-- What a perfect time for cake.
Guest Bill Murray celebrated David Letterman’s penultimate episode on late-night television Tuesday by bursting out of a cake, himself covered in frosting and batter. Following a hug, the host and guest conducted their final segment together caked in the sugary mess, reflecting on the old, good times and swigging from a bottle of vodka.
“Late Show With David Letterman” spent Tuesday’s episode celebrating the icons. During the monologue, Regis Philbin walked on stage. Philbin has appeared on Letterman’s program 150 times, more than any other guest.
“It actually seemed like more than 150, but we looked it up, and it was only 150,” Letterman quipped.
Philbin urged Letterman – who’s retiring after three decades of late-night to spend more time with his son, Harry – to stay.
“You must come back to television. You must!” he said before taking a slow saunter through the studio, shaking hands and waving to the crowd as he departed.
“Take your time Regis, it’s not a fundraiser,” Letterman joked.
The night’s Top Ten List focused on famous last words, a blend of madcap, hazard-inducing suggestions and celebrity put-downs.
No. 8: “Bring the karaoke machine over to the hot tub.”
No. 4: “May I take a selfie, Ms. Streisand?”
Rupert Jee appeared next. The owner of Hello Deli was a consistent presence on Letterman’s program during the 1990s, an everyman vaunted into the public spotlight because of his shop’s proximity to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City where Letterman’s show is filmed.
A highlight video reflected on some of Jee’s funniest appearances – including the hidden-camera stunts “David Letterman and Rupert Jee Annoy People,” featuring Letterman directing barbs through Jee’s earpiece.
One of the segments showed Jee ordering imaginary items at McDonald’s.
“I’d like a quarter pounder, a half pounder, a three-quarter pounder, and a pounder … and then maybe a five-pounder,” he tells the cashier.
The hijinks ended, the pair explained, after someone pulled a knife on Jee.
“That would have given the whole show a black eye,” Letterman joked.
In many ways, the episode belonged to Murray. Murray was the first guest on Letterman’s NBC program in 1982 – “the old show,” as Letterman has been calling his pre-CBS days. But as the new show becomes itself an old show, Murray and Letterman have remained Murray and Letterman, unpredictable and witty, a special television pairing.
On their first late-night segment together, Murray issued veiled threats to the host.
“I’m just waiting for the other shoe to fall on you, and I want to be there when it hits the floor,” Murray said at the time.
“I had a chance to strangle Richard Nixon, and I didn’t, and I regret it. And here I am, inches … I don’t know what’s keeping me from doing it. I’m gonna make every second of your life a living hell.”
Murray was correct – he was waiting all this time, but in celebration, smearing audience and band members in cake Tuesday and conducting the segment coated in the messy mix.
During the conversation, he discussed his film "Caddyshack," the ode to golf and youthful courageousness. Murray rented a Lincoln during the movie's filming, he said, and as filming wrapped he parked the car underneath a tree and left it there, and there the car stayed for months, collecting acorns and bird droppings.
Eventually Murray produced a bottle of Slovenia vodka and the pair passed the bottle back and forth. As Letterman chugged, his face puckered and he shook his head, coughing as he swallowed the liquor.
“Is there any more cake?” he asked.
Murray was more interested in a grassroots campaign to keep Letterman behind the desk. So after rousing the audience to shout, “More! More! More!” he kicked through the door, grabbing people on the sidewalk and leading a sing-along to keep Dave on the air.
Following the commercial break, Letterman reappeared, the frosting gone, to introduce the night’s musical guest, Bob Dylan. Dylan and his band performed “The Night We Called It a Day,” a wispy song that proved a poignant reflection on the weight of goodbyes, a chance to break out the cake and vodka one more time.