Award shows are great fun. Well, when they’re not mind-numbingly boring, that is. There’s only so long we can sit through celebrities in fancy clothes rewarding each other with statues before our attention starts to wander. The real reason we tune in isn’t to see the winners give grateful, humble acceptance speeches that we’ll forget five minutes after it’s over. We watch hoping there’ll be one of those awkward, humiliating moments when somebody says or does the wrong thing, and it’s cringe-worthy and awful but also perfectly human.
Isn’t that the reason we love these gaffes, after all? It’s not really schadenfreude. We’re not all that mean. When somebody rich and famous makes a mistake, or even better, makes a huge fool of themselves, it proves that they’re just like us, made of skin and bones and brains that don’t always steer them in the right direction.
Here are 30 moments from award shows when celebrities demonstrated that they could be just as clumsy and awkward and weird and petty and ridiculous as anybody else. It may seem like we’re laughing at them, but honestly, we’re really laughing with them. And if you’re looking for more hilarious (and equally uncomfortable) late-night tv moments? Get out the popcorn and watch The 30 Most Outrageous Late-Night TV Moments Ever.
Kanye West is gonna let you finish
Taylor Swift barely got to say thank you for her Best Female Video Moonman statue at the 2009 VMAs before Kanye West stormed the stage. “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you,” he interrupted her. “I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time!”
It was a stunning moment, to say the least. For more head-scratching confusion, check out The 50 Craziest Celebrity Quirks.
Natalie Portman calls out the boys club
Oprah Winfrey had just stirred up the crowd at the 2018 Golden Globes, and then out came Ron Howard and Natalie Portman to present the next award. But you could see it in Portman’s eyes, she was fired up and ready to point out hypocrisy. As Howard introduced the category—“We are honored to be here to present the award for best director”—Portman, without cracking a smile, said: “And here are the all-male nominees.” Ouch. Howard’s nervous laughter said it all. And for more priceless TV moments, here are the 30 Funniest Game Show Moments of All Time.
Marlon Brando wasn’t all that interested in accepting an Oscar in 1973 for his performance as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. So he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a 26-year-old Native American activist and aspiring actress, in his place. Amid boos and some applause, she read (excerpts from) a letter prepared by Brando, rejecting the award because of “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.” I guess an Oscar was an offer he could refuse.
You had one job, John Travolta. All you had to do was say the name “Idina Menzel” at the 2014 Oscars. Even if you just planned on reading it off the teleprompter, it wouldn’t have hurt to practice it one or two times before the live broadcast. That’s how you avoiding butchering it by calling her “Adele Dazeem.” To avoid an embarrassment like this, brush up on your diction with the 30 Celebrity Names You’re Mispronouncing.
Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley
King of Pop Michael Jackson and daughter of the King of Rock Lisa Marie Presley were still newlyweds when they walked onstage at the 1994 VMAs. Nobody knew quite what to expect from the couple (or “alleged couple,” if you believed the tabloids) but we sure didn’t expect that kiss. It felt forced and clumsy, like teenagers making out in the back of dad’s car. Presley seemed about as shocked as the audience, and just as uncomfortable. And for more on celebrity romance, here are 20 Onscreen Couples Who Dated Off-screen.
Drunk Johnny Depp
It’s not that Johnny Depp was a little bit tipsy at the 2014 Hollywood Film Awards, where he was introducing the Shep Gordon documentary Supermensch. He seemed full-on smashed. “Thas suh weirdess micaphone I’ve everseen in my life,” he began, and then it went downhill from there. We’ve seen more sober pirates.
The many expressions of Winona Ryder
Who knows what was going through Winona Ryder’s mind when she joined the cast of Stranger Things to accept the SAG Award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series in 2017 and listened to actor David Harbour talk about politics and modern-day monsters? Her expression went from confusion to disgust to fear to joy and then right back to confusion. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, and just one reason we adore the actress. And for more fun facts about celebs, here are the 30 Worst Celebrity Tattoos of All Time.
The look on Bob Dylan’s face the 1998 Grammys, when he was trying to perform his song “Love Sick” and a guy with “Soy Bomb” written across his bare chest ran out and started dancing like one of those gas station inflatable tube men, was beautifully awkward and genuinely confusing. Even though the whole thing only lasted 30 seconds, it felt like an eternity of bliss.
In 1974, streaking was a legitimate youth fad, the eating-Tide-pods-for-fun mania of the moment. So when gay-rights activist Robert Opel ran naked behind Oscar host David Niven as he tried to introduce Elizabeth Taylor, the screams coming from the crowd were both of horror and delight. But Opel ultimately had the last laugh, remarking that it was “the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.” It’s a line so good we’re tempted to include it in the 28 Wittiest Putdowns Ever Uttered.
Tommy Wiseau doesn’t get to speak
During his best actor win at the 2018 Golden Globes, James Franco waved Tommy Wiseau up to the stage. It made sense, as Franco won for doing a spot-on impersonation of Wiseau, the director and star of The Room. The least he could do was give Wiseau his five seconds of glory. But when the much maligned cult movie laughing stock tried to reach for the microphone, Franco was having none of it.
And the winner is…sorry, wrong envelope
It was probably the most excruciating screw-up in Oscar history. Seconds after La La Land was named the best picture winner at the 2017 Academy Awards, the acceptance speeches were cut short when somebody found out that Moonlight was the real winner. Warren Beatty, who had announced the wrong film, explained his error later: “I opened the envelope and it said Emma Stone, La La Land. That’s why I took such a long look at Faye [Dunaway] and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
Brendan Fraser isn’t sure how to clap
We have no idea what Fraser is attempting to do at the 2010 Golden Globes. It looks kinda like clapping, by way of an epileptic seizure. The Encino Man’s bizarre hand mishap ended up launching a thousand memes. And if you need more laughs, don’t miss the 40 Facts So Funny They’re Hard to Believe.
Jennifer Lopez’s, um… dress?
Nicole Kidman can’t find Keith Urban’s lips
Kidman is a fantastic actress, talented enough to win an acting trophy at the 2018 Golden Globes. But locating the exact spot on her beau’s fact that she would like to kiss proved to be more challenging than she anticipated. If at first you don’t succeed, keep kissing at parts of his head till you find the lip part.
Elton John vs. Lily Allen
When British singer Lily Allen had a few too many before the 2008 GQ Awards, her co-presenter (and famously reformed drug addict) Elton John decided to mess with her, teasing her for over-imbibing. “(Expletive) off, Elton!” she responded. “You know what? I’m 40 years younger than you and I have my whole life ahead of me!”
John gave her a wry look and then said, “I can still snort you under the table.” She claimed not to get it, which is probably a good thing. Elton John did a lot of drugs in the 70s, and things were a little crazier back then.
“You like me!”
Those three little words have defined Sally Field’s career almost more than her movies. It happened at the 1985 Oscars, when Field won the best actress trophy for Places in the Heart. “I can’t deny the fact that you like me right now,” she said. “You like me.” For a town like Hollywood, where cynicism and aloofness are part of the game, her naked vulnerability was kind of shocking.
Kristen drops and breaks her award
The Twilight star looked adorably flustered when she accepted her Best Female Performance award at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. But she took awkwardness to new heights when she not only dropped her Golden Popcorn statue but broke the dang thing. She explained, “I was just about as awkward as you thought I was going to be. Bye!”
Miley Cyrus dances on a pole
Years before she was twerking or riding on wrecking balls, Cyrus was just another Disney star entertaining the teens. So when she appeared on the Teen Choice Awards in 2009, audiences were expected harmless bubblegum pop. Instead, the then-16 year old Ms. Cyrus wore short-shorts and danced on a pole. Egads, cover your eyes, kids!
Jennifer Lawrence trips on dress, gets standing ovation
Walking up to accept her Best Actress Oscar in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook, her gigantic gown made climbing the stairs to the stage extra treacherous. When her feet became tangled in the material, she slid like a baseball player trying to steal a home run. She made it to the podium, and seeing the audience on their feet, remarked, “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that’s really embarrassing.” Okay, maybe a little. Want to fall even more in love with Jennifer Lawrence? See how Jennifer Lawrence Stuns As America’s Best New TV Host.
Frank Capra’s walk of shame
If there are two guys named Frank up for the same award, maybe you want to use last names. At the 6th Academy Awards in 1934, Will Rogers presented the best-director award by saying, “Come up and get it, Frank!” Frank Capra, who was nominated for Lady for a Day, just assumed Rogers meant him and started walking towards the stage, but the award was really meant for Frank Lloyd for his film Cavalcade. In his memoir, Capra described that painful moment of returning to his seat as “the longest, saddest, most shattering walk in my life.”
Ricky Gervais mocks Johnny Depp to his face
It’s easy to crack a joke about someone when they’re not around. But when they’re in the same room, just a few feet away, staring at you with an icy expression that makes it abundantly obvious they’re not amused, that’s when it stops being fun.
Gervais made some cruel comments about the Depp bomb The Tourist during his opening monologue at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards, claiming the film was only nominated “so that the Hollywood Foreign Press can hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That is rubbish. They also accepted bribes.” The way Depp stared at it, it was like he was trying to shoot daggers at Gervais out of his eyes.
Eminem gets into shoving match with a hand puppet
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was just having some fun at the 2002 VMAs, teasing Moby about his age and so-called beef with Eminem. When Triumph—really just Robert Smigel’s puppeted hand—confronted Eminem, things got physical. Eminem shoved the joke-cracking dog. Or rather, he shoved a hand puppet. Later, Triumph held a press conference, asking everyone to “try to be easy on Eminem. At the end of the day, he’s just another white guy trying to make an honest living… stealing black people’s music.”
Rob Lowe dances with Snow White
The opening number at the 1989 Oscars, a bizarre song-and-dance fever dream starring Rob Lowe and Snow White, was so bad that it ended producer Alan Carr’s career. Lowe managed to survive it, but in a career that includes a sex tape with a minor, this is considered his low point. As he joked about it twenty years later, “I still am seeing a psychiatrist over it.”
Rasida Jones doesn’t have a tan
This is about as cringe-worthy as a red carpet interviews gets. When complimented on her “tan” at the SAGs in 2015, she reminded the clueless journalist, “Well, you know… I’m ethnic.” Her dad is Quincy Jones, which isn’t exactly a big secret. Yeah, it might be time to take that foot and insert it squarely into your mouth. And for some crazy news about her father: Here’s the Quincy Jones and Ivanka Trump Rumor the Internet is Going Bonkers Over.
Mariah Carey has too much of the bubbly
Trying to graciously accept her Breakthrough Actress award, for her role as a social worker in Precious, proved difficult for Carey at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival. It might’ve had something to do with all those “splashes of champagne” (her words) the singer-turned-actress had gulped on an empty stomach. “Please forgive me because I’m a little bit um, yeah,” she slurred from the stage with the clearly delighted Precious director. No need to complete that sentence, we know exactly what you mean.
Sofia Vergara on a pedestal
Bruce Rosenblum, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, may’ve been trying to be reverent when he put the Modern Family star on an actual pedestal at the 2014 Emmys, and then rotated it 360 degrees so we could all gawk at her famous curves. But it just came off… Slightly creepy? You decide.
Rapper fires real gun
At the 1994 Source Awards, rap group Onyx added some drama to their performance of “Throw Ya Gunz” by pulling out an actual handgun and firing it at the ceiling. We don’t recommend this.
Ving Rhames gives away his Golden Globe
A tearful Ving Rhames decided that he just couldn’t accept his Best Actor Golden Globe award in 1998, for his lead role in HBO’s Don King: Only in America. So he gave it to fellow nominee Jack Lemmon (nominated for 12 Angry Men). The moment was awkward and more than a little sweet—Lemmon repeatedly tried to give it back, saying, “I wish I could accept this. And I can, but I won’t.” The Foreign Press ended up issuing two statues, so both actors could take home the award.
Madonna and her meddlesome cape
The 56-year-old pop icon took a tumble during her performance at the 2015 BRIT Awards, which so flummoxed the singer that it briefly looked like wouldn’t be able to go on, but she mustered the strength and finished the song. “My beautiful cape was tied too tight,” she explained later in an Instagram post. “But nothing can stop me and love really lifted me up!”
James Franco and Anne Hathaway host the Oscars
Pretty much the whole show.
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