One of my main rabbit holes on the internet that I find myself falling down, more times than I really should, is watching old interviews on late night US chat shows. There are so many great interviews on Letterman, Leno and Carson’s shows in particular. I often find myself wondering where a couple of hours have gone as I keep clicking the recommended links on the side of the YouTube page. But being from the UK myself I thought I would highlight some classic UK chat show moments here.

The clips below include drunken celebrities, walkouts, awkward car crash TV and amusing moments, but most of them have become iconic moments in the psyche of the UK in some way or another.

I’ve ranked them purely by my own personal enjoyment of watching them.

Keith Allen walks off The Late Show
Many people will know Keith Allen just because he’s the father of Lily Allen, but he’s much more than that. Others will know him from the Vindaloo song. He’s much more than that too. He was a lot of things in the 80s and 90s, including a comedian, actor and musician but he may be most remembered for this amazing outburst on The Late Show. He even mentions ‘vindaloo’ during it. It doesn’t quite make my list because it’s not a normal chat show. Vic Reeves is one of the guests, so I’m sure he’s got a good story about it.

Freddie Star talks to Muhammad Ali
I love a lot of things about this clip. I love what Freddie Star is wearing and the confidence with which he strolls into the studio. He’s certainly high on confidence, possibly high on something else as well. And he then bursts into this very long joke that he basically purely tells to Ali. He barely even looks at Michael Parkinson! A bizarre but enthralling chat show appearance.

10. Helen Mirren on Parkinson

Michael Parkinson was arguably the most respected interviewer in the UK, presenting his chat show ‘Parkinson’ from 71-82 and then again from 98-07. He was so prolific that he gets five clips in this list. It seems that Helen Mirren had herself a bit of a reputation and Parkinson got himself into a bit of bother when he questioned her about it and got accused of being sexist as a result. He really doesn’t come across very well in this interview at all and by contrast I think Helen Mirren comes across as incredibly intelligent and very able to stand up for herself in a non-defensive way.

9. Grace Jones on The Russell Harty Show

Never turn your back on Grace Jones. Ever.

8. Billy Connolly on Parkinson

Billy Connolly was certainly one of the guests that Parky had on the most over the years and I believe this was his first appearance. The joke may not be very risque today but it was very ‘out there’ back in the 70s and his manager begged him not to tell it on air. It certainly got Connolly noticed.

7. Muhammad Ali on Parkinson

Ali was possibly the second most interviewed person by Parky. Just google “Muhammad Ali Parkinson” And you’ll find some amazing interviews. Most of them are from when Ali was at his charming best. One from the early 80s shows Parkinson touching a few nerves with Ali about the damage he might be getting in the ring, which is quite poignant to watch as you are beginning to see the effects of all those years of boxing on Ali. But this one I’ve chosen is perhaps the most famous one when Ali is not in a very friendly mood and goes off on a tirade of his ‘interesting’ political and racial views. I don’t think Parkinson was expecting that but he did well to stand up to him. You can search for parts 2, 3 and 4 of this interview.

6. Nicholas Cage on The Wogan Show

Wow. What an interview. Best entrance to a chat show ever. I really want to know what Cage was on here. But it certainly solidified his wild child reputation anyway. Amazing to watch.

5. Rod Hull and Emu on Parkinson

This is a classic funny clip that is often played in TV montages. Never work with children or animals, especially the stuffed variety. Well played Rod Hull, for having the balls to do this.

4. Meg Ryan on Parkinson

This is one of the more awkward ones on this list. Meg Ryan really wasn’t in the mood to be interviewed and I don’t think Parkinson was very good at reacting to her silence either. I bet the other three people on the stage felt a bit awkward too. If I ever meet Shane Richie I will try to remember to ask him how it felt. Here is a recent interview with Michael Parkinson talking about it and what he would do differently.

3. The Bee Gees on The Clive Anderson Show

We had to have a mic drop in this list, and that’s basically what happens in this very awkward Bee Gees interview. Clive Anderson was pretty rude to be fair. But the look on his face at 5:53 after Barry calls him a tosser and Robin says it’s a setup, is priceless. I find it hilarious how long Maurice Gibb stays on stage at the end and casually says ‘I’ll see you later Clive’.

2. Michael J Fox on The Wogan Show

Terry Wogan was the next in line to the throne of UK chat shows behind Parkinson. He had a great show in the 80s that I have very fond memories of. I have very vivid memories too of watching this interview with Michael J Fox as a kid when it aired. There’s nothing funny or awkward about it, but it’s just such a classic interview that I remember extremely fondly. I’m sure it happened in the same week as some new BTTF cereal promotion and I was just so excited about the movie. The interview was when he was on his Back to the Future promo tour and it was off the back of this interview that we sent to see it in the cinema. I had been looking for this interview for years and someone only uploaded it to YouTube fairly recently. Wogan did another great interview that year with Jeff ‘Chunk’ Cohen from The Goonies, where Jeff shows off his incredible hat collection, but I can’t seem to find that one anywhere. I’m sure it was from the week before this, in November 85, because The Goonies was released in the UK the week before Back to the Future.

1. Oliver Reed on Aspel and Company

This one is incredible to watch. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the whole interview on YouTube but this clip in itself just says it all. Oliver Reed had a reputation as a big drinker. And this night he was a MASSIVE drinker by the looks of it. When he sings and dances it just looks like he is channelling his inner caveman or something quite primeval. I wonder how he felt when he watched a recording back.

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