The 10 best chatshow moments

As David Letterman prepares to retire, we rewind the all-time talkshow highlights

Nicolas Cage on Wogan
With his dapper suits, luxuriant hair, wry wit, knee-touchingly intimate interviews and thrice-weekly 7pm timeslot, Sir Terence was the undisputed British champion of 80s chat. In 1992, bad boy actor Nicolas Cage made quite an entrance: somersaulting on to the set, striking Elvis poses, karate-kicking and “making it rain” by pulling out a wad of cash and throwing banknotes into the studio audience. The subsequent interview saw Cage strip off his promotional Wild at Heart T-shirt, hand it to our unflappable host and conduct the rest of the chat bare-chested beneath his leather jacket.

The Bee Gees on Clive Anderson
The brothers Gibb didn’t take kindly to the fast-talking former barrister’s trademark put-downs on Clive Anderson All Talk in 1997. When they told Anderson they had once toyed with the idea of calling themselves Les Tosseurs, Anderson quipped: “You’ll always be Les Tosseurs to me.” Barry Gibb sat glowering at Anderson for a few more questions before eventually saying, “You’re the tosser, pal” and storming off. His siblings followed in solidarity ”“ well, after an interminable few seconds while Maurice struggled to unplug his microphone.

Emu on Parky
When Camilla Parker Bowles lookalike Rod Hull appeared on Michael Parkinson’s show in 1976, Parky knew what he was in for. After all, Hull’s aggressive avian puppet was pretty much a one-joke act. The beglittered blue bird pecked at Parky, before pushing him off his swivel chair and manhandling him to the floor. The host lost a shoe in the scuffle, not to mention his sense of humour. Years later, Parky complained: “The only thing I’m ever remembered for is being attacked by that bloody bird.” Well, that and his awkward 2003 interview with prickly, monosyllabic Meg Ryan.

Drew Barrymore on Letterman
Cute or creepy? In this infamous incident from 1995, Drew Barrymore ”“ introduced as “lovely, enchanting and one of our most impressive young actresses” ”“ bewitched David Letterman during a flirtatious interview, despite the 28-year age gap between them. When she found out that it was Letterman’s birthday, she promptly hopped up on to his desk, gyrated saucily, pulled up her crop top and bared her breasts at the dumbfounded host. “I can’t thank you enough for that,” spluttered the birthday boy. Courtney Love paid homage by doing the same on his show nine years later.

Bette Midler on Johnny Carson
“Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” In 1992, the daddy of them all and “King of Late Night” Carson was a day away from retirement when his final guests on The Tonight Show were comedian Robin Williams and the Divine Miss M, who serenaded him with boozy standard One for My Baby (and One More for the Road). The host was close to tears, a moment that was captured by a camera angle never before used on the show. Midler would win an Emmy for her part in this fond farewell. “I’m the last guest,” she said. “The last fool Mr Carson will have to suffer gladly. You are the wind beneath my wings.”

Grace Jones on Russell Harty
Arty-farty Lancastrian Russell Harty tends to be overshadowed by his arch rival Parkinson, but his chatshow was a fixture in the schedules between 1972 and 1984. Highlights included Marc Bolan prophetically predicting that he wouldn’t live into middle age, and the Who’s Pete Townshend and Keith Moon ripping off each other’s shirt sleeves. Harty’s most memorable moment, though, was his 1980 interview with statuesque singer Grace Jones. When the host turned away from her to address another guest, Jones took offence and started slapping him.

Tom Cruise on Oprah
Despite the fervent Scientology and wicked whispers about his private life, toothsome action hero Tom Cruise had rarely made a mis-step over his two-decade career. That all changed in 2005. Doing the publicity rounds for War of the Worlds, he made an unnervingly manic appearance on daytime queen Oprah Winfrey’s show. All demented laughter, bear-hugs and air-punching, Cruise leapt up on to the buttermilk-beige couch, declared his love for new girlfriend Katie Holmes, then dragged her on stage like a prop. It went viral and his reputation never recovered. The couple (who married the following year) divorced in 2012.

Charles Bukowski on Apostrophes
Bukowski was “the laureate of American lowlife” and an alcoholic. Literary talkshow Apostrophes was a Friday-night fixture on French TV. When the two collided in 1978, it didn’t go smoothly. Host Bernard Pivot had the temerity to compare Bukowski to Henry Miller, which went down badly with his guest ”“ who’d been drinking riesling from the bottle. Visibly drunk, fag in hand, he embarked on a mumbly rant, before insulting the host and walking off live on-air with an “Au revoir”. His exit’s dramatic impact was dented by the fact that the tottering Bukowski had to be helped out of his chair and led from the studio.

Hugh Grant on Jay Leno
Back in 1995, Grant was a global star on the back of Four Weddings and a Funeral and dating Liz “that dress” Hurley. It caused a media sensation, then, when he was caught on Sunset Boulevard in a compromising position with prostitute Divine Brown and arrested for lewd conduct. His first public appearance afterwards saw Jay Leno start the interview with six words that are now notorious: “What the hell were you thinking?” Grant’s sheepish grin and fumbling reply was straight out of Four Weddings, before he eventually admitted: “I did a bad thing and there you have it.” The episode saw Leno overtake Letterman in the ratings for the first time.

David Cameron on Jonathan Ross
Wossy and controversy are old friends. There was Sachsgate, plus the times he told Gwyneth Paltrow she was “gagging for it” or Fearne Cotton that Prince Harry fancied her and was “virtually tossing himself off” when they met. But perhaps the most outrageously amusing was his 2006 interview with David Cameron on his Friday-night chatshow. Ross asked the Conservative leader if he’d had a schoolboy crush on Margaret Thatcher and ever masturbated thinking about her. Ofcom got 251 complaints, senior Tories called for Ross to be sacked and repeats of the episode have since been banned.

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