They yap, they yammer, they sometimes even yell, but where would we be without our trusty talk-show hosts? Their programs pep us up for the day ahead and soothe us into slumber at night — that is, when they're not shocking the heck out of us! Here are the biggest, wildest, funniest and, yes, even the most tragic moments from the great wide world of chat.
1. Bette Midler bids farewell to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show (1992) A day away from retirement, the King of Late Night was serenaded by the Divine Miss M, who chose the great boozy classic "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)." The host was near tears. So was Midler, who fled the set immediately after her song. You try watching it without bawling like a baby.
2. Oprah rolls out her fat wagon on The Oprah Winfrey Show (1988) In a stunt she says she regrets to this day, a size 10 Lady O kicked off her "Diet Dreams" episode by dragging out a Radio Flyer containing 67 pounds of fat — equivalent to the amount of weight she'd lost. Of course, she gained it all back, but that's part of her appeal. Oprah may be the Queen of All Things, but she's also one of us.
3. Bill Maher goes too far on Politically Incorrect (2001) On his first show after the 9/11 attacks, Maher slammed U.S. military policies, claiming we are cowardly for firing missiles at our enemies from 2,000 miles away. Outraged advertisers boycotted the show and 17 ABC affiliate stations stopped airing it. By May, it was canceled. No wonder he moved to cable.
4. Jack Paar takes a hike on The Tonight Show (1960) This kind of thing just didn't happen on live TV. The brilliant but testy Paar stunned the nation by going on air and quitting his show because censors wouldn't let him tell a joke about a "water closet." He strolled back on stage three weeks later with the priceless opener "As I was saying before I was interrupted..."
5. Katharine Hepburn redecorates The Dick Cavett Show (1973) The notoriously bossy movie legend showed up at Cavett's studio still not sure she wanted to be interviewed. She rearranged furniture, griped about the carpet and wanted the set painted a different color, not knowing Cavett — ever the imp — had a camera rolling the whole time. Utterly fantastic.
6. Drew Barrymore flashes David Letterman on Late Show (1995) To celebrate Dave's birthday, the saucy actress hopped atop his desk, pulled up her sweater and bared her breasts. Said the startled host: "I can't thank you enough for that." If anyone else pulled that stunt, we might be yelling, "Tramp!" With Barrymore, it was perfectly adorable.
7. Rosie O'Donnell vs. Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View (2007) They'd long been combative, but when archliberal O'Donnell accused conservative Hasselbeck of not defending her against Republican critics, all hell officially broke loose. The next day, O'Donnell was history. The fight was terribly uncomfortable, but, as with all train wrecks, we just couldn't turn away.
8. John and Yoko give peace a chance on The Mike Douglas Show (1972) The world-renowned anarchists cohosted with the famously unhip Douglas for an entire week and taught America all about social unrest, free love and macrobiotics. Douglas called this transcendental hoot "probably the most memorable week in all my years on the air."
9. Kelly Ripa auditions to be Regis Philbin's cohost on Live! With Regis (2000) The Ripster was frisky and funny in her many test shows, but when psychic Char Margolis "channeled the dead" and revealed that the soap queen was pregnant (something she hadn't even told her bosses at All My Children!) things got sweetly emotional. Ripa won our hearts — and the job.
10. "I'm F---ing Ben Affleck" on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2008) We can't remember who won the Academy Awards that night, but we'll never forget Jimmy's hilarious post-Oscar rebuttal to then-girlfriend Sarah Silverman's video "I'm F---ing Matt Damon." Harrison Ford! Cameron Diaz! Affleck, too! Tastelessness was never so all-star awesome.
The Other 50:
11. Tonight's Jay Leno asks Hugh Grant after his lewd-conduct arrest, "What the hell were you thinking?" (1995)
12. The O.J. Simpson Bronco chase begins during Larry King Live (1994)
13. "You get a car! You get a car!" Oprah (2004)
14. Tiny Tim weds Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show (1969)
15. Despite threats from an angry public, David Susskind interviews Nikita Kruschev on Open End (1960)
16. Phil dons a skirt for a Donahue segment on drag queens (1988)
17. Frontier rabbi! Daniel Boone star Ed Ames shows Carson how to throw a tomahawk on The Tonight Show (1965)
18. On Late Show, Dave admits to affairs with coworkers; says he's been targeted by an extortionist (2009)
19. Oprah rants against the beef industry and ends up in court (but meets Dr. Phil!) on Oprah (1996)
20. Bill O'Reilly blames all Muslims for 9/11; Joy and Whoopi walk off The View (2010)
21. A same-sex secret-admirer stunt on The Jenny Jones Show backfires and ends in murder (1995)
22. Steve Allen launches his hugely popular "Man on the Street" bit on The Tonight Show (1954)
23. Rosie battles Tom Selleck over gun control on The Rosie O'Donnell Show (1999)
24. Crazy (in love) Tom Cruise uses the Oprah couch as a trampoline (2005)
25. Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, gets grilled on The Merv Griffin Show (1965)
26. An emotional Dave returns to Late Night after 9/11 (2011)
27. Marlon Brando kisses Larry on the lips on Larry King Live (1994)
28. Oprah rips lying memoirist James Frey into a million little pieces on Oprah (2005)
29. Presidential candidate Bill Clinton plays the sax on The Arsenio Hall Show (1992)
30. Tammy Faye Messner reveals she has lung cancer on Larry King Live (2007)
31. On The Tonight Show, the Cheers cast gets tipsy in Boston after the show's finale (1993)
32. Another round: Danny DeVito shows up on The View sloshed on limoncello (2006)
33. Tomorrow's Tom Snyder has a contentious chat with Johnny Rotten (1980)
34. On The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ellen addresses the rash of teen suicides (2010)
35. In his TV debut on Open End, Truman Capote slams Jack Kerouac: "That's not writing, it's typing" (1959)
36. Madonna drops the F-bomb 13 times and refuses to leave Dave's couch on Late Show (1994)
37. Salvador Dalí, Satchel Paige and Lillian Gish — together! — on The Dick Cavett Show (1970)
38. Ousted Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien tells his fans, "Please don't be cynical" (2010)
39. Julie Chen admits on The Talk that she had her eyes done to look less Asian (2013)
40. Civil-rights activist Roy Innis shoves Rev. Al Sharpton to the ground on The Morton Downey Jr. Show (1988)
41. The Merv Griffin Show introduces Whitney Houston to the nation (1983)
42. Star Jones announces plans to leave The View; blindsided boss Barbara Walters axes her immediately (2006)
43. "God bless you!" says Phil to his very first Donahue guest, atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hair (1967)
44. Rosie interviews her idol Barbra Streisand on The Rosie O'Donnell Show (1997)
45. A bizarre, bearded Joaquin Phoenix has an apparent meltdown on Late Show (2009)
46. Orson Welles opens up in a no-holds-barred Q&A on The Merv Griffin Show and dies two hours later (1985)
47. Phil interviews Marlo Thomas on Donahue and love blooms (1977)
48. The five female hosts daringly hit the air sans makeup on The Talk (2012)
49. Arnold Schwarzenegger announces his run for governor on The Tonight Show (2003)
50. Dinah Shore meets David Bowie and Iggy Pop on Dinah! (1977)
51. Reege announces his retirement on Live! (2011)
52. Wrestler Jerry Lawler slaps Andy Kaufman out of his chair on Late Show (1982)
53. Author J.I. Rodale succumbs to a heart attack on stage on a never-aired Dick Cavett (1971)
54. Recluse Johnny Carson surprises Dave — and it turns out he wrote the monologue! — on Late Show (1994)
55. Scotsman Craig Ferguson becomes a U.S. citizen on The Late Late Show (2008)
56. Zach Galifianakis lights up a joint during a discussion of Prop 19 on Real Time With Bill Maher (2010)
57. A kooky Crispin Glover gets thisclose to kicking Dave in the face on Late Night (1987)
58. Jimmy Fallon debuts his "History of Rap" on Late Night (2010)
59. The Tonight Show's Leno lands Barack Obama, the first sitting president to do late-night TV (2009)
60. "You can kiss my fat ass!" The Tyra Show (2007)
- Arts & Entertainment
- Tonight Show