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Top 20 Awkward Moments In Live Television History

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
With so many awkward moments in live television history, we couldn’t limit this list to just 10. We’ll be looking at the most embarrassing, cringe-worthy, and downright shocking incidents captured on live TV. We still can’t believe these actually happened! WatchMojo ranks the most awkward moments in live television history. Which live TV moment made you super uncomfortable? Let us know in the comments!
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Um, did that seriously just happen?! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 20 awkward moments in live television history.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most embarrassing, cringe-worthy, and downright shocking incidents captured on live TV.

#20: News Puke Kid
“ABC 17 News” (1971-)


This interview with filmmaker Tyrone Davies first aired on KMIZ back in 2003, but has since done the rounds on the internet. “News Puke Kid”, as he became known, eventually featured in an episode of Tosh.0, and the self-made documentary “Meme Story” (2010). Davies has since said that the incident was preplanned, and was supposed to promote the Free Form Film Festival. He’d prepared by guzzling down a half gallon of Blues Clues vanilla ice cream. Hey, anything for art . . . we guess?

#19: Just Creepy
“Glenn Beck Program” (2006-)


When US Weekly’s Dina Sansing spoke to Glenn Beck on his talk show in 2007, this is obviously NOT what she was expecting. The two were discussing leaked naked photos of American Idol contestant Antonella Barba, when Beck inexplicably decided to make Dina the centre of a similar hypothetical example. As if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, he then quipped that he could take naked photos of her if she stopped by. Cue crickets, and a look of absolute disgust on Dina’s face.

#18: Stick to the News
“21 Alive” (1957-)


Predicting the weather is hard enough. And it isn’t made easier when you’re being heckled! Meteorologist Curtis Smith probably thought he was just reporting the weather forecast. But anchor Melissa Long seemed to take personal offence, since the Three Rivers Parade was set for that Saturday. The snark is palpable, as they both try to shut each other down. Call it banter, but there was enough awkwardness here to make for entertaining yet cringeworthy viewing. Curtis, can’t you see you’re literally raining on Long’s parade here?!

#17: Small But Impressive
“Ten Eyewitness News” (1965-)


This sexual putdown seemed to come out of nowhere. As Australia’s “Ten News” presenter Mark Aiston wrapped up coverage of the Ashes urn, a memento associated with the Ashes cricket series, he turned to co-presenter Belinda Heggen with a remark about the urn’s diminutive size. It set up her response pretty conveniently, but prepared or not, the moment was still . . . weird. Heggen delivered a brutal burn ... then carried on like nothing happened. After the clip went viral, Heggen explained that Aiston was a “prankster”, and she’d wanted to catch him out.

#16: Exposed
“KWGN-TV” (1952-)


Always do your research! When Chris Parente asked Kristen Wiig for advice on being naked in public . . . well, she didn’t know what to think. Turns out, Parente had mixed up Kristen’s movies: he was interviewing her and Bill Hader about “The Skeleton Twins”, but was thinking of “Welcome to Me”. Hader took great pleasure in reminding Parente that the interview was live. Fortunately, both actors took it in stride and laughed at the gaff . . . But geez, what a question, and what a screw up!

#15: Reporter Lessons
“Good Day New York” (1988-)


Have you ever been in the middle of two people arguing and decided to take a sudden interest in the upholstery? That's how everyone felt watching this segment of "Good Day New York" in 2001, when anchor Jim Ryan chastised reporter Dick Oliver over his interview skills. Ryan urged Oliver to get the other side of the story, but Oliver wanted very specific instructions. Viewers got far more than they bargained for here, including the personal tidbit that Oliver had been demoted.

#14: Freestyle Fail
“Talk of Alabama” (2008-)


Hey, we all get stage fright. But it’s not fun to watch! As rapper turned poet Marshall Pope prepared to spit an epic freestyle on “Talk of Alabama”, something clamped up . . . and he simply stared at the camera and smiled instead. Talk about being put on the spot. We have to give him props for making the attempt, but the false starts and long, awkward silence definitely have us cringing. It’s just a good thing that the interviewers saved the day. We wonder how long he would have kept on staring…

#13: Up the Creek Without . . . a Creek
“The Today Show” (1952-)


This hilarious clip proved that some news stations will do anything for ratings. When flooding hit Wayne, New Jersey, intrepid reporter Michelle Kosinski braved the elements to give her account from a canoe! The image was ruined however when two men absent-mindedly walked past the camera in ankle-high water . . . Kosinski later said that it had been a producer’s idea, and that the water was waist-high in other areas, but too difficult to shoot from. Either way, the illusion that she was battling conditions straight out of “The Day After Tomorrow” was broken!

#12: Newsroom Snark
“CBS 3 Eyewitness News” (1941-)


What is it with news presenters and meteorologists?! CBS anchor Nicole Brewer’s sarcastic responses to . . . pretty much everything meteorologist Carol Erickson has to say became legendary thanks to a supercut of the back-and-forth on YouTube. Mind you, Erickson also delivers a few good shots of her own. All with big smiles and in a joking tone, but still . . . In response to the supercut, which went viral, both women took to Twitter to insist that they’re besties. So maybe it was all a matter of questionable comedic timing . . .

#11: David Blaine Is a Showman
“GMTV” (1993-2010)


“For my next trick, watch me ruin this interview!” That’s our best guess at David Blaine’s thought process heading into this 2001 interview on GMTV. Eamonn Holmes does his best to engage the magician in conversation, while Blaine stares back as if he’s trying to peer into the journalist’s very soul. When Holmes asks him why he’s acting so oddly, Blaine responds by showing him an eye drawn onto his hand for “protection from death”. And there goes any chance of having a fruitful conversation.

#10: Martin Short’s Late Wife
“The Today Show” (1952-)


In 2012, Martin Short dropped by “The Today Show” to promote “Madagascar 3.” Things started cheerfully as funnyman Short discussed his family with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. The interview suffered turbulence, however, when Kathie Lee asked Short about his enduring marriage to Nancy Dolman. Apparently Kathie Lee didn’t get the memo that Nancy had passed away from ovarian cancer two years earlier. Short was courteous enough not to tell Kathie Lee about his wife’s departure on air, but behind his smile we can clearly see the poor guy’s grief.

#9: Tom Hanks Drops the F-Bomb
“Good Morning America” (1975-)


Tom Hanks is such a clean-cut everyman it’s actually hard to imagine him casually swearing, but the truth is every person occasionally lets an F-bomb slip. On this 2012 episode of “Good Morning America,” Hanks channeled one of his many characters from “Cloud Atlas.” He got a little too into character, though, and uttered one of the seven words you can’t say on TV. Hanks immediately apologized to the audience and made fun of himself. It’s awkward for sure, but few actors could play it off better than Hanks.

#8: Geraldo Finds Nothing in Al Capone’s Vault
“The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults” (1986)


Al Capone was one of the most notorious and iconic gangsters in American history. When Geraldo Rivera hosted a live special unveiling the contents of Capone’s secret vault in 1986, approximately 30 million people tuned in to see what treasures awaited – the spoils of a vast criminal empire, the bodies of his enemies, whatever. In the ultimate anticlimax, Rivera and his crew found nothing. Rivera apologized to the audience, half-heartedly sang a song, and slinked off in defeat. The blunder has been mocked in popular culture mercilessly.

#7: Balloon Boy Interview
“Larry King Live” (1985-2010)


The balloon boy hoax took America by storm for about five seconds in 2009 when Richard and Mayumi Heene allegedly released a gas balloon that unbeknownst to them had their son Falcon inside. Later that day, the six-year-old boy was found hiding in his house. When Wolf Blitzer interviewed the family, Falcon revealed that his parents had cooked up the entire ruse as a publicity stunt. In exchange for his fifteen minutes of fame, Papa Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail and paid tens of thousands in restitution.

#6: Samuel L. Jackson or Laurence Fishburne?
“KTLA Morning News” (1991-)


We all get certain celebrities mixed up. When you’re an entertainment journalist, though, you need to get the facts straight, especially when you’re doing live TV! In this excruciating 2014 “KTLA Morning News” interview, Sam Rubin accidentally confused Sam Jackson with fellow African-American actor Laurence Fishburne. Rubin tried to make peace and move on, but understandably, Jackson wasn’t willing to let it go. If these two had been in the same building, Jackson probably would’ve sat Rubin down and given him some choice words of great vengeance and furious anger!

#5: Kanye West Crashes Taylor Swift’s VMA Speech
“26th MTV Video Music Awards” (2009)


Kanye’s had his fair share of uncomfortable TV appearances. But the rapper broke new ground for jackassery at the 2009 VMAs when Taylor Swift won the award for Best Female Video. Unable to fathom the idea that Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” didn’t win, Kanye jumped onstage, stole Swift’s mic, and proclaimed that his beloved Beyoncé was the true victor. Kanye was subsequently booed offstage and removed from the ceremony. This move was so dumb, even President Obama couldn’t contain his opinion. Fortunately, Taylor got her happy ending later that night.

#4: Sinéad O’Connor Tears Up the Pope’s Photo
“Saturday Night Live” (1975-)


Seeing how “Saturday Night Live” is well, live, the late night variety show has inevitably produced a few controversial moments. The program hit a particularly rocky speed bump in 1992 when Sinéad O’Connor appeared as the musical guest. Protesting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, O’Connor sang Bob Marley’s “War” a cappella and held up a photo of Pope John Paul II. After ripping the photo into shreds, she implored audiences to “fight the real enemy.” At least “SNL” would never have a musical moment this awkward again…

#3: Ashlee Simpson Lip-Syncing Incident
“Saturday Night Live” (1975-)


In 2004, Ashlee Simpson was booked as “SNL”’s musical guest. Although Simpson’s “Pieces of Me” went off without a hitch, things got muddled with her second song. Instead of singing “Autobiography” as planned, the vocals for “Pieces of Me” started to play again before Simpson even opened her mouth. Caught lip-syncing, Simpson tried to salvage the performance with an awkward dance then shamefully walked off stage. As embarrassing as the ordeal was, it didn’t stop Simpson from returning to “Saturday Night Live” a year later with no complications.

#2: F**k It, I Quit
“Anchorage 11 KTVA News” (1980-)


Anybody who’s lost passion for their work has likely fantasized about quitting in a blaze of glory. Charlo Greene got to live the dream when she quit her job as a reporter for KTVA News. After reporting on medical marijuana organization the Alaska Cannabis Club, Greene revealed herself as its owner, and said she’d decided to put less time into journalism and more into legalizing marijuana. Rather than giving her bosses two weeks notice, she came out and said exactly what was on her mind. Greene’s now-former colleague was at a loss for words.

Before we drop our jaws at our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Interview with the Wrong Guy
“BBC News 24” (1997-)

“Breaking” News
“TechTV News” (1998-2004)

Jetpack Fail
“Fox 5 Morning News” (1985-)

Forecast: New Pants
“KMIR News” (1968-)

50 Cent's Kiss Fail
“Fox Sports” (1994-)

#1: Janet Jackson’s Wardrobe Malfunction
“Super Bowl XXXVIII” (2004)


The final score of Super Bowl XXXVIII was an afterthought! All anyone recalls is the event’s legendary halftime show. As Justin Timberlake joined Janet Jackson onstage, the two icons performed a duet of “Rock Your Body.” Towards the song’s conclusion, Timberlake reached out and tore off a piece of Jackson’s clothing, exposing her right breast. It was visible for less than a second, but the boob seen ‘round the world resulted in a public outcry. Almost ten years later, the incident now known as “Nipplegate” is still the defining wardrobe malfunction.
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