TV Meltdown: 10 Of The All-Time Greatest Live Broadcasting Disasters

Who doesn’t like a good live public disaster? I do. And so does God. That’s why he created public access…and microphones that look “off” when they’re really “on.”

For your sick pleasure, here’s a cringeworthy list of microphone gaffes, brain farts, and even a modern-day retelling of Revelation 12:7-12, which incidentally finds itself first up on the list!

10) “The Great Satan” Butts Horns with Obscenity Laws


In October of 1991, Tucson, Arizona’s channel 49 public-access station became home to what would become arguably the vilest, most lewd, and short-lived television show of all time: The Great Satan at Large.

Hosted by alcoholic sports writer Lou Perfidio and his unholy cohorts, TGSAL was a live show that, in its aim to shock the viewer, featured desecrated American flags, Nazi imagery, chroma-keyed strippers, real and simulated sex acts, and general indecency. The plot is extremely loose, but appears to center around a drunk bar owner, “God,” engaged, over 40-ounce beers, in a dialogue with his arch-nemesis, Satan.

Naturally, the program didn’t bode well with city officials, nor the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, as Perfidio faced an immediate 90-day suspension and subsequent investigation into possible obscenity charges.

Still, Tom Ferguson, who played a masturbating jester on the show, argued that the ban was “a direct violation of my civil rights.”

Information regarding the show’s fallout is extremely limited, though Perfidio’s wife reported that The Great Satan had been charged with “contributing to the delinquency of minors.”

Although Perfidio succumbed to a deadly combination of flesh-eating MRSA, pneumonia, and high blood pressure in 2006, his legacy lives on in the annals of the Internet, the bowels of, and the high scores of pinball machines across the state.

Oh, yeah. Satan played a mean pinball. Check out his credentials here.

9)  Chef Guerke Wastes Everybody’s Time with Thanksgiving Mush


“How about a mashed-potato ice-cream cone?”

In promotion of his Found Footage Festival, comedian Nick Prueher crashed not one, but five morning news stations during the 2013 holiday season with absurd and disgusting recipes from his nonexistent cookbook Leftovers Right.

Chaos ensues as Prueher fumbles his way through the newscasts with comparisons of his unorthodox style to the late GG Allin, correlations of holiday suicide with the stress of excess leftovers, and the successful coercion of his hosts into drinking unpalatable concoctions of blended Thanksgiving meat.

Footage of his culinary catastrophes went viral, eventually landing him an interview with Opie and Anthony in which he reminisces on the prank:

I do a show called the Found Footage Festival, my buddy Joe Picket and I, and we often do these shows in like Sioux Falls, South Dakota and things like that and you know, no one really listens to what you’re saying and it’s like 6 a.m and I never know who’s watching at that point. Farmers? […] we were bored and we thought it’d be funny to try and get on as a chef.

So he wrote up a fake press release, included a photo of his nonexistent cookbook and became Chef Keith Guerke.

8) Christine Chubbuck’s On-Air Suicide


Although previously mentioned in at least one death-related list article, the actions of former news anchor and talk show host, Christine Chubbuck, on July 15, 1974 must be included in this list as they serve not only as a warning in regards to the effects of untreated mental illness, but also of the risks inherent in real-time broadcasting.

Chubbuck began her career in broadcasting in which she excelled, soon moving on to host her very own news program, Suncoast Digest, which proved to be a major success.

But despite her outward success, Chubbuck’s blossoming career remained in direct contrast to her personal life. Close friends described her as “volatile” and “moody,” an individual who allowed little room for that which lies between elation and anguish—a trait which would ultimately lead to the world’s first live, on-air suicide.

Three weeks before her death Chubbuck had requested, and was granted, an interview with the local sheriff for a news story on suicide. In the interview, the officer claimed that the most efficient method was to use a .38 caliber revolver armed with wadcutter bullets, and to aim behind the ear rather than the temple.

On the morning of July 15th, Chubbuck did just that.

While covering a shooting the previous day, the projection reel jammed, prompting an unaffected shrug from the anchor before stating:

In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide.

Chubbuck then drew her revolver and shot herself in the back of the head. Camera operator Jean Reed later disclosed that she had at first thought it to be an elaborate prank until Christine began twitching.

The newscast faded to black and Chubbuck was pronounced dead 14 hours later.

It is likely that her depression stemmed from a combination of her unlikelihood of ever conceiving a child due to ovarian complications and struggles with opposite sex relations in general (a mere two dates in her 29 years).

7) Anchor’s Profanity Gets Him Fired on his First Day


On a more lighthearted note, North Dakota’s flubbed local morning news segment on April 21, 2013 reminds us what it is to be fallible.

What makes the clip such a phenomenon is that we can all relate. And for one A.J Clemente, it is the answer to his question of “What’s the worst that could happen?” The answer was to be played out in front of the entire state of North Dakota.

Enter A.J Clemente: First-day anchor of NBC affiliate KFYR of North Dakota.

Immediately following the opening news graphic, a flustered Clemente can be heard clearly as he lets loose a string of profanities including one particularly forceful F-bomb. The screw-up is so loud and unmistakable that it sends co-anchor Van Tieu off the script and into an awkward spiral of stutters and uncomfortable glances as she struggles to regain control of the segment.

Though he was fired the next day, Clemente’s sailor mouth did garner him a great deal of Twitter support with numerous hashtags such as #FreeAJ, #KeepAJ, and #TeamAJ as the now viral footage swept the expanse of the Internet.

With his reputation secured as a bumbling anti-hero, the self-described “free agent” scored an interview with Letterman a mere three days later.

6) Governor’s Brain Shuts off Mid-Sentence

No stranger to controversy after her 2010 passing of the strictest immigration act at the time of its imposition, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer once again faced adversity in 2011—this time against her own mind.

During a live television debate with Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard, Brewer fell victim to a textbook case of tip-of-the-tongue syndrome a mere ten seconds into the dialogue. Though we can all relate to this common nervous reaction, what makes this instance notable is the fact that it occurred before any questions were even asked!

Following the host’s brief introduction, Governor Brewer meets his lead-in with a series of pauses, anxious chuckles, and stammers in a failed attempt to discuss budgeting for the coming fiscal year.

In addition to her subpar speech, the governor also faced criticism for her failure to address reporters’ inquiries into her lack of response to Goddard’s accusation that her exaggerated claims of border-related violence damaged the state’s image as well as future business prospects.

In response to the two-pronged attack on her credibility, Brewer’s campaign team has since declined to appear on local media, opting instead for appearances on an impersonal, national level.

5) Rage Against the Machine v. The BBC


The British Broadcasting Corporation faced embarrassment and public outcry in 2009 when it invited American rap-metal band Rage Against the Machine to play their 1992 hit “Killing in the Name” during a live broadcast on the Radio 5 Live Breakfast Show.

…But not before asking them to omit the final refrain of “F*** you I won’t do what you tell me.”

True to their word, RATM refused to do what the BBC told them, and the resulting performance unfolded as anyone familiar with the revolutionary, anti-establishment group could have predicted—uncensored.

As the song reached its final crescendo, front man Zack de la Rocha managed to belt out a total of four repetitions before the production team cut the feed, during which, distraught co-host Shelagh Fogarty can be heard shouting, “Get rid of it!”

In an attempt to restore order to the program, she went on to say:

Sorry, we needed to get rid of that because that suddenly turned into something we weren’t expecting. Well, we were expecting it and asked them not to do it, but they did it anyway.

The show was a sales-based competition between RATM and X Factor winner Joe McElderry for the spot atop the charts of the Christmas Number 1 Sweepstakes.

RATM guitarist Tom Morello expressed his views of the battle and subsequent performance in an interview with BBC6 Music:

I think people are fed up of being spoon-fed some sugary ballad that sits on top of the charts. It’s a little dose of anarchy.

Sales validated Morello’s statement as RATM beat out McElderry with 500,000 copies, vs. the X Factor winner’s 450,000. The combined sales represent the biggest sales clash since the great Spice Girls/Chocolate Salty Balls battle of 1998.

4) Martin Lawrence Eternally Banned from SNL

In the days before Big Momma’s House, Martin Lawrence was actually a respected comedian. So much so, that in 1994, he was invited to host Saturday Night Live.

However, as fate would have it, this appearance would be his first and last as the comedian earned himself a lifetime ban after a monologue in which he detailed his struggles with the unkempt nether regions of 90s women.

Although clearly vulgar, the bit was relatively tame by today’s standards and was well-received by the live audience.

Ironically, Lawrence begins his diatribe with a criticism of censorship:

It’s botherin’ me, man. You know, “You can’t say this, you can’t say that.” I’m like, well, how am I gonna talk about the world? You know? I mean I need to talk about something to you all, can I—can I do it? Can I talk to y’all? (Applause) I mean, I-I hope the kids are in bed, you know, because I got to talk, y’all…

It is at this point that Lawrence transitions into the matter at hand—feminine hygiene.

Unfortunately, the producers at SNL, whether for reasons stemming from their own personal insecurities or regulations set by the FCC, have since removed the second half of Lawrence’s act from all reruns, replacing it instead with this voice-narrated text screen:

At this point in his monologue, Martin begins a commentary on what he considers the decline in standards of feminine hygiene in this country. Although we at Saturday Night Live take no stand on this issue one way or the other, network policy prevents us from re-broadcasting this portion of his remarks.

In summary, Martin feels, or felt at the time, that the failure of many young women to bathe thoroughly is a serious problem that demands our attention. He explores this problem, citing numerous examples from his personal experience, and ends by proposing several imaginative solutions.

It was a frank and lively presentation, and nearly cost us all our jobs. We now return to the conclusion of Martin’s monologue.

The episode then resumes just in time to catch Lawrence ripping off his shirt to perform an impromptu karate demonstration.

Though the live version is forever consigned to the prison of the SNL vault, you can, thanks to the Internet, read the full, unadulterated transcript here. You can also watch the (edited) clip here.

3) Jesse Jackson thinks Obama is nuts


In the moments before a 2008 interview with Fox News, Reverend Jesse Jackson, who mistakenly believed his microphone to not yet be turned on, confided in fellow guest Dr. Reed V. Tuckson that he wanted to castrate Barack Obama for “talking down” to the African-American community.

In the exchange, Jackson whispers to the United Health Group executive:

See, Barack’s been, um, talking down to black people….I wanna cut his nuts out.”

The divulgence came in response to Obama’s Father’s Day speech at a largely black church in which the Senator (and son of an absent father) addressed absent black fathers with the statement:

…but if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that too many fathers are also missing. Too many fathers are M.I.A. Too many fathers are AWOL. Missing from too many lives and too many homes. They’ve abandoned their responsibilities. They’re acting like boys instead of men.

Criticism of the reverend’s comments ranged from Al Sharpton, to his own son who, in speaking of his father’s utterance, declared:

I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric.

Rev. Jackson quickly apologized for his remarks, believing them to be “private” and adding that if “any hurt or harm has been caused to his campaign, I apologize.”

Jackson went on to personally apologize to Obama over the phone. The apology was accepted.

2) Putin v. Consent

Not to be outdone by the microphone gaffes of his American counterparts, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments, inadvertently recorded by his microphone during a 2006 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, offered a disturbing glimpse into the psyche of the Russian leader.

“He really surprised us,” Putin said of Israeli president Moshe Katsav in response to an ongoing investigation into allegations that Katsav had raped and assaulted two female employees.

At this point, reporters were escorted from the room, though international news agency Agence France-Presse says he continued.

He raped 10 women. I never expected it from him. He surprised all of us. We all envy him.

Reports indicate that Olmert responded to Putin’s remark by saying,

I wouldn’t be jealous of him.

Reports indicate that the two then shared a laugh and went on to discuss Middle Eastern politics for the next several hours.

Ultimately, though, Olmert proved correct in his lack of envy as Katsav was found guilty in 2011 of rape—a charge that carries up to seven years in his case.

The 2006 exchange between Putin and Olmert may support the Pentagon’s recent controversial claims that the Russian president has a form of Asperger’s Syndrome that “affects all of his decisions.”

Whether or not the president does indeed have a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, we can all agree that given the frequency of the microphone gaffe, it should be assumed that the mic is “on” until proven otherwise.

1) Every Episode of the Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show Ever


Public access is an easy target, but it would be a crime not to include David Liebe Hart’s Christian alien puppet opera in this list.

Inspired by his childhood experiences as an extra-terrestrial abductee and allegedly encouraged by Sunday school teacher Jim Henson (the same Jim Henson who created the Muppets), Hart set about creating a puppet show on local Los Angeles television that, while promoting healthy living, abstinence, and drug and alcohol awareness, also blurs the line between reality and the hallucinations of a deranged mind.

The show is difficult to put into words, but perhaps Andy Nyman said it best in his review of the program on Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe:

It’s the most bizarre, horrible, extraordinary piece of Christian puppeteering that I think you’ll ever see….The puppets that he has fucking dragged out of burned out buildings, I think, make Chucky from Child’s Play look like something you’d want to cuddle. The main puppet is called Albert Hermann, which sounds like a sort of Nazi war criminal. He has Teddy Eddy, who is this panda who he has to make come alive to sing. By that he just means he sort of takes his hand out of Albert Hermann and just sort of leaves that one dead while the other one is struggling to animate this thing….It truly is the closest thing to a nightmare that I’ve honestly ever seen.

In a 2012 Kickstarter campaign for the funding of his punk album; $50 dollars would get you access to Mr. Hart’s home phone number.

For more info on the show, you could probably give him a call. We’re pretty sure he still needs the money. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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