CAN I SEE SOME GOOD TALK SHOW VIDEOS?
Nowadays, television talk shows seem reverse-engineered for maximum number of share-worthy clips – kids who would never watch The Tonight Show absolutely will watch a YouTube video with Jimmy Fallon and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fake kitchen infomercial, or Conan O’Brien doing a goofy dance with Beyonce. But while that’s true enough, talk shows have always been great sources of video clips, for as long as talk shows have existed – which happens to be as long as the medium of TV itself has existed (there were probably talk shows in the days of radio, too, but we’ll just skip over that for now). So, to answer your question, yes, you can. And they’re not all from the last two years, either!
With a topic as broad as “talk show videos,” it can be tough to know where to start. So let’s begin at the only objectively reasonable place – the beginning, or at least as close as I can come to it. One of the earliest TV talk shows – and probably the earliest talk show to create the format that is still in heavy use today – is The Tonight Show, which has been running in some form or another since way back in 1954. Its first host was Steve Allen, who is credited by many as having come up with the opening-monologue-first-guest-comedy-bit-second-guest-etc format that is still followed by not just The Tonight Show but a million rip-offs thereof. Clips of these early days aren’t exactly easy to come by, since it never occurred to anyone working in television that someone would want to watch these shows a week later, let alone 50 years. And so, we have clips:
As you probably gathered, that clip is from the very first episode of The Tonight Show in 1954. Steve Allen isn’t that well-known today, partially because old talk shows don’t exactly age as well as old movies or old music, but as you can see even in that short clip he was a very funny guy.
But, I don’t imagine you’re all that interested in the history of talk shows as much as you are the most entertaining and/or unusual clips from same. And for that, we have to go a little later, to the still-famous Johnny Carson years and beyond. Here’s one particularly (in)famous example of something that wasn’t in the script being unbelievably broadcast into millions of American homes:
That’s correct folks, a circumcision joke. On TV. In 1965. Incredible, right?
DO YOU HAVE ANY TALK SHOW VIDEOS THAT ARE A LITTLE MORE RECENT?
Of course. Let’s start with what might be the greatest moment in the history of the TV talk show. It features two titans of television: Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and comedian Richard Belzer, with a special appearance by the voice of Mr. T, coming from off-camera. Before you watch how these three ingredients combine and ultimately explode, you should know that around this time Richard Belzer was launching a one-man campaign to let everyone know that professional wrestling is fake (as if anyone was not aware of that fact). Hulk Hogan and Mr. T took offense, and decided to demonstrate to Belzer just how “fake” a sleeper hold can be. Things go downhill from there:
I know it will be hard to match the pure, violent power of that clip, but I’m going to try anyway. We’ll continue with the wrestling theme (after this, no more wrestling stuff, I promise) and take a look at arguably the most infamous of all of comedian Andy Kauffman’s performances on Late Night with David Letterman. This one also features Jerry “The King” Lawler, and is a typically Kauffmanian blurring of the line between what’s scripted and what’s “real.” This is a bit long by talk show video standards, but every minute is worth it:
DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE LETTERMAN CLIPS?
So you liked that last one and you want some more, eh? That’s not a bad move, given David Letterman’s penchant for orchestrating (or at least encouraging) truly unforgettable moments within the late night talk show context. Sometimes, though, the free-wheeling atmosphere that is conducive to those kinds of blockbuster moments can get out of even his control, like the time this happened:
It’s possible that that on the night David Letterman almost got kicked in the head by a deranged Crispin Glover, he thought that was as bad as his job was going to get. And he was probably right, but Drew Barrymore managed to dredge up her own high-value controversy a few years later. No physical jeopardy here, but the tension is still palpable:
CAN YOU HELP ME FIND SOME VIDEOS FROM SOME LESSER KNOWN OR LESS SUCCESFUL TALK SHOWS?
The David Lettermans or Johnny Carsons of the world have given us so many videos worth of material that it’s literally impossible to watch it all. Since Joan Rivers recently died, let’s take a look at a video from her infamously unsuccessful late night talk show, The Joan Rivers Show:
A precursor to The Osbournes? America just wasn’t ready for what Joan was selling in those days. And naturally, no discussion of infamously unsuccessful late night talk shows would be complete without a clip from The Chevy Chase Show or two. Just give me a second to crack my knuckles, and we’ll dig in:
You know, I think that opening bit with Chevy trying unsuccessfully to smash Dennis Hopper’s car for stealing his parking space is pretty good, could have been in a Vacation sequel or something. And I could probably find a more awkward or infamous clip from the show if I wanted, but I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, so instead I will include another kind of OK clip from The Chevy Chase Show:
OK, now we can talk about something else.
HOW ABOUT SOME TALK SHOW VIDEOS FROM TALK SHOWS THAT AIRED DURING THE DAY?
It’s easy to forget, unless you’re lucky enough to be a regular daytime TV viewer, that there’s a whole world of talk shows that come on not late at night but in the middle of the day. These programs are in general less entertaining and interesting than their late night counterparts, but every rule has an exception. Here’s one:
I’ll be honest – I didn’t watch the whole thing, even though it’s less than three minutes long. But if you have a strong thirst for Jerry Springer clips, trust me – there are plenty of them out there, just waiting for you to guiltily watch while no one else is home. Here’s something else from the world of daytime talk, and that’s (slightly) less embarrassing:
You’ve probably seen that one already, but just in case; remember that those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TALK SHOW VIDEOS THAT ARE A LITTLE MORE UNUSUAL?
What, these clips weren’t weird enough for you? Well, OK, I guess most of them are pretty close to the “acceptable” end of the social infamy spectrum. But since the TV talk show has been around in some form or another for more than 60 years, there have been plenty of bizarre antidotes to the classic talk show. All of this is just my way of including a few videos from the greatest talk show of all time – Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
If you’re a fan of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, you already know that there’s a nearly limitless amount of clips from the show’s history, many of which are A+ solid gold. But whether you’re a hardcore fan or not, you can probably appreciate this compendium of clips from a 2009 Adult Swim screening of The Room:
The great thing about Space Ghost’s talk show is that it cut down on the filler you get with a lot of the more famous live-action gabfests, and each episode is only between 12 and 15 minutes long. I’ll leave you with another taste, though – an excellent interview with David Byrne of the Talking Heads:
And I guess since we’re on the subject of unusual talk shows and David Byrne, I’ll throw in a clip that I guess counts as a talk show video – it’s David Byrne interviewing himself as promotion for the Talking Heads concert movie masterpiece Stop Making Sense:
ARE THERE ANY MORE TALK SHOW VIDEOS I CAN WATCH?
As I mentioned before, talk shows have been around a long time, and so videos taken from them and put up on the internet aren’t exactly a highly limited resource. So fly away, young talk show video lover, it’s time for you to hunt all on your own. Come back whenever you want, though.