The Nuttiest Moments in ‘American Idol’ History


Last night on American Idol, Iggy Pop exploded onto the stage to give a shirtless performance of “Real Wild Child (Wild One)” and dance around like a hyperactive four-year old at a Chuck E. Cheese’s birthday bash. Weird, right? Not only that American Idol is still on the air or that the 63-year-old Pop is allowed to be so chillingly shirtless on live network TV, but that the suburban-mom favorite hasn’t yet been prescribed the programming equivalent of Valium. Because, really, this isn’t the show’s first foray into the quaint town of WTF-ville, USA. After the jump, we count some of American Idol’s craziest moments. This one’s for you, Paula Abdul: You made it okay for men and women everywhere to act clinically insane on reality TV.

That Time Simon and Paula Kissed

In 2007, American Idol decided to cash in on the cultural magic that was the love/hate relationship that unfolded between Simon and Paul each week by airing a sketch of the combative judges on a date and in the mood for romance. Unsurprisingly, clip was memorable more for its discomforting use of bad porn tropes than any sort of humor or entertainment value. Can you really blame XxXPaulaLiveLoveDanceXxX and her cohorts for the steady stream of R-rated Paula/Simon fanfiction that came out in the wake of AI‘s many bizarre allusions to the relationship? No way. She had us on her side the second we read, “Simon, I love you, and I don’t mean love as in how I love Ryan or Randy.”

Bikini Girl’s Head-to-Head with Kara Dioguardi

We know it’s hard to believe, but this one AI contestant wore a bikini instead of normal person clothing to her audition. Naturally, everyone in every state across the nation laughed and gave her the creative nickname “Bikini Girl.” Then the show pulled a crazy stunt for its finale that season and brought her back for a performance! In a bikini! To keep raising the stakes, the show’s most forgettable judge ever, Kara Dioguardi (who once got in a tiff with Bikini Girl), came out and sang with her, ripping off her own dress to reveal — get this — a bikini! That’s right, a performance battle between Bikini Girl and Bikini Middle-Aged-Woman. This show, you guys!

Paula Abdul Critiques a Song That Wasn’t Performed

Contestant Jason Castro from 2008 received a real doozy of a critique from Ms. Abdul, when she called him out on a lack of charm during his second performance of the night — a song he hadn’t yet performed. Fans were confused as a gentle Randy Jackson reminded Paula he had only performed one song. Many thought it was evidence that the show was scripted, but, realistically, it probably means that the judges keep notes from rehearsal performances (which, still, may not be entirely ethical). Or it’s further proof that Paula showed up to every show sloshed.

The Curious Case of Brian Dunkleman

Once upon a time, in Season 1, when Justin Guarini’s fluffy ‘fro entranced the nation’s pre-Biebs tween girls, Ryan Seacrest had a cohost. His name was Brian Dunkleman. He wasn’t particularly terrible or particularly… anything. But Season 2 rolled around and Seacrest stood alone for good, with Dunkleman’s disappearance never addressed on the show. New book American Idol: The Untold Story reveals that Dunkleman quit and regrets giving up on a potential fortune, but that if he hadn’t quit, he would have been fired. Ouch!

Howard Stern Adopts Sanjaya’s Cause

Season 6 contestant Sanjaya Malakar sported some of the most insane outfits and impressive hairstyles (Hey there, world’s most impressive mowhawk!) American Idol had seen. And the pubescent girls? Oh, how they loved him. Simon really didn’t, though, because our main man was a pretty subpar singer by Top 12 standards. Each round he advanced, anti-Sanjaya sentiment rose, with Simon leading an army of angry detractors. Radio show host Howard Stern found this pretty freaking funny, so he rallied his listeners to keep voting Sanjaya through. The contestant survived five full weeks of Simon’s public denouncements to make it to seventh place, when grandma votes finally overpowered the ironic sector.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Week

Iggy Pop wasn’t American Idol’s only bizarre musical guest. One of the show’s themes for Season 7 was “Andrew Lloyd Webber week,” featuring the musical theater composer himself as the contestants’ mentor for the week. We’re guessing the producers got kind of bored with the usual totally normal and groove-along-able themes like “the 1960s” and “country music,” so they turned instead to the songbooks of The Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar. What a fun (?) auditory experience! Not weird at all.

William Hung: Superstar

Before the show started so openly pursuing schadenfreudic interest in laughing at the clueless people who turn up for first-round auditions (now a dime dozen each season), there was William Hung, the tiny, good-hearted Asian man who sang America’s favorite cover of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” His cultural stock was worth so much that he even got a cameo in an episode of Arrested Development during his 15 minutes, which even we admit was pretty awesome. Take note, Rebecca Black.

Simon Cowell’s Push-Up Competition

Season 2 manly man contestant Josh Gracin, a marine, challenged manly man judge Simon to a manly man push-up competition on live TV, because American Idol makes live TV fun and exciting like that! (Even nuttier: check out those wide-leg, high waisted pants Simon is rocking.) Simon lost and Ryan insulted him, and then the two made out. Okay, just kidding about the making out, but that would have been so American Idol.