He Didn’t Jump on the Couch!

Friday, June 06, 2014


On May 23rd, 2005, Tom Cruise was on Oprah to talk about his new movie. But Oprah wanted to hear about his new relationship, with Katie Holmes. The freeze frame from that interview, of Cruise apparently jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, is now enshrined in pop culture history, and has tarnished the mega-star’s reputation. Trouble is, it never actually happened. Brooke talks to Amy Nicholson, head film critic for the LA Weekly, about the incident.


Amy Nicholson

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [24]


See him in Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow ASAP. Heeee's back! It's awesome.

Jun. 17 2014 06:35 AM


After coming in third in the Iowa caucus, Howard Dean gave the now viral "I have a scream" speech that I watched LIVE on television as it happened. I watched it from my couch and have a very vivid memory of calling to my future wife who was in another room, "come in here you have to see this, Howard Dean just lost the election."

Maybe, as you said, "in context it didn't seem nearly as luny." But for at least one person who saw it live it did seem luny enough to end his aspirations for the presidency.

Jun. 11 2014 01:16 PM
Ryan from MSP

I'm a devoted listener of OTM -- and hope to be in the future -- because both Brooke and Bob ask questions of their guests that get to the heart of the topic, critically.

This piece from Brooke was devoid of journalism, and to this listener, seemed like a puff-piece straight from the Tom Cruise Fan Club.

The specific event in question (where I suppose Tom Cruise doesn't "jump on" the couch as much as he "jumps on TO the couch, twice") could have served as narrative for this time in Internet history, but then the piece drags on and on about how Tom Cruise is the only reason Rain Main was a box office success, that pushing Scientology is essentially commonplace, and if you think about it, TOM CRUISE IS THE GREATEST ACTOR OF HIS GENERATION, WHO IS HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT.

Truly disappointed this week. But looking forward to next week, when we'll learn that Lindsay Lohan is one of the best method actors of our time and that her films are consistently recognized by the Vatican as "official canon."

Jun. 10 2014 06:49 PM
Chris Larson from Austin, TX

I have to say I was tremendously disappointed by the soft handling of Amy Nicholson regarding the Scientology issue. There is a tremendous amount of data and journalism covering the influence of this "church," and Tom Cruise's advocacy.

In particular, the failure to ask Ms. Nicholson on her affiliation with Scientology stands out.

PLEASE follow up on this issue.

Jun. 09 2014 11:03 PM
Seismic Smith

Yes, he jumped up onto the couch and off again. Two separate times, minutes apart. He did it to express his enthusiasm at being in love with Katie Holmes. The women in the audience ate it up and cheered him on. When the media got a hold of it they created video packages that repeated the jump to make it look like he was jumping up and down. There are internet gifs that repeat the jumping ad infinitum. Without the protection of his former, powerful publicist it seemed people in the media were gunning for him. I mean, this is the Tom Cruise that had always been. Does nobody remember Jerry Maguire where he was kicking the walls in the men's room shouting at Cuba Gooding "Help me, help you!" http://youtu.be/l1B1_jQnlFk?t=45s

Jun. 09 2014 09:10 PM
Randall J

I've never heard of anyone thinking he jumped up and down on the couch like a trampoline - that was a pretty strange straw man to defend, let alone analyze on such an intelligent program.

Jun. 09 2014 06:26 PM
DF from NY

Have our lives become so mundane and average that this is now news? The haters out there will continue to try to build up their boring lives by making nonsense out of a non-news story.

Jun. 09 2014 03:22 PM
Brian Vlasak, Ph.D. from Iowa City, Iowa

In regards to the couch jumping, what is actually said in the very beginning of the interview is: Cruise never "bounces on [the couch] like a trampoline."; I took this as Ms. Nicholson stating that he did not 'bounce up and down repeatedly as a child would on a trampoline'. The issue was not whether or not he actually ascended the couch twice: indeed, Ms. Nicholson admits as much in the very beginning of the interview.

This piece matters because it explores how virality can inflect our understanding of an individual's actions after the fact - or even change our collective memory of them altogether.

Jun. 09 2014 01:51 PM
Tubir from NYC

Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch. So?

Jun. 09 2014 12:29 PM
Peter Kelly from Toronto, ON


I'm a giant fan of the show. Have been for some time and probably will always be.

But this segment in particular failed to dig into some of the truths that bely a given situation, for which OTM is usually so sharp at getting to where other journalists cannot.

In particular, Brooke allowed Amy Nicholson to impose the narrative of her article - and in particular, the downplaying of Scientology, to which she says "We already know everything about Tom Cruise and Scientology." I take issue with this point in particular, because I feel that very important, broad strokes of that narrative are only JUST coming to light.

The timing is interesting - I just finished reading Lawrence Wright's book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief," and I think Mr. Wright should be lined up as your very next guest. The book is not just interesting, but important. Using some of the deepest journalistic inquiries ever made on the Church and a full, holistic examination of its roots, history, takeover by David Miscaviage, and beyond, it presents a crucial narrative to the Tom Cruise story that is often overlooked BECAUSE of the "don't talk about people's religion" taboo.

I'd strongly encourage you to revisit some of the soft reporting in this story in light of Mr. Wright's analysis to see just how the Couch-Jumping incident fits into Tom Cruise's manipulation for, and by, the Church of Scientology. There is a chapter in which the entire incident is thoroughly discussed.

Thanks as always for your incredible work.

Jun. 09 2014 11:22 AM

"Cocktail" & Scientology killed Cruise's personal credibility. Sorry to see OTM jump aboard a PR train.

Ms. Nicholson's credentials deserved a closer scrutiny.

Jun. 09 2014 11:02 AM

No one made Tom Cruise jump on the couch [twice] and I think any adult can be responsible for their own behavior, even if they are being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.

How is this complete non-story about a celebrity's image worthy of OTM? Utter puffery like this is so disappointing.

Jun. 09 2014 09:06 AM

I basically concede all of Ms Nicholson's points.

None of them explains _Cocktail_.

Jun. 08 2014 06:00 PM

I strongly recommend reading former Village Voice editor Tony Ortega's piece on the L.A. Weekly article that inspired this OtM story: No, LA Weekly, Tom Cruise’s career was not ruined by a GIF. I only wish Brooke Gladstone could have interviewed Ortega as a counterpoint to Nicholson.

"Tom Cruise has ruined his own credibility and image through his connection to Scientology and his bizarre behavior on its behalf. Blaming Perez Hilton and Arianna Huffington and some nameless guy who made a GIF of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch is a nice try, but we’re not buying it."

Jun. 08 2014 06:00 PM

I was so incredibly disappointed that the screamingly obvious question that Brooke Gladstone should have asked went unasked: "Ms. Nicholson, are you a Scientologist or do you have any connection with that organization?" This segment started out interestingly, but got very fishy very fast when Nicholson persisted in spinning the false narrative that he didn't jump on the couch, and then launched into claims that Cruise has been persecuted for his religious beliefs. I am stunned that OTM, a show I respect greatly, participated in this organized effort to rewrite history to rehab Mr. Cruise's reputation. So I have to ask: Ms. Gladstone, are you a Scientologist?

Jun. 08 2014 05:33 PM
Mike from california

Huge fan of the show, obviously, but surprised by the lack of rather basic fact checking. This one isn't too difficult, given the video is online. 45 seconds into this video you can clearly see him jump on and off the couch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiVRd3muZsA

Nicholson's piece is a nice attempt to remake Cruise's reputation and to "blame" the internet for it, but that's the kind of bogus argument that I'm more used to OTM taking a part and ridiculing for being not even remotely true.

Jun. 08 2014 01:23 PM
Elaine from Brooklyn

The story that jumps out from this Tom Cruise video is not that he didn't jump on the couch--as other commenters say, he clearly did--but just how bizarre of a spectacle he and Oprah created 9 years ago. Given what we now know about the Cruise-Holmes marriage being arranged, this episode seems like a giant public relations gambit to convince celebrity-obsessed America that Tom Cruise is a virile straight man who is madly in love with Katie Holmes. And it is unsettling how excited the studio audience is for the marriage of two people none of them have met. If anything, it seems like the story in this video is how absurd our celebrity culture is.

Ms. Nicholson really glosses over the issues with Scientology and Tom Cruise's comment about Brooke Shields taking anti-depressants and psychiatry being a pseudo-science.He may not make policy, but unfortunately we live in a world where celebrities like Tom Cruise--no matter how un-grounded in evidence their statements are--do have an influence on the debate (see also Jenny McCarthy on vaccines).

Jun. 08 2014 12:09 PM

Big fan of the show, and usually have no complaints, but I like the other commenters had issues with this piece.

Firstly, he does jump on the couch, twice. Anyone can see the video. Maybe Nicholson always thought the story was that he bounced up and down on the couch repeatedly, and maybe she represents a majority of people who also thought that, but that is never how I remembered that story and judging by videos I found under "Tom Cruise couch Parody" neither did other people.

Secondly, I disagree with the premise stated towards the end of the story that Cruise is known to be a charismatic celebrity personality but a bad actor. I always thought of him as a pretty great actor (in Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, Magnolia, Collateral, Minority Report, Jerry Maguire, etc), who was utterly weird in his real life especially after he began speaking a lot about scientology. I mean he worked with a lot of amazing directors and even his action movies were pretty good. So again I think Nicholson's experience with Tom Cruise may be skewed and not represent the greater public, or maybe it does and my experience does not represent the greater public.

I want to just emphasize that I love the show and I even still enjoyed this story for other reasons.

Jun. 08 2014 11:55 AM
bubble buster

As others have said -- the video shows he did indeed jump onto and off of the couch, so disputing the facts as a basis for this being an OTM piece is bizarre. As to that being the REASON people consider Tom Cruise crazy? I don't think people are that stupid. He's a famous person acting crazy on the camera--whatever. There were plenty of other reasons. So what makes this interesting enough for an OTM item? Nothing.

Jun. 08 2014 11:22 AM
Cat from NYC

He DID jump on that couch; part of an elaborate and manic act for the camera. Amy Nicholson can parse his visit to Oprah any way she wants but the fact is he turned in a (capital "C") Crazy performance that day. And in watching the clip again, while I see Oprah egging him on, I also her trying to stay out of his way and not get struck by his flailing arms, floor punches and JUMP UP ON THE COUCH. She leans away from him through much of the interview - what does Amy think that obvious body language means?
This was a poor piece of psuedo-journalism to have on On The Media. The ONLY question I have after hearing it is who paid Amy to try and re-write history?

Jun. 08 2014 08:24 AM
Stu G from Madison, Wisconsin

It is hard to understand how an author, someone that uses words for a living, does not have a grasp on what "Jumped on the couch" means. Mr. Cruise jumped on the couch for sure. Much like a pet jumps on the couch when they are forbidden to do so.

Jun. 08 2014 08:12 AM
Luis from Chicago

He did jump on the couch though. What do you mean it didn't happen? Tom Cruise jumped on the couch, twice. Nobody thinks he jumped up and down on it like a 5 year old on a mattress. Even if you split hairs and say he just 'stood' on the couch the point still holds fast that Cruise's behavior that day was bizarre, and that's why it became a story about him being unhinged. Also, the day Tom Cruise stretches beyond playing triumphant everyday man or unrecognizable caricature I will not call him the greatest actor of his generation. Lastly, tell people that Tom Cruise has been in 10 movies since War of the Worlds, they won't believe you, even after you name them.

With all that being said, Tome Cruise killed the game the previous 20 years. I'll split hairs too by calling him the 'biggest movie star' of his generation, not the 'greatest actor' of his generation (which by the way was last generation).

Good segment, in retrospect May 2005 was indeed the dawn of internet virility.

Jun. 08 2014 03:45 AM
Stella from NYC

Brooke! You missed the most important question: Why didn't you ask her about the famous Mr. Mission Impossible Tom Cruise Scientologist produced by the "ecclesiastical" leader of Scientology, Captain David Miscavige. The video which the scientology tried to remove from the internet and galvanized Anonymous. And went viral (one youtube shows over 9 million views).

So no -- he didn't jump up and down on the couch but he did jump up onto it (sort of like what does "is" mean). But he did make a wacky wacky video about scientology -- and anyone who has seen it is much more likely to remember that than they are the Tom Cruise (not)jumping on a couch. And the fact that it is now known that Katie Holmes was hand-picked for him by his scientology handlers from a series of girlfriend/wife auditions (well documented fact!)

As for Amy Nicholson and her false equivalencies about politicians making bad laws based on religion and Tom Cruise being held accountable for promoting a "religion" which is FAMOUS for its human rights abuses and fraud. i get that she knows that in order for it to be cool to have a big Tom Cruise Movie Star on one's coffee table one has to minimize the scientology stuff that doesn't support her attempt to rehabilitate him as the last great movie star in the world (really!!!) but I bet that a lot of people won't buy it.

Jun. 07 2014 11:29 AM

This is the single most pointless segment I have ever heard on OTM over the years I have listened. Buck up and don't be such tools.

Jun. 06 2014 10:20 PM

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