The Most Cringeworthy Live! Moments Ever

Live! — which began as a series of local talk shows in the '70s before being nationally broadcast in its current form since 1988 — is one of the longest-running talk shows on TV and a landmark of likable people talking on television. Sort of a bridge in content between the network morning shows and daytime talk shows — not to mention a time slot right in between those two programming staples — Live! offers a light-hearted combination of current events discussion, host banter, and celebrity interviews. For millions, it's as much a part of their routine as coffee and toast, and Live! has last for more than 30 years with its same format, improbably weathering quite a few host changes. Original co-host Kathie Lee Gifford is long-gone, replaced by soap star Kelly Ripa in 2001, who has helmed the show since Regis Philbin left in 2011. She's worked alone as well as with Michael Strahan and Ryan Seacrest. Live! is, by design, an hour of fluff, but sometimes the lightweight show gets really dark and messy. Here are some Live! moments that made views spit out their Sanka.

When Kelly bailed

In April 2016, ABC announced that then-Live! co-host Michael Strahan would be moving from Live! to an earlier, arguably more prominent spot in daytime TV: as a full-time personality on Good Morning America (via Variety). Corporate-wise, it was a lateral move, as Disney owns ABC as well as the syndicator that distributes Live! Executives from all those branches met in secret to figure out how and when to break the news to Kelly Ripa. But they didn't pick a good option — Strahan told her just after taping an episode, less than an hour before Disney/ABC made the news public.

Ripa was so upset that she skipped nearly a week of shows. That left Strahan to weather the controversy and the first of his lame-duck days without Ripa. With SNL star Ana Gasteyer sitting in for Ripa (along with the invisible elephant in the room), Strahan expressed uncomfortable but genuine gratitude. "I couldn't ask for better fans. On top of that, I've worked with incredible staff here," Strahan said. 

At the end of the show, he addressed his departure once more, finally thanking Ripa. "Kelly welcomed me here and I learned so much from her. She has been an amazing influence on me, and this has truly changed my life to be here with her," Strahan said.

When Kelly returned

Ripa returned to Live! the following week, after receiving a personal apology from the Disney and ABC executives for how Strahan's exit was handled. But when she lit up screens again, it wasn't quite business as usual. The show began not with Ripa and Strahan talking about their weekends or the craziness of the news, but rather a monologue from Ripa, who stood alone.

After joking that "our long national nightmare" of television being Ripa-less had ceased, Ripa delivered a long, serious, and vague speech about how her feelings were hurt over how she found out her co-host was switching television talk shows. She thanked viewers and crew for their love and support, and explained that she stepped away for a while because she "needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts. She "gained some perspective" and noted that things were rough because her workplace is "a second home" and her coworkers are her "family." Ripa added that "apologies have been made" and that, despite it all, she is "thrilled for Michael," meaning Strahan, who was there the whole time and had to listen to all that.

When a sweatshop scandal made Kathie Lee sweat (and cry)

Not even counting the endless stories about her adorable children at the top of every Live! episode and relentless praise of her husband, sportscaster Frank Gifford, Kathie Lee Gifford acted like America's prim and proper mom as well as a pristine paragon of morality and a defender of traditional values, a real-life Maude Flanders who loved children, wasn't afraid to discuss her religious faith, and even had a side career as a Christian soft rock singer.

She also had another side gig as the face and name behind a clothing line worth more than $300 million sold at America's many Walmart stores. But in 1996, Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee Education Fund in Support of Worker and Human Rights in Central America testified before Congress about the sweatshops in Honduras that made cheap American goods so cheap (via The New York Times). Among the revelations: 13-year-old and 14-year-old workers spent 20-hour workdays in factories making clothes for Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line. 

Apart from being just sad and terrible news in general, it was a devastating, image-tainting blow and public relations nightmare for Gifford, who really had no choice but to comment on the scandal on Live! While sobbing on air, Gifford, angry, heart-broken, and maybe a little passive-aggressive said, "You can say I'm ugly, you can say I'm not talented, but when you say that I don't care about children ... how dare you?"

Regis gets to know punk rockers

If you watch Live! past those first few minutes of host banter, Gelman-teasing, and newspaper perusing, and stay all the way to the end, you might just catch a musical performance. Usually the acts are crowd-tested: top 40 superstars, soft rock stalwarts, or bands that look like, sound like, or are Daughtry, for example. Probably the most unlikely band to ever take to the airwaves on Live! is the Ramones, the New York punk icons best known for hard-charging, noisy classics like "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Sheena is a Punk Rocker," and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue." And yet in 1988, Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, and the rest (they used stage names; they weren't brothers) sat in uncomfortable directors chairs alongside Regis and Kathie Lee for an interview to promote their "Best of" collection, Ramones Mania. Regis and Kathie Lee were game, and the Ramones were polite, but it was still a trip to see these two opposite contingents try to make conversation.

When America found out Kelly Ripa was pregnant

After Kathie Lee Gifford left Live! in 2000, a number of guest hosts sat in for what were essentially on-air auditions, including experienced talk show hosts like Rosie O'Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg. In his autobiography How I Got This Way (via The Washington Post), Philbin says he and producer Michael Gelman also invited an unlikely candidate, All My Children star Kelly Ripa, who had been a memorable guest on Live! due to what Philbin called "a natural, quick-witted, unaffected, confident, fun-loving kind of sparkle."

Ripa's live Live! tryout began on November 1, 2000. One of the guests that day was a psychic named Char Margolis, who got a very good read on Ripa. First, she talked about the guest host's deceased grandmother, ensuring Ripa that her nana watched over her family. Then Margolis dropped a bombshell: "She's going to watch over you when this new baby comes." Ripa grew rigid, and Margolis used either her psychic abilities or understanding of body language to realize she put her foot in her mouth, saying, "You're not pregnant yet, are you?" 

Philbin, interjected, "Excuse me, are you expecting?" After gathering herself, Ripa blurted out, "I haven't told my boss yet!"

According to Philbin's book, Ripa had only told a couple of friends and family members at that point, and yet Margolis correctly revealed the host's pregnancy on live television ... and on Ripa's first episode of Live! no less.

Somebody send Regis some forget-me-nots

You might remember Dev Patel from such popular and award-winning films like Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Lion, but Regis Philbin might not. In 2010, Patel appeared on Live! to promote the mind-bending epic The Last. While Philbin interviewed Patel in his usual style — bluntly-delivered, rapid-fire questioning, like Larry King but more avuncular — the host also seemed to have no idea what he was talking about.

Either he didn't read the guest briefing on Patel beforehand, or he had a major brain-fart. For example, Philbin asked Patel if he was "still dating ... that gal." Patel, flummoxed, asked, "That girl?" Philbin replies with little extra information: "Didn't you date somebody? From the, from the, from the, uh..." Patel graciously responds, "Last time I checked I did," at which point co-host Kelly Ripa jumped in to suggest that Philbin must have been referring to Patel's Slumdog Millionaire co-star and off-screen love interest Freida Pinto. "Still?" Philbin asked, incredulously, and a little rudely.

A few moments later, Philbin attempted to throw to a clip of The Last Airbender, in which he believed Patel to play a character named "Prince Zorro." Actually, it's "Prince Zuko," Patel carefully corrected through nervous laughter.

When Regis Philbin informed Meryl Streep of a family emergency that didn't actually happen

Meryl Streep is basically the Beyoncé of acting, snagging Oscars instead of platinum album plaques. She's beloved, she's probably our greatest living actress, and you don't dare cross her. Regis Philbin kind of did in 2009 when Streep was a guest on Live! With Regis and Kelly to promote her role in the delightful Julia Child biopic Julie and Julia. After Philbin incorrectly asked Streep about her four daughters (she has three daughters and a son, Streep gently corrected), Philbin suddenly yelled out, "The third daughter broke her leg! I mean it never ends in your place!"

Reacting with a mix of concern and surprise, Streep uttered a simple, "What?!" The confusion spread until Kelly Ripa figured out what had happened — Philbin had read the cue card wrong. A stagehand gave it to Philbin, who held it up to the cameras, showing that it read, "Daughter Grace just got her big break." Philbin had somehow interpreted "big break" to mean "broke her leg." 

"Well, I was close!" Philbin quipped. "I didn't mean to scare the heck out of Meryl!"

If by 'cringeworthy' you mean 'acts of unwelcome sexual aggression'

Nicki Minaj has one of the most celebrated rear ends in show business, but that doesn't mean you can touch her buns, hon. In November 2010, Minaj performed her hit "Right Thru Me" on Live! Minaj, who more often than not performed in and made public appearances in the color pink (as in the name of Pink Friday, her debut album), complimented Philbin on how he was wearing a pink shirt. Did Philbin say, "thank you," or, "I wore it to promote your album, Pink Friday?" No, he did not. Philbin instead slapped Minaj's butt ... and said he liked her clothes, too. (Tell, don't show, Reege.) Things somehow managed to get even more awkward when, after Minaj mentioned that Lil Wayne once gave her the advice to "go hard," Philbin, 79 at the time, grossly replied, "Wish I could!"

Televised moments of assault are nothing new for Philbin. When singer Alicia Keys guest hosted Live! in 2004, Philbin asked for a kiss on the cheek from Keys, like he would've done with the farmer's daughter back when he was goin' a courtin' when he was a young man in the 1890s or whatever. Keys obliged, only for Philbin to jerk his head around to trick her into kissing him on the lips. "Now I have to go to the hospital, get everything checked out," Keys said amid nervous laughter.

At least Regis asked Tom Selleck

Tom Selleck dropped by Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee in 1997 to promote the coming-out comedy In and Out. Selleck played a reporter relentlessly pursuing Kevin Kline's character, a drama teacher who doesn't know he's gay until after a former student outs him on TV in his Oscar speech. In a climactic moment, Selleck and Kline's characters share a kiss, and it's that moment with which Regis Philbin was seemingly obsessed. Apparently fascinated by the idea of two men kissing, or at least what it might feel like to kiss TV's Magnum, P.I., Philbin repeatedly asked for a similar smooch from Selleck. Finally, Kathie Lee Gifford stepped in and did what millions of people always wanted to do: give Selleck a huge kiss ... just to move things along.

Twenty years later, it was still fresh and weird for Selleck and Gifford. When he appeared on the portion of Today hosted by Gifford, they discussed the awkward TV moment of yore. Selleck commented, "Regis wouldn't quit, and you kind of saved me and said, 'What the hell,' and planted one on me."

Kelly Ripa steadfastly supported Ryan Seacrest... and made fun of him, too

Ryan Seacrest co-hosts Live! and remains a fixture on E! In November 2017, a lawyer representing stylist Suzie Hardy sent a letter to E!'s parent company accusing Seacrest of sexual abuse and harassment during the six years she worked with the host. Among the incidents cited were alleged grinding, groping, slapping, and unwanted hugging. An anonymous insider corroborated Hardy's claims. "She would go to tie his shoe and Ryan would shove her head toward his crotch," the witness told Today. "I saw that more than once." 

E!, however, ultimately cleared Seacrest of any wrongdoing due to a lack of sufficient evidence in an internal investigation.

On a 2018 episode of Live!, Kelly Ripa vigorously defended her co-host. "I just want you to know, you are a privilege to work with and I adore you," Ripa said. "I know what an easy, professional, great person you are and I feel very, very lucky to work with you each and every day."

Awkward but not as awkward as what Ripa said to Seacrest a day earlier. During a demonstration of standing desks, Ripa took off her heels for better leverage. Seacrest followed suit, removing his loafers, but he had a hard time getting them back on when the time came. That's when Ripa not-too-subtly teased Seacrest by bringing up the terrible crimes of which he'd been accused: "Sweetie, do you want me to put your shoes back on for you?"