, scientology sucks hairy butt, but I have trouble believing that it’s anything other than a publicity stunt with Cruise.

  • Slammerworm

    Tyree: It’s weird because he’s trying so hard. Methinks he doth rejoice too much. If a buddy did that in my lounge, I’d be deeply suspicious regarding the veracity of his claims. Also, any publicity stunt which seriously affects one’s career is invariably dumped with all haste and disowned during the subsequent damage control period (Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’, etc.). Tom seems to be clinging even closer to his religion. Anyways, sod silly old Tom Cruise (heh-heh-heh. He wishes), how about GG Allin’s appearance on Gerraldo, circa early 1990s. There’s bits of it on the ‘Hated’ DVD and YouTube.

  • davo

    Tom Cruise is one odd little fellow…
    how pathetic are all the women in the crowd!! haha

    you should put the John Stamos interview that was on Aussie morning TV, he was quite soused.

  • Sargelegg

    I saw the crispin Glover interview when it a first on. It was the first thing that entered my mind when I saw the title of this list. I haven’t been able to watch Back to the Future the same way since.

  • KKing

    Marylin Manson is extremely intelligent…I had realized that his style of music and imagery is a direct mockery of the media in the nineties. And his and his bandmates’ names explain his cause directly.

  • F Roden

    What happened to the Tom Cruise clip on Oprat??? I clicked and it said “no longer available”. I guess him and his scientology croonies got it wiped.

  • Polly Odyssey

    Nooo! The Tom Cruise video! It doesn’t work!

  • Phreznipuf

    Really good list. I’m actually surprised (although maybe it wasn’t as big as I thought) that Jon Stewart’s ‘interview’ on Crossfire wasn’t included. But seriously, great list :D

  • Vera Lynn

    Johnny Carson had on the rat pack. Some one was telling a story and the audience was laughing. What the guy didn’t know was Dean Martin kept flicking his cigarette in the guy’s drink. SOOOO Funny!!!!!!!!

    I also liked the tomahawk. One of the longest live audience laugh.

    Will never forget Drew Barrymore. The look on Letterman’s face was priceless!

  • jajdude

    The Ali G one was good.

  • thepennymachine

    If you think Crispin glover is weird in that interview. Try to find a way to see his film “What is it?” in which he directed and acted. Great little film there but it simply adds to my thoughts of Crispin being a oddity

  • sam

    uhh Beatles on Ed Sullivan?!?!

  • londonafter

    i hate f*cking Marilyn Manson, but i have to recognise, the guy is really smart

  • Woooooolhouse

    Sue Johanson- the sex therapist woman on Oxygen- was on Conan once, and he did not say more then three words (excluding his welcoming her and sending it to commercial.) She brought a bag of sex toys that scared both other guests- Tom Selleck and Paul “Big Show” Wight- and caused Conan to just stare at her, mouth agape. Maybe not the most memorable, but the funniest ever…

  • A

    Marilyn Manson is pretty genius. Sure, he freaks Hell out of me, but he uses his image to manipulate everything around him.

  • ligeia

    Crispin Glover and Salvador Dali – nice!!

  • Ash

    My God, Tom Cruise is so stupid…

  • Tony

    Tom Wait’s appearance on Fernwood Tonight is sorely missing.

  • Katie

    Marilyn Manson was surprisingly eloquent. And this comes from a person who is pretty indifferent towards his music. Nice list! I loved the Paula Abdul one, and who could forget Tom Cruise…he HAD to be on something that day. Poor Katie Holmes, too…she seemed incredibly embarrassed.

  • Jessica

    Wow that Salvador Dali one is actually too funny. I actually haven’t laughed like that in a while. AWESOME LIST

  • CowzRppl2

    What about Uri Geller on the tonight show? That one is pretty memorable.

  • playoldgames

    45. londonafter – September 3rd, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    i hate f*cking Marilyn Manson, but i have to recognise, the guy is really smart

    Don’t f*** him, then ;)

    Good list, not quite sure if it fits in with some of the greats up there, but Rod Hull and Emu on Parkinson wouldn’t have been a bad addition.

  • Paro

    Yeah…There are some really good Parky interviews…Mohammed Ali on Parkison in the 70s is a brilliant interview…And in the UK Meg Ryan on Parky is quite infamous.

  • Paro

    Oh, and Heather Mills on GMTV! Here’s the link:

    Meg Ryan on Parky:

    Mohammed Ali on Parky:

  • The_Patient

    Haha, love the Crispin Glover one.
    Also, I agree with goregina, when David Blaine was interviewed, he does acts very strange. Its funny though.

  • mikey

    arsenio hall=legend!…hehe

  • Copaface

    Joan Rivers on Parkinson

    The funniest woman alive makes gay men (George Michael and Stephen Fry) squirm when she talks about her sagging vagina


  • adamh

    You gotta have sex pistols on bill grundy…classic example of stuffy host making himself look stupid trying to goad youngsters

  • Karma

    IMO John Stewart on Crossfire should be on this list. YouTube:

  • mayla

    i agree with you, barns, regarding Marilyn Manson… i haven’t seen any of his interviews as i really find him so scary ( with the eyeliner, face powder and all) but one time i happened to read his interview at one local paper here in dubai… he was asked with questions regarding his divorce with then wife, dit von tesse… his answers were philosophical, but they were original, i haven’t heard any of the phrases he said from any political leaders or celebrities…i think he has learned so much about life…

    i mean one can never truly expect someone looking like that could be surprisingly intelligent…

  • spike

    i may not agree with absolutely everything he says, but that manson is one smart cookie.

  • NeilM

    What about Oliver Reed on Aspel and Co? THAT was memorable!

  • Sean

    Crispin Glover was indeed acting in that Letterman clip. He was in character as Rubin Farr from the movie “Rubin and Ed”. For some reason or another, though, “Rubin and Ed” didn’t get released until 1991. If you watch it (or look at pics), Glover was wearing the exact same costume in the movie as he was on Letterman.

  • Bert

    @ 46 – Sue Johannsen seriously kicks ass. She may well be the toughest woman in Canada.

    This list should get a late revision after Joaquin Phoenix’s recent Letterman interview. You’d think he would lay off the drugs after what happened to his brother…unless he’s just acting, that is.

  • pookie

    Ahh I knew Marilyn Manson would be on there lol. God I love that guy.

    But what about Sinead O’Connor on SNL? How could anyone forget that?

  • Trekkerette

    Why didn’t you include the Oprah interview of MJ?

  • Crizack

    how about hugh grant on jayleno

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  • Ashe

    I honestly expected to see The Beatles on Johnny Carson.

  • Fish

    where’s truman capote?

  • littlegoldwoman

    Marilyn Manson is an idiot! There is nothing intelligent in leading children into rebellion or drugs.

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  • nicoleredz3


  • angelus

    i think blaming music, movies, etc… is nothing more than abdicating a parents responsibility for teaching their child appropriately. or if anyone is swayed into killing themselves or commiting a crime, then that propensity to do as such was already there. music and movies didnt plant that seed. i was told once that my music may have influenced my problems in my teen years, which i strongly refute. i replied noh and noone ever offed themselves listening to john denvern. twenty fours hours of rocky mountain high and imd jump off the fucking mountain

  • angelus

    damn my shift button wasnt working so i had quite a few typos above.

  • Phil


  • Plod

    Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz on Top Gear Star In The Reasonably (cant spell it) Priced Car

  • Plod

    I think i spelled it right even Tom Cruise leans forward

  • Name

    i love the bit on family guy parodying tom cruise where stewie talks about his cousin stewie cruise and than we see him on oprah and he yells “IM IN LOVE WITH KATY HOLMES IM IN LOVE WITH KATY HOLMES GO SEE MY NEW MOVIE IM NOT GAY IM IN LOVE WITH KATY HOLMES” hilarious!

  • Plod

    I saw that that was funny

  • AA

    Marilyn Manson is genius ?

    If you enjoyed that interview,
    then watch the the interview called “Marilyn Manson-Bowling For Columbine”.
    The part that made me and my mother smile from astonishment was when Micheal Moore asks Marilyn Manson “If you could say anything to the kids who did this, what would you say?” and Marilyn’s response was “I wouldn’t say anything. I’d listen to what they’d have to say. An that’s what nobody did.”

  • Sara

    If you do a follow up you should include G.G. Allin on the Sally Jessie Raphael show, and Michael Allig and the club kids on any talk show they’ve ever been on (it’s always comical)!

  • Jay

    Did we miss Ali’s interview with Parkinson?!

  • Plod

    Seriously I know Top Gear is not a talk show but Star In The Reasonably Priced Car sort of is.

  • There are 2 Talk Show appearances that are embedded in my mind forever. One was, the author Ayn Rand on The Phil Donahue Show just before she died. The other one is when the great Orson Welles appeared on the Merv Griffin Show. He did the interview with Griffin, left the studio, went back to his hotel room and went to lay down and fall asleep……….He never woke up and had died just 2 hours after the interview. I also will give honorable mention to once again, Phil Donahue when he interviewed Katherine Hepburn at her house. Hepburn had written her memoirs and Donahue had a copy of it and her if she could sign and personalize it………She then asked, what his name was and left Donahue astounded that she did not know his name. Its classic…….

  • I have a couple that are not on the list. The first one was Truman Capote totally drunk as a guest on the Stanley Siegel Show. When asked by Siegel if he was drunk, Capote said “Lately ?” Siegel said “No Right Now”. Another one was when the legendary Orson Welles was on the Merv Griffin Show, did his interview and left the studio in a limo to transport him back to his hotel room. He died in his sleep just 3 hours after the interview and the most interesting one was when the famous novelist Ayn Rand made an appearance on the Phil Donahue show just before she died. With the exception of the Truman Capote interview, the other 2 can be seen on YOU TUBE

  • HouseOfSiphonophore

    I do wish Truddi Chase with Oprah was on here.

  • aa

    Madonna and Letterman

  • Name

    What the eff is up with most of the videos not working?

  • petet2112

    Just a few months ago on Late Night With David Letterman, Neil Peart the drummer for the internationally known rock band RUSH, Was Dave’s musical guest. And I am sure that was not easy for him to get as Neil is a very private and reclusive type individual since his daughter died in a single car accident and his wife Jackie died one year later (almost to the day) of cancer. But Neil is still Neil, the greatest drummer in rock music, if not the world

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  • steve

    the one on crispin glover is a costume setup from a movie called Rubin and Ed. A movie that was directed by an unkown director named trent harris. It was such a flop that it was dropped immediately from the studio. however, trent harris resides in salt lake city and copies are only available from him personally. some might find it a horrible movie, but its hilarious in its detestable writing. Check youtube for rubin and ed. specifically “my cat can eat a whole watermelon” and Andy warhol.

  • steve

    it was dropped immediately following the first screening. it is only available from trent harriscwho resides in slc utah, whom ive met personally. he’s f’ing wierd, but cool.

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