Careers

James Comey heard he'd been axed on TV news—here are 6 more crazy stories of famous firings

80495376
Mark Wilson | Getty Images

FBI Director James Comey's sudden termination Tuesday afternoon came as a shock to many, including Comey himself, who first saw the news on TV. According to reports from The New York Times, the government official was fired so unceremoniously, he actually believed it was a prank:

Mr. Comey was addressing a group of F.B.I. employees in Los Angeles when a television in the background flashed the news that he had been fired.

In response, Mr. Comey laughed, saying he thought it was a fairly funny prank ... Shortly thereafter, a letter from Mr. Trump was delivered to the F.B.I.'s headquarters, just seven blocks from the White House.

Comey's firing, however unorthodox, is a good reminder that folks both ordinary and famous are often relieved of their duties in shocking ways.

Here are a few other high-profile, memorable terminations.

Tossed off Slack

When editorial staffers were being eliminated during layoffs at Gawker Media in 2015, individuals reportedly found out when they received direct messages via the chat platform Slack asking them to come to a conference room. They then had their access to the platform revoked.

"We're finding out who got laid off by looking at the list of disabled Slack accounts. They're doing it one by one instead of a group thing," one staffer told The Awl.

Unscripted

A young Jerry Seinfeld was fired after performing poorly in a bit part on the ABC sitcom "Benson." Reportedly, no one alerted Seinfeld that he'd been eliminated, and he learned he'd no longer be appearing on the show when he arrived at a read-through and noticed that his part didn't appear in the script.

GYI0051029816.jpg
Uriel Sinai | Getty Images

Not quite ready for primetime

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" has a reputation for letting people go less than gently. Comedian Jenny Slate famously uttered an expletive during an episode of the live sketch show, but it wasn't until after the season ended that she got sacked.

"I waited all summer to get fired," Slate told Marc Maron on his podcast in 2014. As she was exiting a therapy session, she read in Deadline Hollywood that she'd been terminated.

Slate recalls phoning her agent and saying, "I just read I got fired but nobody called me." Her agent hadn't been alerted either.

Comedian Sarah Silverman was fired from her role as a featured player on "SNL" after the 1993-1994 season by fax. In response to her abrupt termination, she said, "I wrote not a single funny sketch, so that might have something to do with it."

655802065AA00679_Democratic
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Fired in mid-air

In 2013, public relations executive Justine Sacco famously tweeted, "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" before shutting off her phone for an 11-hour flight.

Thanks to the ensuing social media frenzy, Sacco's employment had been terminated by media conglomerate IAC before the plane landed.

Subbed out

College and professional sports are known for dramatic trades and post-game coaching change-ups, but some are more wrenching than others.

In 2013, Southern California football coach Lane Kiffin was headed back to campus from Los Angeles International Airport after an away game when he was called off a team bus at 3 a.m., taken to a small room inside the airport and told by Trojans athletic director Pat Haden that he was being fired.

"It's never the perfect time," Haden said of Kiffin's wee hours dismissal, "but I thought this was the right time."