Awkward kisses are as much a part of celebrity culture as outlandish outfits and dramatic divorces, whether they’re PR stunts or not. Who could forget Madonna kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 Video Music Awards? Or Madonna kissing Drake at Coachella? Or Madonna kissing Anderson Cooper at the 2013 GLAAD Awards? Of course, the world of weird kisses stretches far past Madonna too… like Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley’s painfully forced kiss. Or Katy Perry kissing Miley Cyrus, and actually not liking kissing that girl all that much.
When these uncomfortable kisses happen during interviews, the awkward factor gets turned up big time. Even kisses that didn’t happen — like Joe Namath’s famous attempt at kissing reporter Suzy Kolber after he’d had a few too many in-game cocktails — make us all cringe. But when kisses do hit their mark, it can make for some highly entertaining television. Whether it’s sideline reporters getting an unexpected peck from an athlete, or a star running into an ex at an awards party, celebrities have given us some fantastically strange interview kisses. Here’s a look at some of the most awkward kisses that happened during interviews.
Marlon Brando planted an awkward kiss on Larry King
Watching sexual tension between two older individuals can feel a little awkward for viewers almost any time, but you could imagine how it must have felt to audiences back in 1994, before men kissing on TV was a pretty normal thing. Typically hard-nosed interviewer Larry King spent the better part of 90 minutes flirting with a 70-year-old Marlon Brando, hitting him in the head with note cards and adorning him with flattery like, "Time goes so fast with you."
Brando, for his part, played right back, at one point dabbing the suspenders-donning host’s head with a towel when he started to sweat up and leading him into a duet of "I Can’t Get Started." Brando, for his part, looked hardly the heartthrob of his A Streetcar Named Desire days, and The Washington Post described him as "a somewhat dissolute Roman Emperor … From the waist down, he appeared sloppy and corpulent."
As the hour-and-a-half love fest finished, King and Brando broke into another duet, this time stammering through "Got a Date With an Angel." When they finished, Brando turned to King and said, "Darling, goodbye," and the two pecked on the mouth. The moment stuck with King, who in 2010 told New York Magazine‘s Laura Ingraham that he still "can’t stop thinking about it."
50 Cent attempted to kiss Erin Andrews at the Daytona 500
Sometimes, what looks like an awkward kiss is just a serious case of miscommunication. After the 2013 Daytona 500, Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews was perusing the pits looking for driver Danica Patrick, when, out of seemingly nowhere, she spotted rapper 50 Cent. After Andrews changed course to greet him, Fiddy leaned in for a kiss, and Andrews looked a little like a boxer trying to dodge a punch as she moved left to right before finally showing him the cheek.
Though the moment looked painfully awkward, Andrews later told Access Hollywood (via USA Today) it was a serious miscommunication. "I went and said hello [to him]. We’re actually business partners — I’m one of the spokespeople for SK Energy." She continued, "I went one way, he went the other," adding, "They’re screaming in my ear, ‘Danica! Danica! Go get Danica!’ I whipped my neck. I made him look bad."
For his part, the man, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, told The Sporting News, "I wanted to kiss her, man," noting, "I think she handled it amazingly, too. It was just an awkward moment."
NBA star Tristan Thompson awkwardly kissed reporter Allie Clifton
The NBA preseason is often a less formal time for the league, and that goes just as much for interviews as it does for what happens on the court. This informality was especially evident before a 2014 game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Dallas Mavericks, when Cavs player Tristan Thompson was engaging in some sideline chatter with reporter Allie Clifton.
After rattling off the usual collection of sports interview clichés, Thompson confusingly said, "You know how I do, Tina," and winked at the camera. Thompson then flashed an oversized grin before leaning in and kissing the side of Clifton’s head. "He just goes off the feel of the game. Just like he does with interviews, I guess," Mills said to close the awkward interview.
Some found it funny. Some did not, as Yahoo! Sports writer Kelly Dwyer said it could be "a mortifying thing for this reporter, and Thompson couldn’t be more in the wrong." Clifton, however, seemed to shrug it off, tweeting shortly afterward, "@RealTristan thing was inside joke & not a big deal. We have a good working relationship. All is good."
Kathy Griffin once crawled across a desk to kiss Piers Morgan
You think silence during a date is awkward? Try silence during a nationally televised interview with a comedian known for their unpredictable antics. After Piers Morgan asked Kathy Griffin if she worried about "being taken seriously," she responded with a curt, "No," and then left about seven seconds of dead air. Morgan asked, "Are you going to fill the gap, or am I?"
And fill the gap she did, gazing across at Morgan with hungry eyes, crawling atop his desk, and slowly moving towards him. Despite Morgan telling her to "sit down," Griffin persisted and crossed the desk, giving Morgan two kisses on the face. Flustered, Morgan somehow managed to continue the interview, but not before telling Griffin, "If you don’t mind my saying so, you’re a very attractive lady."
Notably, earlier in the interview, Griffin had joked, "I’m counting backwards from 10. Don’t hit the host, kiss him. Kiss him."
This Belgian cyclist and reporter accidentally locked lips
Ah, the Tour de Flanders. Long considered not just a cycling race but a place for accidental lovers to finally realize their destiny. No? Well that almost seemed the case ahead of the 2019 race, when reporter Linde Merckpoel was interviewing Belgian cyclist Stijn Steels about the upcoming Tour.
As the interview was ending, Merckpoel put her arm around the cyclist and leaned in to give him a farewell peck on the cheek. Steels had the same idea, turning toward Merckpoel, and suddenly they shared an on-camera kiss. Both recoiled in shock, but seemed to share a laugh.
The reporter tweeted out the video with the caption, "Sorry baby. I can explain." Steels, for his part, gained newfound notoriety from the incident, telling Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, as reported by the The Sun, "I have received a huge number of text messages. On Instagram, even people from Russia, Germany and so on have sent me a message. In Russia that video has been viewed more than two million times." He added, "I have driven a super bad course, but have never received so much attention."
Moral of the story: If you know you can’t win, kiss a reporter before the race and no one will remember who did.
Will Smith slapped a Ukrainian reporter after this kiss
Though the details of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s marital arrangements are one of Hollywood’s great speculations, we’re going to guess the list of permissible activities does not include kissing Ukrainian TV reporters on the red carpet. Or perhaps it does, but Smith just wasn’t down for some condoned dalliance with prankster Vitalii Sediuk, who asked the Men in Black 3 star for a hug at the film’s Moscow premiere.
Recalling the moment on a Late Show interview shortly afterwards, Smith told David Letterman (via Daily Mail), "He says, ‘I’m your biggest fan, can I have a hug?’ So I go to give this joker a hug, and he tries to lean in and kiss me!" Smith pulled away, asking Sediuk what his problem was before giving him a little backhanded slap.
Sediuk, as it turns out, was not actually a reporter but rather a video prankster who, among other things, once gave Madonna a bouquet of hydrangeas, which she hates. He apologized for the Smith incident in a video for Hip Hollywood (via Daily Mail), saying, "I apologize for my behavior… I think it was too much." He added, "I just wanted to do something extraordinary to impress him."
Will Smith kissed his son Jaden Smith on the mouth
Dads embarrassing you in public is usually limited to wearing socks that go past the knees or a shirt he owned 50 pounds ago. But this is not the case if you’re Jaden Smith, whose father, Will Smith, thought giving him a mouth kiss on live TV was a perfectly dad-like thing to do. The Smiths went on Thailand’s The Woody Show to promote their new movie After Earth in 2013. There the elder Smith grabbed his son by the face and planted one right on his lips.
It may not have been the usual form of paternal affection some of us are used to, but apparently it isn’t at all unusual at the Smith house. "That happens all the time," Jaden said later in an interview with Hip Hollywood. "After the set, he’ll try and kiss me. Or anywhere else."
Orlando Bloom interrupted ex Miranda Kerr’s interview with a kiss
Running into your ex at a party is never not awkward. But if you’re a famous model, your ex is an award-winning actor, and that "party" is the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty, well, that ramps up the awkwardness by a factor of about 100. This was the fate of poor Miranda Kerr, who, mid-interview after the 2014 awards, appeared to spot her ex-husband somewhere off camera. The Victoria’s Secret beauty clearly looked distracted, before Bloom showed up and gave Kerr a polite kiss on her cheek.
"You look amazing," he said. Kerr managed a shy, "Oh, thanks. Hi," before Bloom followed up with, "You well?" to which she nodded. The awkwardness of that moment is both painful and comforting, as anyone who’s experienced the same bizarre post-breakup small talk can clearly see celebs suffer through it too.
"We still love and care for each other deeply," The Mirror quoted Kerr as saying sometime before the awkward awards show run-in. Though some might think that’s just PR talk, judging from this encounter, it appears to be true.
Howard Stern kissed Ellen DeGeneres to make the world change the subject
Howard Stern is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of appropriateness on his own show. But during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2019, he pushed the boundaries there too, cajoling the woman who pioneered women kissing women on TV into kissing him. Somewhat surprisingly, it may have been a good PR move for both of them.
Prior to Stern’s appearance, Ellen DeGeneres had caught some heat for sitting with former president George W. Bush at a football game. And though DeGeneres defended herself to her audience, saying, "I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s ok that we’re all different," the story stayed top of mind (via E! News). Enter Stern, who had a bright idea to shift the focus to something far less controversial.
"What you need to do, in my opinion, is take a picture with me, making out with me," Stern said, his wife, Beth, sitting in the audience. "Once people see me with you, no one’s going to be thinking about George Bush." DeGeneres balked and tried to change the subject, but eventually Stern got his kiss. "I think there was tongue," he said, which DeGeneres very much denied.
Joe Namath wanted to kiss reporter Suzy Kolber on the football field
Kinda like how Darth Vader never actually said, "Luke, I am your father," we have collectively Mandela-effected Joe Namath’s infamous sideline interview with ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber. Because even though Broadway Joe famously told Kolber, "I want to kiss you," he never actually did. Still, the drunken kiss that wasn’t went down in the annals of pop culture, setting the standard for embarrassing sideline interviews.
For those who don’t recall, Namath was called down to the field during a Jets-Patriots game on Dec. 20, 2003. After being asked about the Jets "struggling," he bluntly told Kolber, "I want to kiss you." Namath went on to say he "couldn’t care less about the team struggling." It was, admittedly, a low point for the former quarterback.
"I saw it as a blessing in disguise," Namath said in his book All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters (via The Washington Post). "I had embarrassed my friends and family and could not escape that feeling. I haven’t had a drink since."
Jamie Doran kissed Ciarran Stott from the Australian version of The Bachelorette
You don’t need to have watched a single episode of the Australian version of The Bachelorette to fully appreciate comedic awkwardness of a tatted-up Brit getting a big wet one from an Australian firefighter. Jamie Doran (the firefighter) and Ciarran Stott (the tatted-up Brit) were former contestants on the show, who agreed to do a video interview with Aussie talk show The Project after they’d both left The Bachelorette.
Project host Gorgi Coghlan asked Doran to give Stott a hug, as he’d had to leave The Bachelorette when his grandmother suddenly passed away. "I’d love to," Doran replied. Then after embracing Stott, he put an awkward kiss right on his cheek. Stott leaned away, recoiling in disgust.
"Don’t get on a stage five with me now, pal," he said after breaking away from the hug. The comment is especially funny for fans of the show, as Yahoo! Lifestyle reported that Doran became known as a "stage five clinger," for his intense attachment to Bachelorette Angie Kent.
Diane Keaton went on a kissing spree on The Graham Norton show
It was almost like a middle school game of spin the bottle when Diane Keaton showed up on The Graham Norton Show in 2017. During her interview, Keaton and host Graham Norton got on the topic of on-screen kisses, and the Oscar-winning actress raved, "Think of all the men that you get to kiss, and you don’t pay the price!"
She went on to put her, well, mouth where her mouth was. She sashayed over to Norton and kissed him on the mouth. The host admitted, "This is so exciting for me," before the actress moved on to fellow guest Kevin Bacon, who seemed just as enthused to lock lips. Not content just to kiss men, Keaton told the crowd, "Now I want to kiss Jessica too!" referring to fellow guest Jessica Chastain.
Not one to spoil the party, the Zero Dark Thirty star stood up, giggling nervously, and let Keaton take control. The older woman grabbed Chastain by the head, causing Chastain to exclaim, "Oh my god, what is happening?" And Keaton kissed her straight on the lips.
Stephen Colbert got an awkwardly passionate kiss from Dame Helen Mirren
Sometimes you’ve just gotta shoot your shot, even when you’re an Oscar-winning Dame in her majesty’s court. Such was the logic of Dame Helen Mirren when she appeared on The Late Show in 2016, giving the usual introductory handshake… and then kissing host Stephen Colbert. And this was all before she even sat down. Mirren gracefully moved on, gave the audience a little shrug, then beckoned the still-stunned Colbert to join her at his desk since he didn’t seem to know where to go.
"If I didn’t do it then, I’d never get to do it," the Prime Suspect star said as Colbert regained composure. "I have been dreaming of doing that for about 15 years. I just grabbed my chance. I’m sorry." Colbert didn’t seem to mind though, saying it was "one of the nicest greetings" a guest had ever given him.
"Helen Mirren came out and, without any warning, kissed me on the lips, passionately with her hand on the back of my head, and everything has been downhill from then," he later said of the kiss during an interview on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen.