A “blooper” is an error, usually accidental and humorous and, for the most part, made during a live radio or TV broadcast, but they also occur in the sports world. With the pressure that performers endure, it’s not surprising that such goofs happen.
“Blooper” was coined from the word bloop, a term used in 1920s American radio to refer to the annoying feedback noise that affected nearby radios when users tuned their sets incorrectly. Another term for bloopers is outtakes, though an outtake is not necessarily humorous.
Some common examples of bloopers include:
Uncontrollable laughter (called, in television and acting circles, corpsing);
Unanticipated incidents (a prop falling or breaking, a child/animal failing to behave);
A prank or practical joke (to evoke laughter from cast and crew).
In recent years, mobile phones have been a new source of bloopers because of people forgetting to turn them off. The effect is especially pronounced when the film setting is before the modern era (e.g., ancient Greece or Rome).
With the coming of DVD in the 1990s, it became common for major film releases to include a “blooper reel” as bonus material on the disc. In 1985, Steve Rotfeld began compiling stock footage of sports-related errors and mistakes and produced a program known as Bob Uecker’s Wacky World of Sports. Among many other instances of collections of bloopers was Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things.
One of the earliest known bloopers that existed long before movies and TV, is attributed to 1930s radio broadcaster Harry Von Zell, who accidentally referred to then-US President Herbert Hoover as “Hoobert Heever” during an introduction.
On an episode of The Red Skelton Show in the 1950s, a skit involving Red’s “country bumpkin” character “Clem Kadiddlehopper,” had him leading a cow onto the stage. Several seconds into the live broadcast, the cow defecated on stage. Whereupon the audience laughed uncontrollably, and Skelton resorted to the use of the ad-libs.
A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio announcer’s station-identification message once allegedly came out “This is the Dominion Network of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration,” thus coining an oft-used sarcastic term for the public broadcaster.
As embarrassing as bloopers may be for those committing them, they certainly afford the rest of us some good laughs.