Going onto a TV talk show to discuss and promote one’s brand new or most recent artistic project is just plain not natural. Not only do actors and musicians have to go through the physical and emotional rigors of making a movie, TV show, or album, but then they have to go do the otherwise totally different thing of putting on a bunch of makeup and a fancy outfit, and then go sit next to a desk and be charming and personable while a comedian lightly interviews them about said project. Under all those hot lights in front of a studio audience and perhaps several million people watching from home, this can all be a very nerve-wracking experience.
For these reasons and lots of others, some stars may need something to take the edge off before going in front of the cameras — a drink, a prescription medication, or a recreational drug, for example. Sometimes, however, the famous person ingests just a little too much of their chemical helper, and it’s more than evident on television that they did just that. Here are some actors and artists who engaged in some media while drunk, stoned, or high, and who came clean about it.
John Stamos was wasted during a morning show interview
Whether he’s playing rock star uncle Jesse Katsopolis on Full House or Fuller House, or one of his many other memorable TV roles, John Stamos is usually the coolest guy in the room — reassuringly calm, collected, and quietly confident. This was not the case in 2007, when the actor appeared on the popular Australian A.M. talk show, Mornings with Kerri-Anne.
Acting loose and appearing disheveled, and yelling out the word “vodka!” at one point, Stamos explained that his difficult to ignore state was the result of jet lag suffered from the long flight to Australia from the U.S. It was the second morning in a row he felt logy, in fact, as he spent the previous day doing press. “I was like kind of half asleep, half awake,” Stamos said, before adding, “[Daily Telegraph reporter] Geoffrey Downey took a shot at me in the papers today, at being tired.” Stamos rhetorically asked host Kerri-Anne Kennerly why he would do that. His explanation: “Because he has a small penis.” In addition to all that, Stamos forcibly snuggled the host while rambling about the death of Elvis Presley.
Was more than jet lag to blame for Stamos actions? Yes. “I’ll be honest: When I went on that morning show, I was drunk,” Stamos later told The Advocate in 2009. “Yes, I was on sleeping pills and I was jet-lagged, but I was also just plastered.”
Drew Barrymore got tipsy on a talk show
Drew Barrymore made the talk show rounds in 2015 to promote the British release of Miss You Already, a friendship dramedy co-starring Toni Collette. According to Toronto.com, Barrymore explained during an appearance on Alan Carr: Chatty Man that both U.S. and U.K. talk shows offer guests a pre-show cocktail or alcoholic beverage, citing a Tonight Show beverage cart full of options “to loosen people up” before they went out on stage. Carr’s Channel 4 show in the U.K., however, was a little different in that the guests were encouraged to snarf down a tipple (or two, or more) on camera, during taping.
While Barrymore never drank prior to a Tonight Show interview, she did indulge in some white wine during her interview on Chatty Man, and perhaps a bit too much at that. “Can I just say I have never left a talk show tipsy!” Barrymore said (via Toronto.com). “This is a first. I am not kidding, you are changing my view of what it is to be on a talk show.”
Andy Cohen got high and forgot he had to go live
As a high-ranking Bravo executive and host of the network’s flagship talk show, Watch What Happens Live, Andy Cohen presides over a nightly parade of celebrities and reality show stars. It can get pretty raucous even without the introduction of alcohol, which is available via the Watch What Happens Live on-set bar. Cohen generally stays above the fray — he has to keep the show moving, and on time and on subject, after all. However, he told the Allegedly podcast (via Radar) in 2016 that while he’s conducted a drunk interview on an episode of Watch What Happens Live, he was once the subject of an interview after consuming THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
A big St. Louis Cardinals fan, Cohen was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at one of the team’s home games that May. Beforehand, he’d eaten a drugged lollipop. “I forgot that they were going to be pulling me into the broadcast booth,” Cohen said. “I was appropriately high at the time. It was all so weird and surreal.”
An inebriated Jessica Simpson appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show
In May 2017, millennium-era pop sensation and reality TV star Jessica Simpson sat down for an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, her first appearance on the show in four years and the first in a long time in which she wasn’t pregnant. Simpson explained to DeGeneres that there was no way of that happening, because she’d had an IUD birth control device implanted. However, she stumbled and slurred her way through that line, along with others, leading many viewers to speculate on Twitter that Simpson might not have been sober for the daytime talk show gig.
“The woman can barely put together a coherent sentence,” one viewer tweeted. “It’s painful to watch her.” Another said they were “embarrassed” for Simpson (via Page Six).
About three years later, Simpson released her memoir, Open Book, in which she spoke openly and frankly of her struggles with addiction, according to People. “I was killing myself with all the drinking and pills,” Simpson wrote. Lingering emotional pain over childhood abuse and work stress led her to use alcohol and drugs to cope, and her usage got out of hand. In a promotional interview with Today, Simpson admitted that she’d indeed been drinking before she appeared on Ellen. “I can’t even watch the interview,” Simpson said. “It was a weak moment for me, and I wasn’t in the right place.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and mental health, please contact SAMHSA’s 24-hour National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Danny DeVito's drunken night out spilled over into The View
In late November 2006, veteran actor Danny DeVito appeared on The View for the first time, promoting his holiday movie, Deck the Halls. He eventually got around to talking about the film with the morning show’s expansive panel of hosts, because he was sidetracked on account of how he was visibly, palpably, and admittedly too drunk to stay on track.
“Danny has been out partying all night,” Joy Behar said, which DeVito confirmed, adding that he’d spent the evening drinking with George Clooney. “I knew it was the last seven limoncellos that was gonna get me,” DeVito quipped. When asked by co-host Rosie O’Donnell if he’d been to sleep, DeVito replied, “I don’t know.” Then he imitated then-President George W. Bush as if he were one of the Three Stooges and told a story about how he and wife Rhea Perlman once visited the White House during the Bill Clinton administration and “utilized” every corner of the Lincoln Bedroom for their physical pleasure. “We made it our business to really wreck the joint,” DeVito said.
A year and a half after this memorably drunken morning TV appearance, DeVito fully owned it, launching his own line of limoncello, the lemon liqueur responsible for his wild behavior.
Blame Sean Penn's quirky Colbert spot on the Ambien
Sean Penn is a devoted, two-time Academy Award-winning actor with a reputation as a very serious guy. He doesn’t usually go in for the celebrity promotional circus games that fuel talk shows, so an interview with him is an unpredictable affair — and according to Time, his appearance on CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote his first novel, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, went viral for just that reason and more.
Not only did Penn smoke throughout the 2018 interview (not seen on late night since the heyday of Johnny Carson decades ago), but he also admitted at the top of the segment that he was maybe not going to be very receptive or precise in his responses to Colbert’s questions. “You’ve inherited a little of the Ambien I had to take to get to sleep after a red-eye last night,” he said. What answers Penn did manage to the host’s queries about his life, career, and projects were alternately short, rambling, or off-topic.
Many viewers weighed in on Twitter with their concerns about Penn’s appearance and mental state. “What’s up with Sean Penn stoned & disheveled with very weird hair & smoking on Colbert?!” stated one representative tweet.
Mark Wahlberg was or was not drunk on The Graham Norton Show
The Graham Norton Show is already one of the wackiest talk shows around. Norton’s infectious energy rubs off on his celebrity guests, who are prone to singing, kissing, dancing, and revealing embarrassing personal stories. Some of that openness and willingness to entertain at any cost may be a result of alcohol, which guests drink on stage. When big-time movie star and former rapper Mark Wahlberg appeared on The Graham Norton Show in 2013, he may have had one too many complimentary cocktails.
While comedian Sarah Silverman told a funny and poignant story about her childhood bedwetting issues, Wahlberg nervously shifted in his seat, as if fearful Silverman would urinate, before moving over to sit in Norton’s lap. He proceeded to whisper in the host’s ear and then fiddle with his nipples. “That’s wrong. Don’t touch the man there,” an uncomfortable Norton said. Wahlberg slurred a few sentences before sitting himself back down and interrupting Silverman’s story again.
Norton later told Digital Spy that the speculation that Wahlberg had been drunk was spot on. “We’ve all done that thing where you suddenly realize, ‘I’m by far the drunkest person at this dinner party’ and you don’t know how that happened,” he said. “I don’t judge him harshly at all.” Wahlberg, however, claimed that the whole thing was a pre-planned comedy routine. “I tried to do a bit, and some people took it a little too seriously,” he told Digital Spy.
Two shows, one night, one drunk Bill Murray
The last episodes of The Late Show with David Letterman in 2015 — the comedian’s final broadcasts after 35 years on network television — was a star-studded affair, but producers didn’t know until the last minute whether or not Bill Murray, one of Letterman’s favorite and most frequent guests, would show up.
According to The Wrap, Murray did show up before the taping with the idea to do a jokey ad read for a Slovenian vodka brand. During rehearsal with the show’s writers, he insisted on practicing with real vodka. This meant that Murray was significantly intoxicated by the time he appeared on The Late Show that night, bursting (and stumbling) out of a cake to do his vodka commercial and then drink about a half a bottle with Letterman.
That booze was apparently still in Murray’s system a few hours later when he showed up to chat on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. On that set, Murray struggled with a chair, and he leaned over too far, falling to the ground. “I went down and hurt myself properly!” Murray jokingly slurred (via Stuff).
Willie Nelson smoked marijuana, and it blew Larry King's mind
Singer-songwriter Willie Nelson is famous for exactly three things: his lengthy battle with the IRS over unpaid taxes, delivering wonderful songs like “Crazy,” “Always On My Mind,” and “On the Road Again,” and for being an unabashed, admitted enjoyer of marijuana since long before its recreation use was legal in many U.S. states. According to Rolling Stone, he first tried the drug in the mid-1950s, and in 1978, it replaced cigarettes and alcohol as the intoxicant of choice for “The Red Headed Stranger.” As he said, “It saved my life, really.”
In 2010, Nelson appeared as a guest on Larry King Live, where the host peppered him with questions about his marijuana use. Nelson affirmed that he had no problem smoking some pot before hitting the stage, but noted that he has built up “a huge tolerance for it that maybe everyone doesn’t have.” When King asked Nelson if he’d smoked marijuana that very day, before the interview, Nelson replied, “Yes, sure.” Amazed and perplexed, King shout-asked, “You have pot in you right now?” Nelson confirmed that yes, he was stoned at present, and jokingly stuck out his arms, as if to be handcuffed, and uttered, “Arrest me.”
Robin Thicke admitted he sat for many interviews under the influence
Firmly known as the most thoughtful and music industry-entrenched judge on Fox’s wacky costumed talent show, The Masked Singer, it’s easy to forget that Robin Thicke used to be a pop superstar. In 2007, the ballad “Lost Without U” topped Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for 11 weeks, and in 2013, “Blurred Lines,” his collaboration with Pharrell Williams and T.I., topped the Hot 100 chart for 12 weeks.
That song would lead to serious legal trouble for Thicke, as he was sued by the estate of Marvin Gaye, according to Rolling Stone, alleging that “Blurred Lines” lifted heavily from the singer’s “Got to Give It Up.” A court eventually ruled in favor of Gaye, initially ordering Thicke and company to pay out more than $7 million. In 2014, The Hollywood Reporter published previously sealed testimony from the suit, in which Thicke revealed a lot about his public behavior and motivations.
He admitted to telling Billboard a story about the creation of “Blurred Lines,” in which he took credit for writing more of the song than he did, and also said that a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which he discussed his love for Marvin Gaye, was done under the influence of alcohol and the prescription painkiller “Norco,” or hydrocodone, which Thicke likened to “two Vicodin in one pill.” In fact, Thicke reckoned, he “didn’t do a single interview” during a one-year span “without being high.”
The cast of Cheers was wasted on The Tonight Show
Cheers was one NBC’s most successful sitcoms of all time, often the network’s most-watched show (if not on all of broadcast TV) and winning outstanding comedy series at the Emmy Awards four times. The final episode aired in May 1993, and NBC understandably made it into an evening-long event, following the two-hour installment with an episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno broadcast live from Boston and featuring the entire cast of Cheers. Perhaps because the actors were both mourning and celebrating the end of 11 years of making wonderful television, or perhaps because the episode was produced at the Bull and Finch, the Boston bar that inspired Cheers, but whatever the reason, the large cast of Cheers got wasted.
They’d gathered to watch the final Cheers together, and by 11:30, when The Tonight Show went live, the actors “were so drunk they needed designated walkers,” Cheers writer Ken Levine recalled for Vulture in 2013. “They giggled like schoolgirls over nothing, fired spitballs into each other’s mouths.” Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson and Kirstie Alley made sex jokes and sang a filthy song, respectively.
A week later, Leno told the Boston Herald (via the Los Angeles Times) that the live show had been a bad idea. “Those people were so drunk,” Leno said, adding that a bunch of scripted sketches with each cast member had to be cancelled. “You don’t tell these people how to behave.”
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