When Maurice Richard Povich left the University of Pennsylvania with a journalism degree back in 1962, did he hope that his nickname — Maury — would one day become shorthand for a daytime TV carnival of curiosities? Or did he dream of earning the gravitas his father Shirley Povich gained as a Baseball Hall of Fame-honored sports reporter for the Washington Post? No one but Maury can know for sure, but here's what's certain: For better or for worse, Povich is an American pop culture icon, and as of today (September 9) his talk show has been on the air for 25 years.

When the Maury Povich Show debuted in 1991, Povich had already cut his tabloid TV teeth on A Current Affair. The show covered weightier topics in its early days, aiming to be like respected competitors Donahue and The Oprah Winfrey Show. By the time it was shortened to Maury after a production switchover in 1998, though, it began to find its footing in the much trashier territory we know today.

Maury is best known for its paternity test episodes, spawning thousands of "you are NOT the father!" jokes, skits and memes. As racial and socioeconomic representations go, it's cringeworthy stuff if you think about it for longer than 4 seconds, and its evergreen popularity says more about its audience than it does about the guests themselves (who may or may not be faking it; the producers don't prod).

Also exploitative, yet mesmerizing: The "immersion therapy" Maury producers spring on those phobic of everything from mustard to frogs, and the cartoonishly misbehaving kids who terrorize their mothers by acting like whiskey-hardened dock workers. Still, the laughs, escapism and probable (if unwarranted) feelings of superiority Maury evokes from viewers have been substantial enough to keep it on the air for two and a half decades.

Look back at some of Maury's most iconic/hypnotically horrifying moments below, including the infamous Cotton Ball Man's two-time reign of terror. That guy is hilarious.

15-Year-Old Girl Wants Her BAYby

A classic in the "help my uncontrollable child!" bucket of Maury topics, Victoria torments her mother with claims she's had sex over 300 times to reach her goal of impregnation, and is stockpiling baby clothes, books and toys in her room. While her mother sounds like she's overplaying an act at times, she sells it with her moon-faced, teary expressions of woe. The true gold comes when we meet Victoria at the 3:32 mark and she offers the iconic line, "I'm gonna dress my baby in all brand names, and if I can't afford it? I guess I'm gonna steal it."

The Rise of Cotton Ball Man

[The remix is above; see the original here.]
Watching this woman get tortured by her worst nightmare come to life — being chased by a man made of cotton balls — I have three thoughts every time:

  1. That poor woman (who decided to go on Maury, for some reason)
  2. Those poor staffers, who had to craft and wear the cotton ball suit
  3. My sides hurt from laughing from the moment Maury bleats "DON'T GO BACK THERE!" in a transparently insincere attempt to spare her.

Cotton Ball Man 2: The Return of Cotton Ball Man

...And don't you DARE bring foam peanuts around Emily, either. Well, the Maury staff did, but you shouldn't. It isn't right.

The Chicken Tetrazzini Affair

Alycia thinks Paul, her boyfriend of four years, has been lured away by her friend's loving and her chicken tetrazzini, in equal measure. But really, it is Alycia who seems obsessed with chicken tetrazzini? Boy, I could really go for a creamy pasta dish with some chicken and bread crumbs in it right now.

Balloons: Also Terrifying

The Woman Who Looks Like Ted Cruz

Mississippi native Searcy Hayes doesn't see the resemblance herself, but she has agreed to make a sex tape with her fiance for $10,000, according to the NY Daily News. We all probably contributed to this situation, in some small way.

And Finally, Just a Highlight Reel of Kids We Hope Are Doing Okay These Days

You can contemplate the systemic failures and possibly poor parenting that contributed to awful behavior from these young, malleable children — or you can watch the above highlight reel on mute while listening to Lady Gaga's "Bad Kids." Up to you!

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