Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Looking Back at Bill Murray's Best Appearances on Letterman

Bill Murray was the first ever guest on Late Night with David Letterman back in 1982, and over the past 31 years, Murray has been one of Dave's most beloved and unpredictable late night guests. He and Letterman have a rapport that has evolved over time, with running a myriad of running jokes from salt imbalances to Olivia Newton-John. Each appearance from Murray is an event in itself, with stunts, costumes, musical numbers, and whatever else he's into that week. Here's a chronological look at appearances of Bill Murray on David Letterman's shows.

Understandably, Letterman was a bit nervous on his first Late Night episode and he didn’t quite know how to deal with Murray just yet. From showing panda videos to a musical number to casually mentioning that “I had a chance to strangle Richard Nixon and I didn’t, and I regret it.,” Murray’s weirdness is on full display.

Murray returned to Late Night in 1984 to promote a little film called Ghostbusters with a promotional fly swatter. Apparently, sexual innuendo was so highly regulated on NBC back in the 80s that a classic Ghostbusters joke is muted when Murray tells it on air. Bill and Dave become literal blood brothers, possibly explaining their decade-long bond.

Later that year, Murray was back to promote a drama called The Razor’s Edge, where he drops a bunch of classic celebrities names and a reference to the Airport films that doesn’t date well.

In 1987, Murray dropped by 30 Rock in the run-up to his hosting gig at SNL to continue their running gag about Murray’s salt imbalance and yell at some extras. Letterman begs for an appearance in the Ghostbusters sequel.

While promoting What About Bob? in 1991, Murray takes down a heckler in the form of Letterman's writer, Joe Furey.

A year before Letterman would leave for CBS, he taped a primetime special for his 10th NBC Anniversary at Radio City Music Hall. Murray dropped by to express his love for Late Night and Letterman.

Early in 1993, Murray stopped by Late Night to promote Groundhog Day, which Letterman understatedly refers to as "a wonderful premise for a motion picture." The two discuss celebrity golf, Dave's impending move, Chris Elliott, and Bill's interaction with an audience member.

Continuing the tradition, Murray was the first guest on The Late Show with David Letterman in 1993, with Paul Shaffer and Co. bridging the two with a nice musical entrance for Murray and a continuing a gag from his last Late Night appearance.

(Begins at 22:10)

Now firmly entrenched at CBS, Letterman welcomes "America's favorite son" to the program, where he dons a cowboy hat and uses the on-set phone to call Dave's mother until Dave pulls it out of his hand.

(Begins at 17:15)

Once again appearing in costume, Murray arrives wearing a hoodie and playing with two guns. And I'll tell you what, Bill Murray may not be able to hold his breath as well as he thinks.

25 years after that fateful first episode of Late Night, Murray drops by The Late Show in a tuxedo to celebrate Letterman's late night anniversary. He pops the champagne and places a bet on the upcoming Super Bowl between Dave's Indianapolis Colts and Bill's Chicago Bears.

Later that year, Murray dropped back in to promote The Darjeeling Limited and ends up telling tales of partying in Sweden, where he was assumed to be drunk just because he was driving a golf cart at 3am on the streets of Stockholm. Murray gets in another bit with Dave's on-set phone.

In 2008, Murray messes with Letterman's setup by bringing in some undecided viewers to toss questions at Dave and Bill.

This time around, Murray turns up a foppish outfit to deal with Letterman's autumn leaves and discuss some baseball.

Hobbling on stage with crutches and a parka, Murray brings tales of Sundance mishaps and discussions of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Instead of joining Letterman on the set, Murray decided to take advantage of one of New York's finest dumpster pools.

Murray wears his best jockey outfit out of excitement for the Kentucky Derby.

In honor of Letterman's 30 years in the late night game, Murray nearly sets the place on fire with a celebratory cupcake.

In Christmas of 2012, Murray pulls one of his most elaborate entrances before joining Letterman to watch the Rockefeller Center tree lighting with a pocketful of marshmallows and kiss under the mistletoe.

What did we miss? Feel free to post your other favorites in the comments!

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  • JeffMc2000

    You what would be another good one of these? Michael Keaton. He always had some great bits on Letterman.

  • Arthur F.

    Great overview. One forgets with movies, that Murray always works well with the public, on street or audience, and benefits when he's allowed to do physical. Truly time-warped is David mentioning at the end of the 1993 program his upcoming guests – Sly Stallone and Public Enemy.

  • Irish

    This is possibly the finest article of videos pulled together by this site – Bravo Elise!

  • TS Idiot

    What a great way to spend the afternoon – watching 2 idols of my youth doing what they do best. Thanks!

  • George Schmidt

    Dynamic Duo! My 2 fave comedians – both sharp as knives and cutting to the quick w/deadpan brio. 2 you could've also posted were from LATE NIGHT w/Bill & Rev. Al Sharpton ice-skating @ Rockefeller Center (If I'm not mistaken you have the post here but not the payoff – the one w/the seemingly depressed audience member Bill decides to take off-stage to help out) & on LATE SHOW around the time he was up for the Oscar he spoke very fondly of his family (he was near tears – Dave was even overwhelmed for Bill's love for his kids – I think it was when Murray's marriage was crumbling; tears of a clown) :D

  • ED

    It's a shame there isn't a longer clip of Bill Murray dressed for the Kentucky Derby. The bit at the end on the mechanical bull where he sings Old Kentucky Home had me in stitches when I saw it on TV! It's a travesty it's not posted online!