Skip to content

9 Little Richard TV Appearances That Changed Everything

Little Richard circa 1985 in New York
NEW YORK - CIRCA 1985: Little Richard circa 1985 in New York. (Photo by Images/Getty Images)

Little Richard is for the children (1991)
Before she jammed with the Circle Jerks and posed for Playboy, Debbie Gibson rang in her post-Electric Youth era with Little Richard on a positively eight-legged rendition of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” for the Disney Channel’s For Our Children special to benefit pediatric AIDS research.  Amazing to think that was even a thing in 1991, and it won’t surprise a soul to learn that the wailing piano man stole the show.

Rocking the fuck out of “Rubber Duckie” (1994)
When he was recruited by the Children’s Television Workshop to tackle one of Sesame Street‘s most cherished singalongs, Little Richard stole the show from Ernie on the beloved character’s own greatest hit, complete with a Muppet owl on squawking saxophone. He howls the praises of America’s favorite fake plastic waterfowl seated at the only grand piano/bathtub hybrid in existence.

Sprint PCS commercial (2003)
Little Richard turned out to be quite the in-demand TV pitchman in the 21st century, with commercials for Geico, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Lipton, and Revlon all under his belt. Yet there’s something endearingly unhinged about the singer during this particular bowling alley spot for Sprint. His second-most memorable ad spot: Being cast as a genie in a 1991 Nike commercial alongside Spike Lee and Michael Jordan.

Little Richard’s Final Message (2017)
Penniman renounced his natural sexuality when he became a Seventh Day Adventist. That’s important to keep that in mind if you tune in to what ended up being his very last public appearances on a streamed broadcast of his sermon at a devout Christian camp. The ignorance in parts, especially his latter-day stance on homosexuality, isn’t easy to stomach, even if you know his complicated history. But many of the stories he shares with the congregation about his career over the course of this 75-minute mass are rewarding, and his public presence is always a reminder of his enduring star power. We’re thankful he had lived so many different lives already.