Anything can happen during live performances. That’s what makes them so exciting and unique. But with the thrill of showcasing talent live and unedited comes the risk of embarrassing flubs. Even the most seasoned live performers aren’t immune to the occasional hilarious goof-up, which thanks to the internet, may now live on forever. These are some live performance bloopers you won’t be able to watch without laughing.
Ashlee Simpson’s SNL hoedown
I’m starting out with Ashlee Simpson’s 2004 SNL lip-sync disaster, because not only was it one of the worst-executed examples of a pretty standard practice — lots of artists use backing tracks for live performances — but also because of Simpson’s complete inability to handle the situation. Instead of pausing and waiting for the proper track to start, Simpson did the now infamous “hoedown” jig for a few seconds before fleeing the stage and scrapping the whole performance.
At the end of the show, Simpson blamed her band for playing the wrong song, then doubled down on that excuse to ET a few days later, as well as tossed in the old, “I have severe acid reflux and it was just acting up that day” excuse. Whatever really happened, it remains one of the all-time greatest live TV bloopers, as well as pretty much effectively killed any chance the “hoedown” ever had of becoming popular again. (Sorry, cartoon grandpas everywhere.)
John Travolta mangles Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars
Even in the current internet environment where literally anything is fair game to become a meme, it’s not often that a viral celeb flub gains as much traction as John Travolta’s mispronunciation of Idina Menzel’s name at The Oscars in 2014.
These days, it’s kind of awkward to watch Travolta do anything — The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, anyone? — but hearing him refer to the “Let It Go” singer as “Adele Dazeem” was more than the internet could handle. Countless parodies were born, and Slate even created the “Adele Dazeem Name Generator” which allows users to “Travoltify” their name. Just for the record, mine came out to “Ciaran Riveera” and I now realize what an opportunity my parents missed.
Miss South Carolina Teen USA fails geography
During the 2007 Miss Teen USA Pageant, contestant Lauren Caitlin Upton, representing South Carolina, was asked, “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?” Her answer can best be described as the exact opposite of what happened to Will Ferrell’s character from Old School when he blacked out during the debate and accidentally delivered a perfect, coherent response to the question.
But even that description pales in comparison to Upton’s actual words, which I will now share unedited, courtesy of The Transcription Room. “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as and I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., er should help South Africa, and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so that we will be able to build up our future for our children.”
In the equally immortal worlds of host Mario Lopez, who amazingly was not doubled over with laughter, “Thank you very much, South Carolina.”
Brooke Shields attempts to sing at The Tonys
How many attempts should one make to land an Anthony Weiner punchline in song form on live television? According to Brooke Shield’s 2011 Tony’s flub, the answer is three. That’s how many times she started over before arriving at the line, “In fact, one guy sent a twitpic of his crotch.” At one point, she even cried, “I don’t know what I’m doing — Oh my God!”
Speaking with Vulture a few days later, Shields said of the viral gaffe, “I was beyond embarrassed. I wanted to give up show business. I f****d up. They counted me in wrong; the TelePrompTer was wrong. I felt like I was having an aneurysm.”
Okay, I understand it was The Tony Awards, but that’s a bit dramatic. Even host Neil Patrick Harris said it was “worth the wait.”
Heidi Klum yodels her multi-million dollar bra into submission
According to Vogue, Heidi Klum first wore the Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bra in the lingerie company’s televised 2001 fashion show. Two years later, she made an appearance on The Tonight Show during which she was supposed to model another incarnation of the Fantasy Bra, as well as the matching panties, which were worth a ridiculous $11 million. Of course, that all makes for must-see late night TV, except Klum decided to demonstrate her yodeling ability before the striptease, and the bra broke.
Guest Martin Short and host Jay Leno scrambled to fix it, before finally giving up, at which point Klum then told a three minute story about swimming with sharks that probably felt like an eternity to those who tuned in for, well, not that. Eventually, they took a commercial break, got the bra fixed, and Klum quickly flashed the goods before musical guests The Barenaked Ladies took the stage. I see what you did there, Leno.
Harry Styles vs. mic stand
The epic showdown between Harry Styles and a mic stand occurred during a July 2015 One Direction show in San Diego. After the mop-top crooner pulled the decidedly rockstar move of taking a sip of bottled water, then pouring out the rest of it onto his throng of screaming fans, he attempted to drag a mic stand across the stage. That’s when everything went sideways.
The mic stand, apparently more of a “5 Seconds of Summer” fan, did not go along with Styles’ plan, instead getting somehow stuck on something which resulted in the singing heartthrob tripping and ragdolling himself flat out onto the stage. Admirably, the rest of 1D sang on, leaving Styles to embarrassingly collect himself.
According to TMZ, Styles later directs the crowd, “If anyone had a video of that, just delete it,” which, as evidenced above, clearly did not happen. Sorry, Mr. Styles, the internet never forgets. Mic stand – 1 Harry Styles – 0
The Biebs barfs
I recognize that it’s not really cool to laugh at someone getting sick to their stomach, but when that someone is Justin Bieber, and his excuse turns out to be that he drank too much milk, I’m sorry, but that’s hilarious.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Canadian wunderkind lost his lunch on the opening night of his Believe tour during a show in Glendale, Arizona. In the video that captured the moment, the canuck crooner seems like something is amiss as he descends some stairs arm-in-arm with a few dancers, but he keeps the show going. Unfortunately, his stomach had other plans.
He then doubles over and lets loose a remarkable amount of barf, then runs offstage. The Biebs later later tweeted, “And …. Milk was a bad choice! Lol,” which is, of course, an Anchorman reference, and may or may not be the actual reason why he got sick. But I’m choosing to believe that his pre-show ritual used to be him sitting in a chair so tall his feet didn’t touch the floor, and dunking cookies in a huge glass of milk. I don’t know why, but I love that mental image.
Katy Perry learns that icing and shiny stages don’t mix
The spectacle of a Katy Perry performance has only evolved over the years, spurring viral sensations like Left Shark at her Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show, and introducing mainstream audiences to Backpack Kid during her SNL rendition of “Swish Swish.” But early in her career, the “I Kissed A Girl” singer went viral with a messy moment at Los Premios in 2008, which MTV describes as “basically MTV’s Latin American VMAs.”
After belting out her star-making hit, Perry dives onto a gigantic, real cake. Covered in icing, she attempts to smear some on her guitarist, only to fall to the slippery stage and not be able to get back up. The clip ends with Perry literally pulling herself offstage, dragging her now useless legs behind her. Did that happen to be a rum cake, by any chance?
Michael Bolton’s national anthem cheat sheet
National anthem fails are pretty common, and I’ve even got several more coming up after this, but in the case of everyone’s mom’s absolute favorite singer, Michael Bolton, he took it to another level. It’s easy to forget the words to the song — what even are “ramparts” anyway? — and lots of singers have done it, but Bolton actually stops singing mid verse to look at the lyrics he apparently wrote on the palm of his hand. (The New York Times sports section even reported on his “long pause” when recapping the game.)
The crowd instantly turns on him, but Bolton, like the golden-throated professional he is, wins them back with a powerful finish. I do, however, have to give a shout out to the stone faced honor guardsman behind Bolton who cracks a smile after the singer resorts to his high school exam cheating tactics. I would have also accepted an eye roll, strong side eye, jaw drop, or any combination thereof.
Luke Bryan also takes a peek
Even though Michael Bolton caught flack for doing this almost a decade earlier, country star Luke Bryan also decided to to scribble lyrical crib notes on his hand for a performance of the national anthem. I’m not really sure if these guys thought the dozens of cameras or tens of thousands of fans would somehow miss them pausing, squinting down at their hand, and returning to their seemingly fauxmotional performance, but exactly the opposite happened.
Bryan quickly found himself on the wrong side of Twitter, according to ABC News, who reported that one user called his performance an “epic fail” and said he should “learn respect & remember the lyrics!” Bryan replied by apologizing and copping to the ruse, although he did say that he was also looking down to check his watch “because I knew the stealth bomber would fly over 2 minutes in and I knew a started a little late.” Oh, you were also directing fighter plane traffic? My bad, Mr. Bryan, I didn’t realize this level of multitasking was going on.
Caroline Marcil attempts to sing The Star-Spangled Banner, does everything wrong
During a 2004 Canada v. USA exhibition game, Canadian singer Caroline Marcil gives what is probably the worst performance of her life on what is likely one of the worst days of her life. She gets exactly two lines into the U.S. national anthem before going blank, saying “Sorry,” then doing it again. After stalling on the “What so proudly…” line a second time, Marcil apologizes again and exits the ice. But wait! She quickly returns with a piece of paper in hand, presumably the lyrics, only to step onto the ice and fall flat on her back.
The only way it could have been a more comprehensive blooper would have been if a piece of her clothing had also fallen off, which mercifully did not happen. Good Morning America was nice enough to invite Marcil on the show for a shot at redemption, which she reportedly nailed, although strangely that clip did not go viral like her original performance. Go figure.
Michael Bay blows up Samsung demonstration
Director Michael Bay is responsible for unleashing the seemingly endless series of Transformers (2007- ) movies onto the world, so it was only a matter of time before a piece of technology would rise up against him. Okay, that’s admittedly a bit of an exaggeration, but it was a teleprompter that derailed the explosion king’s presentation for Samsung during CES in 2014.
Almost as soon Bay walks out on stage, he’s immediately distressed. He stammers a bit, wrings his hands, and even admits that they’re having technical problems with the prompter before saying, “I’ll just wing this.” Seconds later, he says, “I’m sorry” and flees the presentation. Bay later addressed the snafu on his blog, writing that he was “embarrassed” and “I guess live shows aren’t my thing.” It sure seems like Michael Bay discovered that when it comes to public speaking there is… more than meets the eye. Yep, that just happened.
Madonna’s cape doesn’t cooperate
Madonna is known for staging some of the most elaborate live performances in pop music history. Remember, this is a woman who famously crucified herself on stage, so when her “cape fail” happened during The 2015 Brit Awards, the pop icon took it pretty hard. Discussing the incident on The Jonathan Ross Show, Madge said she got “a little bit of a whiplash” from smacking the back of her head, and that the unintended stair tumble was “a horrible nightmare” because she likes to be “amazing” and “create magic” for everyone.
Hopefully, the legendary songstress has stopped beating herself up over it, because honestly, if getting yanked off a short flight of stairs by her neck then immediately getting back up and finishing her song isn’t a magical enough moment for her fans, they never deserved the Material Girl in the first place.
Mariah Carey’s NYE show disaster
Where do I even begin here? On the eve of 2017, Mariah Carey was supposed to perform a medley of her hits for Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve, but what ended up happening was a train wreck of mythic proportions. Between Carey’s almost complete lack of effort, awkward talking over the backing track, and later slamming the production team for allegedly supplying her with faulty equipment, the show couldn’t have gone more wrong.
In a rare address of the incident, Carey spoke with Rolling Stone and said, “This was out of my control, and had everything not been such a total chaotic mess, then I would have been able to make something happen. Even the dancers should have stopped dancing and helped me off the f*****g stage. I’m sorry. It was a mess, and I blame everybody, and I blame myself for not leaving after rehearsal.”
She makes a great point there, because arguably the best thing about this clip is not watching Carey awkwardly try to perform with a supposedly malfunctioning ear monitor, but rather, the way her backup dancers charge right through their choreography as if the show is going exactly as rehearsed. Extra points for the guy who clearly panics after almost dropping her on the dip at the 2:30 mark.
Mariah Carey should have seen it coming
In a much lighter stage blooper than her NYE debacle, Mariah Carey experienced a malfunction with a giant looming butterfly prop during one of her Vegas residency shows at Caesar’s Palace. Upon watching and rewatching the clip, what becomes clear is that the comedy isn’t in the actual bonk on the head that the “Honey” singer takes, but instead, in the seconds leading up to it when the prop is just creeping in the background, and you know it’s going to happen. Pro tip: press mute and imagine the Jaws theme in your head for the full experience.
Kristen Stewart fumbles the popcorn
If awkward was a human being, it would be actress Kristen Stewart. From her years of clumsy interviews to her mousy red carpet appearances, the Twilight star has seemingly treated her fame as more of a curse than a blessing. Her acceptance of the Best Female Performance Award at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards provides a hilarious example of her socially awkward behavior when she goes to grab her golden popcorn trophy at the end of her acceptance speech, only to accidentally toss it to the floor.
She then goes to grab it, apparently freaks out, returns to the podium without actually grabbing it, and declares, “This was just as awkward as you thought it was going to be. Bye!” Even then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson gives a cringeworthy laugh in the audience as Stewart scampers offstage, still not taking the trophy as one of the presenters tries to hand it to her. Yikes. Imagine if she would have lost.
Joe Jonas’ epic goodbye
Have you ever heard the old entertainment adage “Always leave them wanting more?” Joe Jonas apparently has, or so it would seem from the way he exited one memorable Jonas Brothers show. As he and his bro band descend below the stage on a hydraulic lift, Joe plunges out of sight, leaving an arena of screaming tweens wondering if a poster on their bedroom wall just became a collector’s item.
Luckily, he was fine. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as the 2007 AMAs when he fell onto a pile of shattered prop glass and sliced open his hand during a performance of the perfectly apropos song, “S.O.S.” “Just a little blood, but, whatever, rock and roll,” Jonas famously said backstage, according to People. Top that, Axl Rose.
Alexis Normand mumbles the U.S. National Anthem
Apparently taking a page from Caroline Marcil’s playbook, Canadian singer Alexis Normand delivered her own embarrassing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a 2013 Memorial Cup game in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Normand, who has a fantastic voice, starts out strong, but quickly forgets pretty much everything between “through the perilous fight” and “home of the brave,” which is literally half the song. In place of the lyrics, she does a sort of hybrid mumble-humming until the crowd takes over and finishes the song for her. Probably the best part is how she then transitions directly from that trainwreck into “O Canada,” effortlessly slips back and forth between English and French, and absolutely nails it.
In a later interview, Normand claims she was called “the morning of” to do the gig, and that she was originally only tapped to perform the bilingual version of Canada’s national anthem, which makes total sense in hindsight. The good news is, despite offending a lot of Americans, the “silver lining” to the whole thing was that lots of people started discovering her music online. So, I guess that makes her the Celine Dion of bungled national anthem performances.
Mark Donnelly learns about ice-skating over carpet
In this clip of Canadian singer Mark Donnelly tumbling to the ice during his powerful rendition of “O Canada,” the comedy actually isn’t in the fall, but more so in the absolute confidence with which he skates directly at a carpet runner that’s been laid across the rink. He then slides into another part of the carpet where he almost gets tangled in it as he stands back up — all while continuing to sing.
In a subsequent interview, Donnelly claims he couldn’t even see the carpet there — the giant, red carpet laid across white ice — and that it was supposed to have been rolled up already before he started singing. “The great thing is that most people are not taking the fall as the big thing — they’re taking the carrying on, not giving up,” Donnelly also said, and that’s true. It’s not as though I found this clip by simply typing “Mark Donnelly” into Google upon which I didn’t even have to give any other information before being redirected me to a clip titled “Mark Donnelly Trips Over Carpet at Penticton VEES Game 10-3-14.” Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened.
Britney’s brilliant backup dancers
In these two clips involving Britney almost losing her top, her backup dancers valiantly come to her aid by either attempting on-stage wardrobe triage or just forming some sort of human curtain while she figures it out. It’s pretty remarkable, and a job requirement I had no clue these gentleman had, but apparently on top of learning complex choreography, and staying extremely fit, these guys are also tasked with making sure no one see’s Brit-Brit’s lady bits.
In the first clip, a dancer gamely tries to reconnect the dog collar strap thingy that’s holding up Britney’s bra top while she continues to dance and makes goofy faces at the crowd. It doesn’t work. In the next clip, Britney’s already having issues and holding her jean vest together when another dancer comes to her aid and wraps his sleeveless flannel around her. Then they all form a circle around her to shield her while she buttons up and emerges to finish the tune looking like a sexy Paul Bunyan. True, it’s not Madonna almost breaking her neck for her art, but there’s some impressive stagecraft going on here.
The Biebs goes boom boom
This is just a funny clip of Justin Bieber falling through what appears to be a trapdoor in the stage. Sure, it’s kind of mean to laugh at someone falling down, be we know that he wasn’t hurt, so there’s no real harm in it. Plus, he seemed to be adjusting a shirt he had tied around his ripped skinny jeans at the time, so I consider that an additional element to why it’s fair game for light mockery. Also, the whole thing presents the question: why do stages have trapdoors? I seriously thought only Bond villains used those.
Attack of the wind machines
One of the hallmarks of almost every Beyoncé live performance is that at some point in the show, she will appear to be performing in the middle of a tornado. In fact, the “Formation” singer’s windblown hair game is so strong that it was one of the most talked about aspects of her 2013 Super Bowl performance, so it was only a matter of time before that which made her great — her ever present army of wind machines — nearly took her down.
In the above clip, Queen Bey attempts to mingle with the masses when a fan on the edge of the stage snags some of her luscious locks. But like an absolute pro, she almost doesn’t miss a beat of “Halo,” which she keeps singing as concertgoers and security personnel work to free her. They get her loose after a few seconds, because obviously a simple machine is no match for Beyoncé, but how did she not even freak out for like a second?
50 Cent strikes out
There have been lots of awful first pitches thrown out at baseball games, and I’m not even going to try and say that rapper 50 Cent’s was the worst, but it has to be close. He actually does a decent wind-up, but then something goes horribly wrong and he throws the ball so wildly askew that the catcher doesn’t even attempt to get it. “Just a bit outside,” the announcer says, tongue firmly in cheek.
50 was at least a good sport about it, later jokingly explaining during a Reddit AMA that “I have a skeletal muscle injury on my left shoulder from excessive masturbation so take it easy lol.” Wait, he was joking about that, right?
Meghan Trainor knows how to end a great performance
After a pretty epic performance of her song “Me Too,” which included her doing a decent amount of choreography in a pair of sky-high platform heels, Meghan Trainor somehow got tripped up on her own feet and took a spill in front of the live studio audience on The Tonight Show. It happened just as host Jimmy Fallon was walking out to meet her, and as she was putting the mic back on the stand, so her surprised yelp and his uncontrollable laughter only amplified the moment.
Trainor returned to the show on another occasion and explained that they even reshot the entire song, but she chose to let them air the one where she fell anyway, because it was a better performance. “I’m gonna fall eventually one day, so let this be it,” she said. That’s spoken like a true entertainer right there.
Lady Gaga has no fear
Maybe it’s her elaborate costumes or the way that she seems to throw her entire body into her performance, but there probably isn’t another singer who falls onstage nearly as much as Lady Gaga. There are multiple compilation videos of her taking a tumble available widely online, so I’m singling out the above clip to highlight here, and it’s because I can’t figure out what she was even trying to achieve.
Straddling the distance above her bench and piano, and clad in what appears to be a pair of spike-heeled boots, the situation is already precarious. Then she makes a move that looks like she’s either attempting a split — which is physically impossible at this point — or trying to shove off for a jump. Either way, she bites it, and falls to the floor, somehow not slamming her head on the piano, which is on fire. Did I mention that? The piano is also on fire. It’s bananas, but I guess that’s kind of Gaga’s thing. I, for one, am glad she was okay to live and fall another day.
Thanks for the laughs, famous folks!
Thankfully, the only thing seriously injured in any of these clips was a few celebrity egos, and even in hindsight, most of them were able to laugh off their live gaffes as nothing more than a hazard of the job. Even Mimi herself has probably gotten over that tragic NYE performance. After all, it’s not like more embarrassing clips of her subpar shows have since circulated the internet.
— Halo Carterr. (@Halocarterr) July 17, 2017