We all make mistakes when we’re young, and – for most people – it’s easy to leave our most embarrassing encounters behind. Not so for celebrities, however, who often have their most humiliating pre-fame moments caught on camera – like these cringe-worthy TV appearances.
20. Aaron Paul
Aaron Paul got his first taste of fame as an excessively enthusiastic contestant on The Price is Right. The future Breaking Bad star admitted to Jay Leno that he “had six cans of Red Bull” before taping, which explains why the hyper then 20-year-old screamed, “You’re my idol” at host Bob Barker.
19. Jon Hamm
Even debonair ladies’ man Don Draper had to start somewhere, and a 25-year-old Jon Hamm was no Casanova back when, based on his 1996 appearance on The Big Date. The curtain-haired aspiring actor promised his prospective date “an evening of total fabulosity,” which included – among other creepy things – a foot massage.
18. Christoph Waltz
Christoph Waltz hasn’t always played roles as fearsome as that of Inglourious Basterds’ Hans Landa. Indeed, a 19-year-old Waltz broke out as a singer on Austrian children’s TV show Am Dam Des in 1976 wearing some less than intimidating rainbow suspenders.
17. Cate Blanchett
Prior to Oscar-winning glory, Cate Blanchett put in a truly bizarre performance on Australian variety show Hey Hey It’s Saturday. In an appearance dated to the late ’80s, fine arts student Cate crooned a weird number with lyrics like “If I was a stamp and you were my mail, I’d cling on tight as we traveled, but if you licked my back too much, I’d make your tongue go dry.”
16. Marilyn Manson
Best known as controversial rock star Marilyn Manson, Brian Warner was once a hopeful singer with an embarrassing love of MTV VJs. Appearing in an MTV studio audience in 1992, Manson brought along a lunchbox adorned with the picture of his favorite host, whom he admitted he wanted to marry.
15. Tom Hardy
He’s known for playing tough guys on screen, but Tom Hardy showed his softer side when he entered a modeling contest on the U.K.’s Big Breakfast in 1998. And though the then 20-year-old won the competition, it probably isn’t the actor’s proudest moment – owing to the cringe-worthy Alice band he sported.
14. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t exactly known for romantic film roles, so it’s surprising that one of his earliest TV appearances was as a contestant on The New Dating Game in 1973. In it, the then 26-year-old posed a series of blush-inducing questions, including a not-so-subtle request to hear a potential date’s measurements.
13. Emma Stone
Her lip-syncing skills are extraordinary, but Emma Stone rocked out to a ridiculous degree long before appearing on The Tonight Show. A 15-year-old Stone took part in reality series In Search of the Partridge Family, where she performed a raucous cover of Meredith Brooks’ “B***h,” winning the role of Laurie Partridge.
12. Lady Gaga
Losing your temper in public can be humiliating, and unfortunately for a 19-year-old Lady Gaga, one such tantrum was caught on camera. Unknowingly competing on prank show Boiling Points in 2005, the singer lost her cool after being served dirty food and so launched a potty-mouthed tirade at her server.
11. Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera’s future sassiness was evident even when the singer took part in Star Search at the tender age of ten. Aguilera wasn’t too pleased when the footage emerged on The Jay Leno Show, though, and sheepishly admitted to the host, “I didn’t even win, I came in second.”
10. Morgan Freeman
Given his Oscar-winning work in the likes of Million Dollar Baby, it’s hard to believe that Morgan Freeman started out on ’70s kids’ TV series The Electric Company. He played many characters on the show, too, but our favorite has to be DJ Mel Mounds – if only for his over-the-top afro.
9. Ewan McGregor
While being able to play a musical instrument is undoubtedly cool, the French horn tooting that Ewan McGregor did on his TV debut doesn’t win him many style points. Thankfully, the awkward 16-year-old seen in this episode of Scottish show A Touch of Music is a thing of the past.
8. Joey Fatone
This 1992 clip of teenage NSYNC star Joey Fatone on quiz show Nick Arcade definitely gave us the feels. The look of disappointment on his face upon losing the game – after incorrectly answering a question on Abraham Lincoln – makes us want to give him a hug.
7. Kirstie Alley
Though she walked out of her 1979 appearance on Match Game with a $5,000 jackpot, Kirstie Alley left it with little dignity. The future Cheers star – then a 28-year-old interior decorator – ended giving guest star Charles Nelson Reilly a few misjudged kisses in the heat of the moment.
6. Mike Myers
Mike Myers may have made a name for himself in Hollywood, but the Canadian’s career actually started on U.K. kids’ show Wide Awake Club. However, the then 23-year-old’s comic chops still had a long way to come, as his strange antics – such as making earrings out of spoons – clearly show.
5. Sacha Baron Cohen
Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen is hardly ever seen out of character, and – judging by his early hosting role on U.K. youth show F2F – perhaps that’s for the best. The then 24-year-old actor’s awkward demeanor makes him the type of host he’d later satirize through characters like Ali G.
4. Sarah Jessica Parker
Before she was educating people about fashion in Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker was informing children about science in 3-2-1 Contact. And looking at her Orphan Annie outfit, we can tell the then 15-year-old had a long way to go before stepping into Carrie Bradshaw’s sophisticated shoes.
3. Anderson Cooper
A career as a child model is something that could be excruciatingly embarrassing, and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper’s early fame is an occasional source of comedy. In particular, a clip of a nine-year-old Cooper playing a bear trainer on To Tell the Truth has him squirming in his seat while on air.
2. Britney Spears
While the bow in her hair and cute-as-a-button appearance may be hard not to giggle at, we imagine Britney Spears finds footage of her ten-year-old self difficult to watch for other reasons. The singer appeared on Star Search in 1992 but sadly came in second.
1. Ryan Gosling
It’s amazing that Drive star Ryan Gosling has scooped up his current sex-symbol status – or it is when considering his Mickey Mouse Club past. And while the actor has a treasure trove archive of embarrassing moments from his stint on the show as a teen, his cover of R&B song “Cry For You” – accompanied by Justin Timberlake, among others – is a cringe-worthy classic.