Top 20 Times Talk Show Hosts Cried on TV
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Times Talk Show Hosts Cried on TV.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most emotional moments on talk shows when the host was brought - or almost brought - to tears while on TV.
What do you think is the most emotional moment in talk show history? Let us know in the comments below.
#20: Jimmy Kimmel's Tribute to Don Rickles
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (2003-)
When late-night talk show hosts get emotional on television, it’s usually for good reason. During an episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in April 2017, Kimmel began his opening monologue in tears as he shared that his close friend Don Rickles had passed away. Rickles, who was a legendary stand-up comedian, was a frequent guest on the show. The host shared some heartwarming and hilarious stories. He struggled to hold back tears throughout, and it was clear how much the late comic meant to him. And in true Rickles fashion, he brought some laughter into the tragedy, before honoring him in the most sincere way.
#19: Ellen DeGeneres Sobs Over Failed Dog Adoption
“The Ellen Degeneres Show” (2003-22)
DeGeneres is no stranger to the world of animal adoption. Unfortunately, she didn’t read the fine print when adopting dog ‘Iggy’ in 2007, when her and wife Portia de Rossi still had 6 pets. After realizing that she wouldn’t have enough time or energy to ensure Iggy got along with their other animals, she gave the dog to her hairdresser’s family. However, this ultimately went against the contractual agreement of the adoption, and resulted in the dog being taken away. Afterward, DeGeneres went on her show to weepingly plead for Iggy to be returned to the heartbroken family. She was notably unable to keep her composure as she talked about her guilt over the situation.
#18: Johnny Carson's Last “Tonight Show”
“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (1962-92)
Johnny Carson is one of the most prolific talk show hosts in the history of late-night television, starring on the hugely successful ‘Tonight Show’ for a whopping 30 years. Naturally, he became a household name. So as Carson’s widely beloved tenure as late night’s leading man came to an end, fans cherished their last night with him. The host offered a final farewell to the people who helped make the show what it was, before turning his attention to the audience. His speech was heartfelt and captured the significance of the moment, so much so that he even made himself tear up at the end.
#17: Hoda Kotb Is Inspired by Drew Brees
'Today' anchor Hoda Kotb tried hard to keep herself together after an emotional interview on the morning show with then-New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. But we definitely can’t blame her for being visibly moved afterward. The former Super Bowl champion talked about how he was donating 5 million dollars to COVID-19 relief in Louisiana. That money would notably help feed a slew of people. Of course, this story is enough to pull on the heartstrings of just about anybody. But it likely hit especially close to home for Kotb, who worked as an anchor for WWL-TV in New Orleans from 1992 to 1998.
#16: Oprah Winfrey Announces the End of Her Show
“The Oprah Winfrey Show” (1986-2011)
Oprah was a staple on TV screens across the world for 25 years, so her departure from her widely famous talk show 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' was sure to be an emotional one. Despite the series' tremendous success and incredibly dedicated fanbase, Oprah made the decision to step away from the show in 2009 following its 25th season in 2011. Despite keeping her composure through most of the announcement, the host could be seen choking back tears as she begins thanking her audience for inviting her into their lives for so long and for “enriching [her] life”. Can someone pass the tissues?
#15: David Letterman’s Monologue Following the Events of September 11, 2001
“Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-2015)
David Letterman spent his late-night career in New York City. So it came as no surprise that when 9/11 tragically rocked the nation, he, like everyone else, was heartbroken. Dave was the first late-night host to return to TV following the tragedy, speaking from the “Late Show” studio roughly four miles away from where the Twin Towers had stood. The episode began with a somber opening monologue. Letterman emotionally paid homage to the victims, the city’s first responders, and the communities across America that rallied around New York City. His voice was shaking at points, and his sadness was both palpable and poignant.
#14: Drew Barrymore Gets Emotional During An Intimate Look Into Her Life
“The Drew Barrymore Show” (2020-)
Drew Barrymore admittedly faced some struggles growing up as a child star. In a segment for her talk show, she traveled through LA and took viewers into the landmarks of her childhood. Beginning with the first house she lived in with her mom, Barrymore choked back tears. She remembered how lonely she was there, and how drastically things had changed since then. But she got even more emotional at the end of the tour, when she took viewers to the psychiatric institution that she was placed in when she was 13. Shedding tears once more, she showed gratitude for her life, and it was nothing short of moving.
#13: Meghan McCain Returns to “The View” After Her Father's Passing
“The View” (1997-)
While ‘The View’ is known for its fiery hot topic conversations and sometimes controversial takes, it is rare that we get to see emotional moments on the show quite like the return of host Meghan McCain following the death of her father. Meghan, who spoke openly about her father’s battle with brain cancer leading up to his death, was holding back tears as she received a warm welcome from audience members and her ‘View’ colleagues. While Meghan was visibly emotional for the entire segment, it wasn’t until she began discussing the support she had received from her fellow hosts that she completely broke down crying, saying that
#12: Craig Ferguson Eulogizes His Mother
“The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” (2005-14)
Ferguson is known for his quick wit and Scottish sense of humor which kept his much-beloved talk show light-hearted and endlessly entertaining. So when he opened an episode in 2008 with a special monologue about the passing of his mother, it touched the hearts of many adoring fans. Ferguson was able to keep himself composed for the majority of his monologue, as he cracked jokes and told lovely stories about his childhood. But he was visibly shaken at the end of his eulogy, holding back tears at the reminder that his parents were together once again.
#11: Kelly Clarkson Meets an Inspiring Mother
“The Kelly Clarkson Show” (2019-)
While Kelly may have spent the past few decades making us all cry with her stunning vocals and heartbreaking lyrics, she is now on the receiving end of that sob-fest as she meets with inspiring guests on her talk show. This was perhaps most evident during her interview with Rachel Handy, a domestic abuse survivor and mother of five who has faced financial struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite being laid off from her job and almost losing her house, Handy and her family decided to make meals for the homeless as a way of giving back to their community. It’s safe to say this was enough to have Kelly choking back a few tears.
#10: Nick Cannon Tearfully Reveals That His Infant Son Zen Passed Away
“Nick Cannon” (2021-22)
Losing a child is something no parent should have to go through, but sadly it’s a pain that host and actor Nick Cannon knows all too well. In December 2021, he revealed that he and Alyssa Scott had lost their 5-month-old son, Zen, to a rare form of brain cancer. Cannon announced the death on his talk show “Nick Cannon.” He explained that Zen had had a malignant brain tumor which began devolving rapidly over the Thanksgiving holidays. He struggled to get through the monologue as he tearfully recalled his last moments with his son, and showed viewers an extremely vulnerable side of himself. Yep, we’re crying!
#9: James Corden on the 2017 Westminster Incident
“The Late Late Show with James Corden” (2015-)
After an attack killed four pedestrians and injured many more in London, James Corden took to his talk show to speak about the tragedy that took place in his hometown. Corden got visibly upset while speaking about the horrifying incident. While he held back most of the physical evidence of tears, he clearly got choked up while expressing his feelings of homesickness and his desire to be with his family and fellow Londoners during the heartbreaking time. While Corden wasn’t able to be home in the wake of the Westminster attack, he sadly had to address another attack in London on London Bridge a few months later - though he was able to do so on his own terms this time, from his beloved hometown.
#8: Tamera Mowry-Housley Returns to “The Real” After the Tragic Death of Her Niece
“The Real” (2013-22)
‘The Real’ hosts are no strangers to being “real” on-air, which is one of the many reasons why we adore them. In November 2018, Tamera Morwy-Housley resumed co-hosting the show following the devastating death of her niece Alaina in the Thousand Oaks shooting tragedy. And of course, she was still visibly grieving. The senseless event, which occurred at a bar in Southern California, took far too many lives and rocked both the local community and the “The Real” family. Mowry-Housley’s speech was an emotional and poignant celebration of life, with many tears shed as she honored her dearly departed loved one.
#7: Talk Show Hosts React to Robin Williams' Death
There was no one quite like Robin Williams, which made his unexpected death all the more heartbreaking. The beloved actor and comedian was a staple on talk shows for decades, with his quick wit and joyous personality. In August 2014, it was announced that he had tragically passed away from suicide, which devastated countless fans around the world. And the reactions of his peers speak for themselves. Whoopi Goldberg and Jimmy Fallon were among the hosts deeply affected by his untimely passing, and they didn’t shy away from showing it. They each paid their respects in touching tributes on their shows, and we sobbed right alongside them.
#6: Jon Stewart’s Monologue After the Events of September 11, 2001
Like David Letterman, Jon Stewart was devastated by 9/11, and he expressed his pain and frustration on “The Daily Show.” A native New Yorker, a shaken Stewart didn’t shy away from addressing the tragedy, even if that meant choking up on TV. Through his tears, he delivered an impassioned monologue that was filled with both grief and hope. He’s since dedicated himself to advocating for financial and health aid for the first responders who responded to the tragedy and their families. The heart-wrenching testimony he gave to the U.S. Congress in 2019 is proof of how deeply he cares about the cause.
#5: Steve Harvey Breaks Down on His Birthday Show
“Steve Harvey” (2012-17)
We may not know what it’s like, but we can imagine that having a street named after you is a pretty emotional experience. During a surprise celebration for Steve’s 58th birthday, his family, friends and the Cleveland mayor gave the talk show host the gift of a lifetime: naming part of the street he grew up on “Steve Harvey Way”, as well as declaring January 17 - Steve’s birthday - “Steve Harvey Day”. While Steve was visibly emotional during the entire surprise, it wasn’t until the camera panned to video footage of his late mom’s old house that Steve got so emotional that he had to turn his back to the audience.
#4: Talk Show Hosts Remember Kobe Bryant
After the shocking 2020 news that legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant passed away in a tragic helicopter crash alongside his daughter Gianna and 7 other victims, many talk show hosts took time to remember the NBA star and pay tribute to all the lives lost. Among the most emotional were hosts Jimmy Kimmel, who opted to tape the tribute episode without a studio audience as it “didn’t feel right”; Jimmy Fallon, who teared up as he shared the hilarious memory of how the two had met; and Ellen, who struggled to keep herself together as she urged her audience to “celebrate life” in the face of such a devastating tragedy.
#3: Jimmy Kimmel Discusses the 2017 Las Vegas Incident
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (2003-)
Jimmy Kimmel is not shy about his love for his hometown of Las Vegas, so when the incredibly disturbing Las Vegas mass shooting occurred in 2017 it was evident that the long-time host would be heartbroken by it. While Kimmel was teary-eyed through the entire opening monologue, he also appeared upset and frustrated as he discussed the prevalence of such events in the U.S. and pleaded for stronger gun control. In true Kimmel fashion, Jimmy also went on to call out the hypocrisy of politicians who sent out their thoughts and prayers while simultaneously “letting the gun lobby run this country”.
#2: Jimmy Fallon Talks About His Mother
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (2014-)
Jimmy Fallon doesn’t stray from his lighthearted demeanor often. However, following the passing of his mother, Jimmy returned to the Tonight Show where he got candid about his mother's death. During the episode, Fallon was emotional while retelling a childhood memory of his mom squeezing his hand three times to say "I love you", while going on to say that he repeated the sentiment to her while she was in the hospital. If that’s not enough to make you cry, later in the show Taylor Swift performed her song 'New Years Day,’ which includes these lyrics. The coincidence, according to ‘Tonight Show’ producer Mike DiCenzo, was enough to bring Jimmy to tears once again.
#1: Jimmy Kimmel Reveals His Son's Heart Disease
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (2003-)
Jimmy Kimmel is no stranger to getting choked up during his shows, but when he revealed that his son Billy was born with a heart condition and had to undergo heart surgery at just three days old - it was a different story. Kimmel, who returned to hosting ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ less than two weeks after Billy’s birth, was rightfully emotional while retelling the story and struggled to get through thanking all the doctors and nurses who had saved his son. Jimmy didn’t stop there though, as he went on to emotionally discuss the proposed defunding of the National Institute of Health and the detrimental effects that it would have on families around America.