Twenty years ago this month, Bill Murray was David Letterman’s first-ever guest on the Late Show. To mark the occasion, the actor-comedian paid a special visit to last night’s show, pulling out all the stops for a grand entrance.
Murray rolled on stage in a white Rolls-Royce, wearing an all-white and gold Liberace ensemble—complete with a wig, cape, small white dog and a white-clad chauffeur—while Paul Shaffer and the band played the tinkling tones of Liberace’s famed piano introduction. Murray stayed in character long enough to tell the enthusiastic crowd, “I love you, audience, I love you, but I don’t have time tonight. ‘Cause I’m only here for one reason.” With that, he turned and pointed to his late-night show pal. Murray’s appearance on the show was doubly resonant, as he was not only Letterman’s first guest when Late Show with David Letterman debuted on CBS in August 1993, but also the first guest when Letterman started his run on NBC’s Late Night back in 1982.
To honor the host and the occasion, Murray surprised Letterman with an enormous billboard set above the studio’s marquee. It featured an enormous picture of Murray’s face, seemingly topless body and the words, “Bill Murray” in bold type and “Wishes Dave A Happy 20th Anniversary” in much smaller type below. Letterman seemed equal parts amused and touched by the gesture.
To make sure the mood didn’t get too maudlin, Murray proceeded to tear up the set, retrieving a time capsule he claimed to have buried under a chair two decades earlier. Inside was a copy of the New York Post with a headline featuring Letterman’s long-time rival Jay Leno, along with a picture of Murray in an early appearance on the show and a few other items.
By way of apologizing for destroying his set, Murray serenaded Letterman with a love song that topped the charts 20 years ago.
More show highlights included Letterman reading the Top Ten Top Ten List Entries from the Past 20 Years with the No. 1 being “Clintern” and Lenny Kravitz and Gladys Knight performing.