Jimmy Kimmel's long-awaited tribute to Norman Lear, Live in Front of a Studio Audience, kicked off Wednesday night with two star-studded live recreations of two iconic episodes of Lear's beloved sitcoms All In The Family and its groundbreaking spin-off, The Jeffersons.
During the first live staging of All in the Family, Foxx (playing George Jefferson) was supposed to level an insult against Anthony Anderson’s Uncle Henry, that went, "Ever since I was a little boy, I would always beg my mother for a little brother — but you know, we were broke, so all we could afford was you."
While Foxx made it neatly through the whole line, he stumbled and stuttered repeatedly on the punchline "all we could afford was you."
While some stars might panic, or get embarrassed, or simply bust up laughing, Foxx knew how to milk a comedic moment -- even an accidental one -- for all it's worth. The star broke character entirely, and told his fellow co-stars, "It's live! Everyone sitting at home just thinking their TV just messed up."
As Foxx regained his composure, and brilliantly owned the moment to the enjoyment and cheering of the studio audience, the unexpected break led to a few crack-ups among the other stars in the scene, including Anderson, who tried not to laugh as Foxx smiled sheepishly.
Woody Harrelson, who played Archie Bunker couldn't help but hide his full-on laughter, at one point turning around entirely, while Ike Barinholtz and Ellie Kemper -- playing Mike and Gloria Stivic, enjoyed the moment with cheeky grins.
Meanwhile, seasoned sitcom star Wanda Sykes -- playing Weezy Jefferson -- and Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, who played Edith Bunker, maintained their composure like a couple of live TV pros, and made sure to shepherd the episode forward after Foxx used his natural charisma to turn the mistake into an endearing moment and memorable highlight.
Another highlight of the night came during the recreation of The Jeffersons, when original cast member Marla Gibbs made a surprise, unannounced appearance, reprising her role as the Jefferson's housekeeper, Florence Johnston.
In press releases, the role was supposed to be played by One Day at a Time star Justina Machado, so when the door was opened and Gibbs stepped onto the stage, there was a cacophony of surprised cheering from the audience that showed just how beloved the actress really is. It's unclear at this time why Machado was not involved in the special as planned.
Gibbs played the role of Florence Johnston for 11 seasons and it was clear how perfect she was for the part, pulling off some of the most perfect timing of the entire cast, and her instant chemistry with Foxx and Sykes was immediately apparent.
Another special appearance came when Jennifer Hudson took the stage for a performance of The Jefferson's famous theme song to kick off the live staging of the episode.