It's been suggested that Joaquin Phoenix's bizarre and shambolic appearance on David Letterman the other night was part of an elaborate hoax - that the actor-turned-embarrassing hip-hop 'star' is plotting some kind of 'Spinal Tap'-style mockumentary about a celebrity who's lost the plot.
None of that, however, makes the footage any less mesmerizingly, agonisingly awkward to watch. The edit below (the full version has been deleted from YouTube) reveals Phoenix's disheveled, sandpit-era Brian Wilson appearance - but it doesn't capture the epic, endless wastes of flinty silence between his one-word answers and Letterman's baffled responses.
If it is indeed a hoax, it may well one day be remembered as a masterful comic performance:
The most uncomfortable interview ever? Far from it. Check out the following moments of knuckle-gnawing embarrassment…
'What is he on?', pondered those clocking Jamie Reynolds' drooping eyelids, incomprehensible mumbling and floppy-fingered 'air-bass' movements, during a post-Brit Awards interview. The answer, it turned out, was "a shitload of liquid acid".
6. Sigur Ros
Icelandic reserve meets wretched interview technique ("And how do you guys create a song?"), leading to an encounter of quite staggering hesitancy and social discomfort. The shell-shocked DJ later called it "the worst interview in the history of electronic media".
5. Crispin Glover
The guy who played George McFly in 'Back To The Future' appeared so profoundly out-of-his-mind, host David Letterman actually walked off set after narrowly escaping a boot in the face (3.30).
4. Michael Richards
The 'Seinfeld' star went on Letterman to apologise for his racist rant. Unfortunately, his general demeanour reminded the audience of Kramer, sparking a wave of unintentional giggles. Beyond awkward.
3. Sly Stone
Stone was a heavy cocaine user at this time (1970), but it's hard to know what kind of drug would cause anyone to act as eye-bulgingly whacked out and incoherent as this. Whatever it is, I'm not sure I ever want to try it.
2. Snoop Dog Vs Emu
Sat next to Rod Hull on Channel 4's 'The Word', at first Snoop – then the target of a 'Sun' campaign to "kick this evil bastard out" of the country – greeted getting pecked by Emu with bemused good humour - but by the closing credits he'd had enough, and wrestled Rod Hull to the ground.
1. The Bee Gees
They can barely stand the sight of each other, so the famously prickly Bee Gees were never likely to warm to Clive Anderson's needling 'has-been' jibes. The real agony starts three minutes in, as the frosty atmosphere boils over into outright conflict. Cue a collective walkout, capped with Barry Gibb's immortal kiss-off: "You’re a tosser, pal."