Late Night TV shows like the Tonight Show and The Late Show make staying up late worth it. They provide comedy, insight, a chance for celebrities to show a different side of themselves and to promote their upcoming projects. They also provide a platform for musicians and comedians to reach a wider fan base. Shows like the Tonight Show and Lettermen have had many memorable moments and outstanding guests over the decades. However, these shows are not without their mishaps, mistakes and controversies. Possibly some of the best moments of shows like this are when things go completely wrong or a guest can get out of control. Here are some bloopers, blunders and infamous moments that have occurred on late night television.
5) Drew Barrymore’s Birthday Surprise for Lettermen – Late Show with David Lettermen April 12, 1995
When wanting to wish someone a happy birthday, most people just give a nice card or sing the happy birthday song, but Drew Barrymore goes above and beyond that for David Lettermen. Drew Barrymore appeared on the Late Show with David Lettermen on April 12, which just happens to be Lettermen’s birthday. Lettermen asked Barrymore about a recent incident at a club where she danced naked. Instead of describing the incident to Lettermen, she felt it was best to show him. She then jumped on his desk and danced seductively before flashing a stunned David Lettermen who, for the first time, was speechless. She jumped back down into her seat and they finished the interview. By the way, the birthday surprise wasn’t the dance, it was the nice flowers she gave him at the beginning of the interview.
4) Howard Stern VS Jay Leno The Tonight Show with Jay Leno November 30, 1995
Howard stern made headlines in 1995 with his appearance on The Tonight Show. At the time, Stern was one of the most controversial celebrities and this appearance helped cement that. By this point, Stern had released his autobiography Private Parts in 1993 and had a very successful radio show. Howard Stern’s radio show was known for its shock value and sometimes wildly inappropriate humor, however, he did have a large fan base. Stern showed up on The Tonight Show with two porn stars in bikinis and had them kiss live on television. He also tried to get Leno involved, but a clearly uncomfortable Leno would have no part of it. Stern remained on the show while Leno tried to interview Siskel and Ebert, but Stern stole all the attention by acting inappropriately with the porn stars. Leno was so outraged that he left the set early and walked off. The rest of the episode was heavily edited to make it seem like Leno was still there, which Stern revealed to the world on his radio show the next morning. Their feud seemed to die down but in recent years has returned. Mostly, Howard Stern taking shots at Jay Leno for various things such as the Late Night Controversy with Conan O’Brien and he has also claimed that Jay Leno has stole several bits from him. In 2004, Jay did invite Stern to be a guest but Stern angrily turned down the offer.
3) Andy Kaufman fights Jerry Lawler – Late Night With David Lettermen July 28, 1982
One of the most infamous moments of late night TV took place in the early 80’s on NBC’s Late Night With David Lettermen, when guests Andy Kaufman and professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler got into a fight. Andy Kaufman had great success as a comedian and that led to his prominent role on the sitcom, Taxi. However, Kaufman always considered himself a showman and actually detested being called a comedian. He also grew up a long time wrestling fan and this combined with his showmen skills, would lead him into the world of professional wrestling. Kaufman declared himself the “Intergender World Champion” and would take on all challengers…well all female challengers. Eventually, Kaufman would meet one of his greatest rivals in “The King Of Memphis”, Jerry Lawler. Despite widely being known that wrestling was “staged”, many weren’t sure about the feud that developed between the two. It really seemed as though they had a very real and deep hatred for each other. They were guests on Late Night where Lettermen bluntly asked if the feud was real or staged. Both Kaufman and Lawler denied it being staged and that’s when the mayhem started. Lawler slapped Kaufman so hard in the face that he fell out of his chair. Kaufman then went on an explicit laced rant about how he was going to sue Lawler, then immediately apologized for swearing, and then threw coffee in Lawler’s face. As Kaufman ran from Lawler, Lettermen quipped “I think you can use some of those words on TV, but what you can’t do is throw coffee. I’ve said it over and over again.” David Lettermen tried to keep it cool, chiming in with the perfect remarks. It would be revealed, years after Kaufman’s death, that the whole incident was staged. However, Lettermen and the producers were not in on it and did think it was real, therefore his reaction was genuine. The scene would be recreated in the biopic, Man On The Moon which is about Andy Kaufman starring Jim Carrey.
2) Ed Ames’ Tomahawk Throw – The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson April 29, 1965
Heeeeeeeeerrrreeeeeee’s Johnny!!! Also, Heeeeeeerrrrre’s a classic blooper from one of the greatest late night talk shows ever. The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson is credited by contemporary late night hosts such as, Conan O’Brien and David Lettermen as setting the standard for what a late night talk show should be. Opening monologues, followed by sketches, then guests and lastly, either a musical act or stand up comedian. Ed Ames was a popular musician and actor in the 50’s and 60’s. At the time of his appearance, he played Native American Mingo on NBC’s, Daniel Boone where he developed a skill at throwing tomahawks. He decided to demonstrate for Carson, and an outline drawing of a cowboy was brought out. After briefly explaining the technique, Ames threw the tomahawk that hit the drawing of the cowboy directly in the groin with the handle sticking up. The audience erupted into what is considered one the longest sustained laughs on television. Carson wisely prevented Ames from removing the tomahawk and allowed the blooper to play out.
1) Madonna VS David Lettermen – Late Show With David Lettermen – March 31, 1994
Madonna holds many records. One of those records occurred with her appearance on CBS’s Late Show with David Lettermen. It became one of the most censored episode in the history of late night talk shows. Things started to take an awkward turn during Lettermen’s introduction. He said, “She has sold over 80 million albums, starred in countless films and slept with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.” Madonna appeared moments later and didn’t seem impressed. She was also holding on to a pair of her underwear, which she gave to Lettermen who seemed a bit confused by it. They went back and forth with insults and jabs at each other. Madonna made several sexual innuendos, kept referencing her underwear, swearing uncontrollably and refusing to leave. Several times, the producers cut to a hilarious shot of an elderly couple that was clearly uncomfortable. Lettermen and Madonna eventually made up and Lettermen walked her on stage at the 1994 MTV Music Awards. This incident led to some of Lettermen highest ratings.