Comedians Who Completely Lost It On Camera

If you consider stand-up comedy an art form — and why not since it's just another kind of stage performance? — it's one of the youngest art forms out there. Encyclopedia Britannica traces the origins of modern stand-up only about as far back as Mark Twain and his contemporaries. Twain was no stand-up, of course, but he did perform humorous lectures in front of an audience, which is pretty darn close to modern stand-up. It's just someone on stage trying to make you laugh. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.

As counterintuitive as it seems, being funny is serious business. There's a lot going on behind the scenes with comedians, a lot of time and energy and effort into honing that perfect joke. Toss in everyday stressors like illnesses, substance abuse, and personal issues and you've got a potential powder keg on stage under all that scrutiny. Not to mention what happens when hecklers get out of hand and push someone over the edge. So yes, sometimes a comedian just blows their top and goes all out, losing their cool. Every so often the explosion gets caught on camera. The results are sometimes awkward, sometimes hilarious, and almost always loud and intense. You may want to ask the kids to leave the room — some of these videos get a little salty.

Michael Richards went on a racist rant

There was a time when everyone in the world seemed to be in love with Seinfeld and, in turn, Kramer. The quirky neighbor character was brought to life memorably by Michael Richards who most audiences probably had never seen prior to that role. While Seinfeld made him a massive star, it was what happened after that became the memory most people now have of Richards — an unhinged and angry racist.

During a set at the Laugh Factory back in 2006, Richards absolutely lost it on a pair of African-American audience members he claimed were interrupting his set by talking. After shouting insults at them, things take a stark turn when he blasts out the n-word repeatedly, shocking the audience. Richards continues to pace the stage and double down on his racism, tossing out the word no fewer than seven times. By this point audience members start to walk out and Richards simply wanders off stage.

The aftermath of this incident essentially ended Richards' career. He offered up a weak apology the next day on David Letterman's show trying to claim he wasn't racist, that he simply got angry over being heckled and lost his temper, as noted in The Guardian. But the tone and delivery of his apology was bizarre to say the least, and Richards has done stunningly little work in Hollywood ever since.

Katt Williams tried to fight his audience

Katt Williams has been doing stand-up comedy since the 1990s and has a reputation for his love of colorful language and also marijuana. The thing that started overshadowing that, however, was his tendency to act out in unpredictable ways. According to USA Today, Williams has been arrested at an airport for carrying a stolen gun, as well as later incidents including intimidating a witness, assault with a deadly weapon, camera theft, and battery among many others. For a pot-smoking comedian, he's not very chill.

One of the most ridiculous incidents Williams was involved in, that actually led to a class-action lawsuit against him according to TMZ, was also caught on camera in 2012. Williams was performing in Oakland at the Oracle Arena and just lost the narrative completely. In a series of videos that chronicled the incident, Williams removes clothing, challenges numerous audience members to fights, and actually assaults someone with a bottle. The entire rant is vulgar and confusing. The audience clearly started out on Williams' side but by the end were actively booing him while he ranted and criticized them all.

A judge eventually ordered Williams to take anger management classes, according to the LA Times. Whether that had any effect on him or if he treats that like a joke remains to be seen.

Bill Burr refused to be booed off stage

Bill Burr has a reputation in comedy for being both incredibly funny and for not backing down. He says controversial things, he has controversial opinions, and he does not shy away from anything. Part of his act is to shock folks with offensive jokes. There's always a section of an audience that likes someone specifically because other people are getting riled up, and you can definitely attribute some of Burr's appeal to that mode of thinking.

Knowing the kind of person Bill Burr is, it may not be surprising to see how he handled a now legendary performance in Philadelphia back in 2006. Burr was performing at something called the Traveling Virus Comedy Show. For whatever reason, the crowds hated it. Several acts before Burr were booed off the stage, according to Philly Voice. Burr was not about to be intimidated. He had over 12 minutes of stage time and he told the crowd right from the get-go he was going to use every second of it to absolutely lay waste to the audience. So he lobbed 12 solid minutes of brutal, vulgar insults at the crowd, at Philadelphia, at everything that city might hold dear from the Flyers to Philly cheesesteaks to Rocky. No one and nothing was spared.

Ten thousand audience members (Philadelphians, no less!) were roasted like never before. Never forget.

A heckler caused Lisa Lampanelli to spiral out of control

In the 1990s, Lisa Lampanelli started making waves as an insult comic in numerous comedy roasts, becoming a staple on the Comedy Network roasts of celebrities like David Hasselhoff, William Shatner, and Donald Trump. Her style was beyond abrasive and heavily relied on racist and homophobic humor, though she is known to support various gay charities.

In 2018 at a show in San Jose, a heckler interrupted Lampanelli during her act, and she was not about to let it slide. While many comedians will either ignore a heckler or, to the delight of the audience, burn them with a wicked comeback or two, that wasn't what Lampanelli did. For a solid six minutes, Lampanelli raged against the heckler who, at one point, offered her a $100 bill to shut up.

Things went from bad to worse, however, as Lampanelli turned on not just the heckler but the entire crowd. She exploded in a foul-mouthed rant and eventually walked right off stage, ending the show. NBC noted later that many fans were disappointed with what happened since a number of them were fully supportive of Lampanelli and she took it out on everyone. Focus your rage, Lisa!

Maragret Cho's audience walked out on her bizarre set about rape

In 2016 at a comedy club in New Jersey, Margaret Cho broke down on stage in a way that absolutely set the audience on edge. Page Six described Cho as repeating joke setups again and again while focusing heavily on the topic of rape. Audience members quickly grew uncomfortable as Cho couldn't seem to get a punchline out, and video shows the crowd pretty much ignoring her on stage as many people leave. Cho can be heard heckling audience members, telling them they won't get any of their money back. She was actually wrong about that, as the club did, in fact, have to issue refunds to unsatisfied customers.

Cho later issued an apology claiming she was jetlagged, and then saying the death of Garry Shandling had affected her, according to ET Online. The Guardian points out, however, that Cho checked into rehab shortly after this happened. As Cho had needed to be helped onto the stage, had repeated the same story several times, and couldn't really remember her act at all, and it seems like perhaps there was more than jetlag going on.

Todd Glass made an example out of a rude heckler

Todd Glass has been performing comedy in clubs since the early 1980s. He became more of a household name in the early 2000s after appearing on NBC's comedy reality show/contest Last Comic Standing. He's been a regular on a number of late night talk shows and also has his own podcast as well as a Netflix comedy special. It's safe to say Glass is doing all right after paying his dues for such a long time.

Given that Glass has been in the business so long, he's more than capable of handling the odd heckle. One such incident in 2008 rose to new heights, however, when Glass decided to make an example out of a woman who couldn't keep quiet during the show but, more importantly, was being rude. The audience member was visibly drunk and had been talking through other performances prior to Glass taking the stage.

Glass started telling a story about an interaction with the woman on his way to the stage and how he tried to shush her during another comedian's set. She trash-talked him, and Glass went off on her because she refused to apologize, calling her out until she was removed from the club. His beef? Since she didn't know who he was, that meant she felt entitled to be rude to anyone, including staff, and he wasn't going to let her get away with that. True justice.

Hannibal Buress made a joke out of getting arrested

Hannibal Buress really came into the spotlight as a comedian for one of the most bizarre reasons ever — he outed Bill Cosby. Obviously the allegations of sexual abuse against Cosby had been around for many years, but the fact that Buress as an up-and-coming comedian made a point of including that in his act and telling people to read about it sparked something huge. According to the Washington Post, the bit was filmed at a show in 2014 and it went viral, rocketing Buress into the spotlight.

Since capturing the public eye, Buress has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies; he even got a role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Maybe that fame is what in some part fueled his curious breakdown in early 2018 when police body cam footage was released of Buress being arrested for disorderly intoxication.

The arrest was also filmed by passers-by who recognized Buress; in that footage the comedian is going off on the cops for taking him into custody, demanding to know what he'd done. In earlier footage taken by police, Buress is laughing and joking around, making fun of the officer asking him to leave. The cop quickly has enough and puts the cuffs on Buress who demands again and again and again to know why he's being arrested. At least you took down Cosby, man.

A rambling Pablo Francisco fell off stage and left in an ambulance

Pablo Francisco first got into the public eye on MAD TV back in the 1990s and subsequently carved a niche for himself as a comedian with a quick wit who could change voices on a dime. That allowed him to pepper his act with numerous impressions, most notably the movie voiceover guy and celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Casey Kasem. It was at a Sacramento show in 2017 that things fell apart.

For no less than 10 awkward minutes Francisco seemed to have no idea what he was doing, repeating lines over and over and over. He continually tells the crowd he won't leave the stage, he starts the same Arnold Schwarzenegger impression countless times, repeats a line from an All State commercial, and at one point literally falls off the stage. Eventually his mic stops working, the house lights come up, the stage lights go down, and music starts playing, but Francisco keeps insisting he won't leave and gets into a worse loop of saying the same things over and over.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Francisco was taken from the club in an ambulance after he was escorted from the stage. Later, his publicist issued a statement saying Francisco would be taking a break from comedy.

Andy Kaufman went off script on an SNL ripoff

In all of comedy, few comedians were ever more perplexing to audiences than Andy Kaufman. Separating reality from performance was remarkably hard in Kaufman's world, something he seemed to relish. He famously got into a fight with wrestler Jerry "the King" Lawler on David Letterman's show in 1982 that wasn't revealed as a fake for 13 years, according to Uproxx. Kaufman was all about the performance; not even Letterman knew it was all an act.

In 1981, Andy Kaufman was on an SNL knockoff called Fridays. During one infamous skit, his character was to leave a restaurant table and get high, then come back. Kaufman left but when he returned he didn't follow the script, instead telling the other actors he felt stupid and couldn't play "high."

Things got tense when future Seinfeld star Michael Richards, also acting in the scene, actually grabbed the cue cards and held them up in front of Kaufman. Then another actor smeared butter on Kaufman's face, and everything fell apart. Crew got on set to break everyone up as Kaufman and someone else got into an actual fight. Cut to commercial.

The fallout from the episode is credited with giving the failing show a second season, according to Mental Floss. No one knew the event was staged — some of the crew hadn't even been informed. To audiences, it looked like Andy Kaufman had simply lost his mind.

Carlos Mencia and Joe Rogan threw down over joke theft

Comedian feuds are rare but not unheard of. One comedian has a beef with another maybe trash-talking them, and occasionally it comes to light. Generally there seems to be a professional courtesy, however, and comedians are cool with each other. This was 100 percent not the case with Joe Rogan and Carlos Mencia. Rogan had set his sights on Mencia as a joke thief and called him out publicly.

Since a joke is a comedian's livelihood, stealing jokes is pretty much the worst crime one comedian can do to another. Rogan confronted Mencia on stage at the Comedy Store in 2007, interrupting Mencia's act and calling him a thief. The audience was on Mencia's side, and the Comedy Store eventually banned Rogan as a result, as detailed by Record Online, because Mencia was a better audience draw at the time.

Other comedians also accused Mencia, however, including George Lopez. People began pointing out similarities between Mencia's acts and bits performed by Bill Cosby and Sam Kinison. Mencia would go on Marc Maron's WTF podcast years after the fact and come out very much sounding like a guilty man. But it was that first confrontation with Joe Rogan that set the ball in motion and started the downward spiral of Mencia's career.