4 Unluckiest Live Performances Ever

  • April 26, 2010
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Dick Shawn

Unlike Tommy Cooper, Dick Shawn was a comedian that people actually liked offstage. Where Tommy was a dick, Dick was a success. He starred in over 30 movies, had a successful Broadway career, and performed stand up for over 30 years. While what happened to him was ironic, it is nowhere near as funny as Tommy Cooper (ironically).

dick shawn

That hair is simply breathtaking.

After decades of success, several Friar’s club roasts (where he successfully one-upped the more “shocking” roasts one time by not even trying to make dirtier jokes; he simply walked up to the mic, pretended to get sick from all of the disgusting jokes and then proceeded to “puke” pea soup all over himself and the people sitting around him) and a lead role in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad world, he still maintained his stand up routine, which shows some pretty decent stamina.

His last show was in 1987, and you have probably gathered from the comparisons to Tommy Cooper what happened. Dick was doing a joke about himself and the audience surviving a nuclear war, when he made a joke that he was a politician who would not lay down on the job. A few minutes later, he fell down on his face and just laid there. The audience thought it was hilarious.

He had actually had a massive heart attack (as opposed to the little tiny ones no one cares about). People hooted and generally thought he was really trying to sell the act (again, for hilarity), but then a stage hand came out because, lying motionless on your face requires more dedication than even a seasoned stand-up comic (although Tom Green is welcome to try the Dick Shawn method), checked him, then asked if there was a doctor in the house. Luckily, the audience didn’t just think he was trying to be funny, and a man went on stage and tried CPR on Dick.

The audience was told to go home, and guess what? They didn’t, because most of them thought it was till part of the act. Not until paramedics arrived did most of the audience get it into their heads that something was very wrong and no, they weren’t kidding, GO HOME.

It took an announcement in the San Diego Union for people to get that Dick Shawn was actually dead, although judging from the pea soup joke, I imagine Mr. Shawn thought the whole incident was a great send-off.


Owen Hart

Owen Hart was the younger brother of Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and a pro wrestler called “The Blue Blazer”. Now, pretty much everyone except for choice sections of the Bible Belt know that professional wresting is well choreographed, and set up to be as safe as can be expected when two 300 lb bags of muscle throw themselves at each other. However, sometimes to get the crowd going, they do things a bit more showy.

owen hart01

As you can see, he perfectly portrayed the combination of mullet and muscle (plus that little bit of douche-nipple showing) to get pro wrestling fans frothing at the mouth. Now, for the record, the last time I watched pro wrestling, I lived in Indiana and was 10, so I am sketchy about the details of Hart’s career, but from what I read, his shtick was to play a “buffoonish superhero”.

On May 23, 1999, Owen was scheduled to perform a stunt that he had done a few times before; he would be lowered into the ring on a harness, pretend to become entangled in the last few feet, then trip a quick release and fall on his face into the ring, before getting up and working the crowd. Sadly (and I am not trying to be ironic), while he was getting ready and adjusting his cape, he apparently tripped the quick release, so instead of dropping free when mere feet from the mat, he dropped 78 feet and hit his chest on the top rope less than a foot from the turnbuckle.

The announcer made sure that this didn’t wind up comically confusing like Dick Shawn and Tommy Cooper and announced that Owen was very badly hurt, this was not part of the script, and that he needed help. Owen was rushed to the hospital, but died of blunt trauma to the chest.

His family sued the s?*t out of the WWF and the manufacturer of the harness for negligence, and after a year and a half in court, was awarded $18 million in a settlement. His widow started the Owen Hart Foundation with the money, so this was clearly not a case of “the millions of dollars will make me feel better about the tragedy.”

Meanwhile, Edna Mode was indirectly proven right in her assessment of superheroes and capes.

owen hart02

“No Capes!”

Written by David Dietle – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com

Image Sources

Image sources:

  • - Karl Wallenda: http://www.highonadventure.com/Hoa09jun/SteveLynn/KarlWallenda.jpg
  • - Tommy Cooper: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d6/Tommycooper.jpg
  • - Dick Shawn: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/df/Dshawn.jpg/180px-Dshawn.jpg
  • - Owen Hart: http://getreadytorumble.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/owen-hart1.jpg http://www.virginmedia.com/images/pixar-incrediblesedna-300x400.jpg