March 14, 2021 8:30:59 am
Talk shows, where celebrities get up close and personal with a host, have quite a fan following among those who wish to keep up with the lives of their favourite celebrities. The recent interview of the Windsors — Meghan Markle and Prince Harry — with Oprah Winfrey, drew 17.1 million viewers as the interview was telecast on CBS. Over two hours the Duke and Duchess of Sussex talked about their struggle with racism within the royal household and defended their decision to move to Canada. This has been called one of the most explosive interviews in the history of the monarchy. But talk shows have a certain intimacy to them, where the guest and host share vivid chemistry, which at times can lead to certain big reveals. At times the guest, so enchanted by the paraphernalia of the host, stage and lights even forgets that there is often a live audience watching the exchange. Late-night television and its numerous talk shows have had their share of truth bombs drop on talk shows. Besides the Royals’ interview that grabbed global attention, here are six other times talk shows got the world talking.
When Ellen met Oprah
“I mean, I knew that it would be big, but I had no idea that it would be this big,” famous talk show host Ellen DeGeneres had confided in Oprah Winfrey in 1997. DeGeneres had just come out as gay in a famous Time Magazine interview and had followed it up with an appearance on Winfrey’s show with her then-girlfriend — actor Anne Heche. Winfrey had been the same warm, empathetic host, and played the confidante to the T, as she had done with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. DeGeneres had talked about her coming out, meeting her Heche at a party and how she had expected to be attacked for her sexuality.
South Asian Soiree
Actor and stand-up comic Aziz Ansari, who has appeared in shows like Master of None and Parks and Recreation, had appeared on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and called out the lack of diversity on the broadcast network of CBS — the very network on which Colbert’s show is broadcast. He called Colbert a fellow ‘South Carolinian’ and the ‘first late-night host from South Carolina and the bazilionenth white guy”. The conversation had further veered to Ansari’s attempts to talk about the lack of representation of minorities on television.
This was when Cher still sported shoulder-length hair and minimalist eye makeup. She had appeared on David Letterman’s show in 1986, after having turned down repeated requests over a period of four years. When finally the goddess of pop did appear on the show, it was because the show paid the outrageous hotel bill of USD 28,000 incurred by her. On the show, Letterman had asked her about her continued absence from his show. Cher had pat replied ‘That’s because you are an a*****e.” There was awkward laughter after that, and Cher waited for a pause longer to join in. If Twitter had existed in 1986, this would have trended within seconds. Cher had appeared again on Letterman’s show during his final stint, and they had recreated the famous incident.
Madonna and David
Seems like David Letterman has a knack for drawing controversy as he does for getting A-listers in the guest chair. Letterman had introduced her with a rather colourful and problematic language: “One of the biggest stars in the world, in the past 10 years she has sold 80 million albums, starred in countless films and she has slept with the biggest names in the entertainment industry”. There was a hostile, derogatory tone to the entire exchange, and it just went downhill after Letterman asked Madonna to kiss a random guy in the audience. There was banter, but Madonna kept taking potshots at Letterman, even calling a ‘Funny David Letterman’ an oxymoron, and how ‘money had made him soft’ and how he ‘kisses up to all the big names’ that appear on the show. Madonna called Letterman’s hair a ‘rug’, while Letterman responded by calling her style a ‘swim cap’. After that, she kept using profanity. It was 1994, where broadcast TV was all the entertainment that the world could handle.
Talk with Tom
Tom Cruise had an eventful 2005. He had just gone public with a contentious relationship with actress Katie Holmes, who was 16 years younger to him, was on a promotional tour for his latest venture, War Of the Worlds. Cruise had also been vocal about his involvement with Scientology and had defended the anti-psychiatry stance of the religion. Cruise had gone on Today, the morning show hosted by Matt Lauer and ranted against the use of psychiatric drugs like Ritalin and Adderall. He had also brought up the Brooke Shields issue. Cruise had called Shields, ‘irresponsible’ after she had admitted to having used antidepressants for her post-party depression. Lauer had hit him with tough questions and asked about his relationship with Holmes, which many assumed was a publicity stunt. Agitated, Cruise had responded with, “ Matt. Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt. You’re glib… You don’t even know what Ritalin is”. The interview had grabbed its share of eyeballs and attention.
Casual Sexism Served on the Side
This was 1975, and Dame Helen Mirren, was already a stage name to be reckoned with. She was all of 30 and a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her unmitigated success earned her a spot on Parkinson, the talk show hosted by Richard Parkinson. Mirren was just stepping up to portray Lady Macbeth, but Parkinson reduced her to physical attributes and called her a ‘sex queen’ as he introduced her. Not once during the entire conversation did Parkinson bring up her acting skills or her theatrical career. He even used the phrase ‘serious actress’ in quotes. Mirren handled the entire exchange with undoubted grace and never let it show. She winced a couple of times when the conversation shifted to her ‘figure’ and her ‘physical attributes’, and how they might detract from her seriousness’. Years later Mirren confessed that it was the first-ever talk show appearance for her and given the circumstances she held her own. Later in another interview in 2006 with Parkinson, she told him that she ‘hated him’.
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