The talk show is an American institution, and the art of conversation has long been something that audiences have been fascinated with. Classic talk shows have given us a glimpse into the lives, careers, hearts, and minds of some of the most fascinating people on earth.
When we look back at some of our favorite classic talk shows we’ll often find that they captured some shocking moments. These moments have been etched into our memories forever and we still discuss them to this day.
So what are these so-called shocking moments and why did they have such an impact on our society? We’re happy to present some of the most fascinating and shocking moments that were captured on camera on some of our favorite talk shows.
Join FactsVerse to learn about the classic talk shows that captured shocking moments on camera…
MUHAMMAD ALI AND JOE FRAZIER WITH DICK CAVETT AND MICHAEL PARKINSON
Both Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were the top boxers of their time. In 1974, they appeared together to discuss their careers and upcoming fight on The Dick Cavett Show. This particular episode was co-hosted by Sir Michael Parkinson, Britain’s foremost talk show host. Sir Michael had interviewed Muhammad Ali several times and would later state that the boxer was his favorite guest and the most fascinating man he ever met.
Dick Cavett too seemed to enjoy interviewing both gentleman but was perhaps particularly struck by Muhammad Ali – not in the literal sense of course!
But of course, what happens when you have to rivals chatting together on a talk show? You can’t always expect civility.
At around half an hour into the program, the two boxers begin to argue with each other and they both stand up, remove their jackets and look ready to spar with each other. The two nervous talk show hosts, looking like children in front of these heavyweight giants try to break it up!
Somehow, they managed! The two hosts calmed the boxers down but this became a shocking moment. It showed that Ali was always ready to fight and that he would never just talk the talk but always walk the walk.
There are so many great interviews featuring Muhammad Ali but this is often considered to be one of the best. It showed his enthusiasm for his sport and it showed that he was always willing to show that he was The Greatest.
ICEBERG SLIM ON JOE PYNE
Joe Pyne was one of the early ‘shock jocks’ and was a major influence on talk show hosts as well as commentators who weren’t afraid to be controversial or confrontational.
But what set Joe Pyne apart is that he was also willing to have conversations with people whom he disagreed with or even ridiculed. He wasn’t afraid to interview characters who came from parts of society that were often shunned by, shall we say, “polite” society.
One of those characters was the author Iceberg Slim. During this interview, Iceberg Slim wore a mask during the entire interview so as not to reveal his identity. As he became more famous, it was revealed that Iceberg Slim was the pseudonym of Robert Beck and he became more open about his past life.
But in this shocking interview, Iceberg Slim revealed that many of the incidents in his book “Pimp: The Story of My Life” were inspired by actual events in his own life. He discussed that he was once a pimp and that he left that life to become a writer – and he made a career writing about his past life and the characters he met along the way.
This was shocking for the time – to hear real-life stories about the seedier aspects of American life. A life that even today, many of us prefer to ignore – until it slaps us in the face. This Joe Pyne interview of Iceberg Slim is arguably one of the most underrated talk show interviews and the shocking moments when the author discusses his life as a pimp shouldn’t be missed.
DAVID SUSSKIND DISCUSSING GAY LIFE
David Susskind was another pioneer of the talk show and is recognized as one of the greatest talk show hosts the country has ever produced. He made his name because he wasn’t afraid to discuss difficult topics on his show and he wasn’t afraid to host controversial guests. As one could expect, this led to too many shocking moments captured on camera to mention!
But one that stood out and made viewers uncomfortable was when he interviewed many openly gay guests on the show. This wasn’t the first time David Susskind discussed homosexuality on his show and he’d often ask guests about their opinion on homosexuality.
But in the interview with these men, some of them began dancing around and were scantily clad. One of them even stripped in front of Mr. Susskind! While this has become commonplace on television today it was shocking and discomforting to many viewers at the time.
However, what made David Susskind stand out is that he was respected by people of different perspectives and political persuasions. This is because he wanted in-depth discussions with people of differing views and was always respectful to them.
Nevertheless, we expect that the images of the men prancing about on stage will continue to be discussed as a watershed moment in making gay life more mainstream in the country – and it’ll continue to be controversial and shocking.
FIRING LINE AND THE REPUBLIC OF NEW AFRICA
William F. Buckley, Jr. was one of the greatest talk show hosts of all time and his program Firing Line opened the door to many great leaders, entertainers, intellectuals, and activists of our time. While William F. Buckley Jr. was perhaps one of America’s most notable conservative intellectuals, he also interviewed people of differing persuasions and gave them a fair hearing – something that seems to be practically impossible these days!
As a result, like Joe Pyne and David Susskind he wasn’t afraid to interview controversial guests. Of the many controversial guests he interviewed, one was Milton Henry whom he interviewed on November 18, 1968.
To give you an idea of the context, this was at the height of the civil rights movement and it was 3 years after Malcolm X was assassinated and 7 months after Dr. King was assassinated.
Milton Henry was the founder of the movement for the Republic of New Africa. He asserted that black and white Americans could never get along and it was best that Black Americans secede from the United States to form a new country, called the Republic of New Africa. During the whole interview, he had 2 bodyguards standing on stage watching him.
The interview discussed the uncomfortable topic of race relations in the country. While William F. Buckley, Jr. insisted that the races must find a way to get along and see each other as Americans, Milton Henry didn’t budge on his views.
The interview was shocking then and it’s even more shocking now.
JOHN LENNON REVEALS HE WAS BEING WATCHED
Let’s return to the Dick Cavett Show when he interviewed John Lennon and Yoko Ono together. John Lennon had appeared on the show before and now that The Beatles had gone their separate ways, each artist in the group were expressing their thoughts on the world through their music.
John Lennon had become very political and wasn’t afraid to discuss his views on politics and on social issues. Through songs such as “Woman” and “Imagine” he had made an impact on our public consciousness.
While the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution protects free speech, any artist who has stirred the pot has been under the watchful eye of the government. In this interview on the Dick Cavett Show, John Lennon shocked audiences when he revealed that he was being watched by the FBI.
John Lennon had stated that if anything had happened to him and Yoko, it was not an accident. This was a shocking statement then but now, we are becoming used to public figures stating that they aren’t suicidal whenever they say something that deviates from the norm.
This is a shocking interview to watch and one that perhaps we should all watch again and again whether we agree or not.
TONY BROWN AND THOMAS SOWELL
Tony Brown is one of the most respected journalists and talk show hosts of his generation. He was able to discuss different points of view in a calm and respectful manner.
In the early 1980s, he interviewed the distinguished American economist Dr. Thomas Sowell about his new book The Economics and Politics of Race. While the interview doesn’t feature an audience and is rather calm, the discussion was a bit shocking for the time and perhaps more shocking even more today!
This is because Thomas Sowell discussed the economic outcomes of the various races and ethnic groups in the United States and in the world. He challenged mainstream notions that it was simply racism or discrimination that held certain minorities back.
He discussed how culture plays an affect in positive or negative economic outcomes. He also criticized affirmative action and stated how this was harmful to black Americans.
His extensive research led him to these conclusions and they were well-documented in his book. Yet, these were findings that many Americans particularly in the media, politics, and intelligentsia weren’t happy to hear Dr. Sowell discuss. Today, perhaps more so, one wonders if such a mature discussion on a sensitive subject would be aired.
The discussion is calm and mature as we mentioned but perhaps every revelation by Dr. Sowell on the subject of race and economics was shocking for the time and is shocking today.
Are you a fan of any of these great talk shows? They were entertaining, informative, and always pleased us with a shocking moment or two. That’s why we still remember them today?
Now, here’s what we’d like to hear from you:
Do you think that today’s talk shows can match up to these classic talk shows?
Or are today’s talk shows too tame and not as interesting as the talk shows from yesteryear?