Top 10 Most Shocking Talk Show Moments Ever
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Top 10 Most Shocking Talk Show Moments Ever

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Tal Fox
These shocking moments could only happen on talk shows. For this list, we'll be looking at the most jaw-dropping interviews, events, and moments from the talk show circuit. Our countdown includes "The Dick Cavett Show," "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and more!
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Top 10 Shocking Moments in Talk Shows


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Shocking Moments in Talk Shows.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most jaw-dropping interviews, events, and moments from the talk show circuit.

Which talk show moment do you still recall in disbelief? Let us know in the comments!

#10: Wendy Williams Faints
“The Wendy Williams Show” (2008-22)


During a costume contest on her Halloween episode, Williams gave everyone a fright when she suddenly collapsed. Just moments before, you can hear the struggle in her voice before her eyes go wide and she stumbles backward, falling to the ground. Her staff rushed over to her just as the screen cut to black and went to commercials, leaving audiences wondering what had happened. When the show returned, the host reassured viewers that this wasn’t a stunt, but that she was alright all the same. Ever the trooper, Williams proceeded with her program like normal. She was later interviewed by “Good Morning America” where she further explained the circumstances.

#9: Kanye Goes Rouge
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” (2003-22)


Kanye - now going by Ye - has somewhat of a reputation for being a loose cannon when given a stage. In 2016, he stopped by “The Ellen Show” for what should have been a run-of-the-mill interview. It starts awkwardly with the rapper giving terribly short answers to her questions. However, when Ellen probes him on his colorful choices of self-expression, he goes on a roughly seven-minute rant that left the host unable to get a word in and the rest of us in stunned silence. Ultimately, his message was one of unity and tolerance, but he took us on quite the journey with his “realness” monologue. Eventually, he stopped long enough for the audience to applaud and the host to regain the reins.

#8: Conan O'Brien’s Expensive Clapback
“The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien” (2009-10)


In 2010 “The Tonight Show” became engulfed in drama when NBC decided they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. With two popular hosts, Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno, bringing in tons of viewership, things quickly became messy as they tried to shuffle around their time slots. Eventually, the network would take the baton from O'Brien and return it to Leno. Needless to say, it caused quite an uproar. Even Jimmy Kimmel jumped on the bandwagon and took shots at Leno. However, it was O’Brien who got the very expensive last laugh. He decided to spend his final days with the network blowing their budget. It was outrageous, shocking, but undeniably entertaining. NBC was simply no match for this funny man.

#7: John Oliver Forgives Medical Debt
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (2014-)


In 2016, John Oliver spent roughly 20 minutes viciously tearing down the unethical and immoral debut-purchasing industry. The entire segment built up to a stunt that made Oprah’s 2004 car giveaway look like child’s play. The British talk show host decided to join the biz to prove how easy it is to start a debt-buying company and how few regulations are in place to protect individuals. But, instead of collecting the approximately $15 million worth of debt he purchased, he forgave it with one push of a red button. It was an extraordinary moment that left the audience - and certainly the 9,000 people he’d just helped - astounded. In one swift move, he made television history; move over Oprah!

#6: Michael Richards Apologizes
“The Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-2015)


The comedic actor best known for playing Kramer on “Seinfeld” left audiences horrified when he went on a racist tirade during his stand-up show back in 2006. Letterman addressed the incident on his show while talking to Jerry Seinfeld. The two then surprised viewers by handing the platform to Richards to apologize. The apology itself was super awkward and clearly the wrong forum for this all to go down. Richards rambled through his statement, seemingly unsure of what exactly it was he wanted to say. Understandably, Letterman’s audience didn't take it seriously. It was so uncomfortable that it really just detracted from the apology itself and, by the end, we just wanted to forget it ever happened.

#5: Madonna vs. the Censors
“The Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-2015)


Madonna famously loves to push the envelope, but this 1994 interview was so infamously controversial that it even got its own Wikipedia page. It begins with the host urging the singer to kiss some guy in the audience — shockingly, that’s not the part that caused a public outcry. Rather, audiences were appalled by Madonna’s rather blunt responses and frequent use of expletives. It definitely felt like there was some friction between the pair, with Madonna blaming the host’s frequent jabs at her sex life. Supposedly, she refused to leave after her interview and was heckled off by the audience. There was certainly a lot to unpack here, and we’re still sort of bewildered by the whole thing.

#4: Andy Dick Gets Escorted Out
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (2003-)


In 2007, Andy Dick and Ivanka Trump were guests on Jimmy Kimmel's show. Throughout the interview, the comedian can't seem to keep his hands to himself despite Kimmel's many warnings. Ivanka's clearly uncomfortable, but she laughs it off and even playfully hits him. Eventually, security gets involved and, with Jimmy's help, Dick gets carried off stage. Later while reflecting on the situation, Kimmel admitted the comedian "always makes [him] a little uncomfortable” and that “you have no idea what he's going to do next." Of course, this wouldn't be the only time Dick would face groping accusations. The whole incident was so disturbing and would’ve likely been handled very differently today.

#3: Crispin Glover's Erratic Interview
“The Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-2015)


Sometimes actors like to perform stunts like embodying a character during talk show interviews— but it’s hard to tell if that’s what’s happening here. Some believed that Glover was channeling his character Rubin Farr from “Rubin & Ed,” but others thought he was under the influence of hard substances or just nuts. There’s also a theory that Glover simply wasn’t happy with the direction the conversation was headed. Either way, this erratic interview was super confusing, and each moment was more unpredictable than the last. It all culminated with Glover demonstrating a kick that made Letterman decide enough was enough. To this day, we’re not sure if this interview was insane or ingenious.

#2: John Lennon’s FBI Claims
“The Dick Cavett Show” (1968-86)


During this talk show appearance in 1972, the former Beatle and his wife, Yoko Ono, boldly claimed the FBI was observing them. The subject arose while the pair were discussing their citizenship and custody battles. At the time, it sounded ridiculous. Why on earth would the FBI care about these two musicians? Audiences thought the idea sounded preposterous and dismissed the couple as crazy and paranoid. Little did they know there was truth to what they were saying. Apparently, Lennon and Ono were on the FBI’s radar due to their strong anti-war stance. This is arguably one of the wildest and most shocking revelations of all time to have emerged from a talk show interview.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Geraldo Rivera’s Nose Gets Broken, “Geraldo” (1987-98)
The Host’s Nose Got Caught in the Crossfire When a Fight Broke Out on His Show

Jimmy Fallon Missed His Shot with Nicole Kidman, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (2014-)
This Was Such a Surprising Revelation That Even Jimmy Needed To Lie Down

Jay Leno Confronts Hugh Grant, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (1992-2009; 2010-14)
There Was No Beating Around the Bush Here

Drew Barrymore’s Birthday Dance, “Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-2015)
At Least She Didn’t Do It in Her Birthday Suit!

A Surprise Proposal, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (1992-2009; 2010-14)
Sometimes We’re Pleasantly Shocked!

#1: The Letterman Scandal
“The Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-2015)


This scandal has so many twists and turns that it's almost impossible to know where to begin. In 2009, Letterman revealed that someone tried to extort him for $2 million after uncovering his sexual relationships with female employees. The host delivered an approximately ten-minute monologue, peppered with jokes detailing what went down, how it was handled, and how his blackmailer was ultimately arrested. Letterman claimed he decided to come forward to protect the other people involved in this mess. Still, his storytelling skills were apparently so magnetic that somehow everyone forgot he'd just confessed to workplace misconduct. If anything, his boldness was applauded. It's all so unbelievably outrageous and it still has us shook to this day!
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