Talk Show Hosts Who Completely Lost It On Camera

Most talk shows trade in controversy at their core. After all, the usual gist of any of these gabfests is for the host to basically remain calm while stirring up as much drama as possible from the guests, but  sometimes emotions get the best of hosts, too.

And there's no limit to the genres in which these manic meltdowns can occur. For example, of course we found a clip of Bill O'Reilly going even crazier than his usual frothing fervor, but Anderson Cooper losing his composure? That one was unexpected. How about a holy man busting a gut over a caller's dreadful singing, or a radio host actually elbowing a comedian in the face for his off-color jokes? We leave no stone unturned.  

Whether it's a giggle fit or an angry outburst, these chat show pros crossed the line from moderating the entertainment to becoming the center of it. These are the talk show hosts who completely lost it on camera.

Do as Armstrong Williams says, not as he does

Armstrong Williams may not have the mainstream name recognition of Jerry Springer or Dr. Phil McGraw, but in conservative and religious circles, he's basically a rockstar. According to his bio for the Premiere Speakers Bureau, William's lifelong mission on radio, TV, and the internet has been "the restoration of morality in today's society," particularly regarding topics such as "work ethic, personal responsibility, welfare reform," and "affirmative action."

Given his posturing as a moral guidepost of sorts, it was all the more jarring when Williams laughed himself to tears at the singing performance of a caller, "Danny," on his show, America's Voice. It's unclear exactly when this segment originally aired, but it was eventually featured on Dick Clark's 1980s series TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes, which was basically the original Tosh.0. 

Moved to hysteria after Danny's woeful warbling, Williams left his co-host on damage control. "Armstrong's caught up in the spirit," the co-host gamely offered through his own suppressed chuckles. He then promised to send Danny a t-shirt.

"Oh, I loved his singing," a wet-eyed Williams claimed after finally regaining his composure. Hmm, who knew lying was also a key component to restoring societal morality? 

Before there was Jerry, there was Morton Downey Jr.

As the man referred to by The New Haven Register as a "trash TV pioneer," it should come as no surprise that Morton Downey Jr. was a skilled provocateur. And while there are many, many examples of him getting loud on his eponymous talk show, one particular instance stood out to us for its sheer vulgarity.

On a November 1988 episode of his eponymous show, Downey Jr. hosted strippers Kellie Evans and Yvette Paris. Throughout the program, Downey Jr. mocked and berated the women, completely losing it at one point by interrupting Evans and shouting, "You're a man-hating b***h!" He then gestured like he was going to backhand Evans, and angrily ripped off her microphone.

According to an interview with the Weekly World News, Evans and Paris said they were "shamed and humiliated" by the appearance, which they described as a con job by Downey Jr. and his producers, who had allegedly promised them that they "would not be defamed or ridiculed."

Evans later told UPI she planned to sue Downey Jr. for $40 million over both the humiliation she suffered as well as several alleged physical assaults she claimed Downey Jr. committed against her during the taping. It's unclear what happened with that lawsuit, but Downey Jr.'s show was cancelled less than a year later.

Bill Maher: comedian, host, bouncer

Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher is known for going in hard, especially when it comes to pointing out the hypocrisies of politicians, but there was one moment on his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, in which it was an audience member who triggered him to completely lose it on camera.

During a totally unrelated discussion, an apparent "9/11 truther" — a person who believes the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center was an inside job —  began shouting conspiracy theories so loud that it interrupted the show multiple times. At first, Maher joked about it, but then he quickly lost his cool, yelling, "Do we have some f***ing security in this building, or do I have to come over and kick this guy's a** outta here?"  

And that's exactly what he did. Maher ran into the audience and helped shove the truther out of the studio. Maher then returned to the set and further admonished his own crowd, yelling, "You're in the audience — audience comes from the latin 'to listen.'" That history lesson didn't work, either. Even more protesters chimed in.

"This is the problem with live television," Maher lamented. 

Throwin' bows with Zo Williams

Online radio host Alonzo "Zo" Williams apparently wasn't feeling comedian Aries Spears' humor during his April 2017 appearance on The Corey Holcomb 5150 Show. As you can clearly see from the video above, Williams (seated on the left) went berserk all over an allegedly drunk Spears' face with a series of blows after a particularly ugly round of trash talk by the former Mad TV star.

Spears subsequently sued both Williams and the show, claiming "assault, battery, infliction of emotional distress, negligence and negligent hiring and supervision," according to court documents obtained by Courthouse News Service. Williams apologized on his website "to those who were present, and to those that respect me as a man and a mentor." But later, he laughed along with co-host Corey Holcomb in an interview with TMZ during which Holcomb described Spears during the fight as doing "an impersonation of a woman in distress." That might not play well in court, huh?

What was probably the most interesting thing about this whole altercation was Williams' claim: "I don't drink, n***a, I'm very clear-minded," just seconds before launching his elbow into a famous guy's face right in front of a camera. If that's this guy thinking clearly, we'd hate to be around him in a state of confusion.

We were all winners in the battle of Bill v. Phil

This one is a bit of an inversion on our topic, since the traditional talk show host in this scenario is actually the one being flipped out upon, but in this exchange between Bill O'Reilly and Phil Donahue, the former Fox News host so completely loses it, we had to include it. As a guest on The O'Reilly Factor, the former daytime chat king rankled the conservative pundit during a debate about the Iraq War.

In short, Donahue wanted the United States to pull its troops out immediately, while O'Reilly preferred a prolonged drawdown. Things were already heated when Donahue accused O'Reilly of being "part of a loud group of people who want to prove their tough, and want to send other people's kids to war to make their case." O'Reilly then exploded in a way that hadn't been seen since his infamous "We'll do it live!" clip.

"You have no clue about how to fight a war on terror, or how to defend your country," O'Reilly blasted Donahue. "You are clueless!"

The conversation then lowered to a simmer, but for a moment, O'Reilly was operating at peak O'Reilly. While Donahue mostly maintained his composure, even he raised his voice a few times, which makes us wonder: Wasn't Sally Jessy Raphael available to moderate?

Steve Wilkos is probably not welcome at IKEA

If Jerry Springer's show devolved over time into just a countdown clock to redneck slap fests, then we don't even know how to categorize the spin-off show hosted by his former director of security, Steve Wilkos. Perhaps the best possible way would be to just briefly describe the guests on the episode in the above clip. Engaged couple Undrea and A.J. feud over Undrea's claim that A.J. stole the ashes of her deceased 10-month-old son in retaliation for a fight they'd had. Yep, so that's our starting point on this one.

Of course, A.J. then fails a lie detector test, revealing that although he didn't steal the ashes, he knows who did and helped "dispose of them." At this point, Wilkos becomes enraged, chasing A.J. off the stage and calling him "a piece of s***." Wilkos even picks up a chair and slams it onto the stage out of frustration. Pretty crazy, right? 

We also found a clip from another episode where an infuriated Wilkos kicks a guest off the stage, tells her he hopes she rots in hell and throws a chair again. So, is the chair-tossing a schtick, or does Wilkos always take out his frustration on innocent furniture? Something tells us we're better off not even knowing the answer to that question. 

Howard goes harder than usual

Avid Howard Stern listeners know that it's not really uncommon for the shock jock to flip out on the air. There have even been times that he's used significant portions of the show to take his employees to task, especially long-time producer Gary Dell'Abate. But during one show, it was a caller who drew Stern's ire in a way that stood out to us as particularly over-the-top.

While begging the self-proclaimed King of all Media for an update on former show personality Artie Lange, caller "Dina" said she felt "bamboozled" into paying for a $500 Sirius Radio lifetime membership just before Lange exited the show. Stern's response? "First of all, the nerve of your f***ing a** to call me and tell me your f***ing problem." And it actually gets worse from there.   

In the next 45 seconds, Stern repeatedly tells Dina to "f*** off," encourages her to cancel her subscription, and calls her a "witch," a "filthy animal," and a "c***." It was rough, to say the least, and didn't seem like the fun way in which Stern sometimes roasts callers whose questions he doesn't like.

There was a small silver lining, however, when Stern offered to personally send Dina a $500 refund check "to get you off my f***ing line, you pig." Okay, maybe there's actually no silver lining for this one.

Anderson Cooper will probably laugh at your poop joke

Though Anderson Cooper is a respected, award-winning journalist, he allows for a moment of levity on each episode of his CNN show Anderson 360 with a segment called "The RidicuList." Generally focusing on a single subject, "The RidicuList" is Cooper's way of humorously editorializing a trending topic of the day.  

In one particularly notable segment, Cooper addressed the time French actor Gerard Depardieu took a tinkle right on the floor of a plane flying from Paris to Dublin. Yes, that's right, the star of My Father the Hero, Green Card, and a zillion French films we couldn't name if our lives depended on it, either didn't care to or couldn't make it to the plane's restroom.

For Cooper, this was the waste elimination pun opportunity of a lifetime, of which he took full advantage right up until he said, "They should thank their lucky stars it wasn't Depar-two." What followed was almost a full minute of uncontrollable, self-satisfied giggling, as Cooper even lamented, "I'm sorry, this has never happened to me."

Well, we're certainly glad it did, because before we saw this clip, we never even realized how large the hole was in our hearts that could only be filled with Anderson Cooper's adorably contagious chortle.

You lie to Oprah, you get the horns

In the heyday of Oprah Winfrey's daytime talk show, her book club segments had the power to single-handedly rocket an author to overnight success. That's what happened to James Frey with his memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which according to The New York Times, sold "more than two million copies" after the Oprah bump,"making it the fastest-selling book in the club's 10-year history."

But then The Smoking Gun issued a scathing rebuke of the memoir, claiming Frey "wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw 'wanted in three states.'" Oprah wasn't pleased, to say the least, and she invited Frey back to her show to explain himself.

That episode no longer exists online, although the Times described Oprah during it as "alternately appearing to fight back tears and displaying vivid anger at the author and his publisher." The full transcript is still available on Oprah's website, and it includes her flat-out accusing Frey of lying and grilling him on the many alleged fabrications in the book.

In a later segment for TV Guide's Top 25 Best Oprah Show Moments, Oprah said that she regretted how she handled the confrontation with Frey. "Over the years, I've always tried to maintain a position of non-judgement ... and look at [the guests] with some sense of compassion," she said. "And I did not do that with James Frey."