When the Beastie Boys first appeared on Late Night with David Letterman in 1992, Dave spent most of the episode talking it up. He confirms they’d never been on the show before but, in conversation with Paul, recalls some flap in which the Boys started a fight on the morning show across the hall, which sounds very much in keeping with the Licensed To Ill-era Beasties. He also accuses them of stealing his coffee and trick-or-treating him—though none of the jokes really land with Shaffer, the studio audience, or guest Bryant Gumbel.
Things switch gears when the Beastie Boys actually come out to perform. Letterman holds up a long box of Check Your Head to introduce them, and when he attempts another joke at their expense, he’s met with a groan from the group itself. What they do next is rather unexpected—the Check Your Head album cut “Live at P.J.’s.” Money Mark introduces the song from behind Shaffer’s keyboard and the Beastie proceed to unleash an awesome performance with the help of Shaffer and the entire Late Night band, complete with Mike D on drums, Ad-Rock on guitar, and MCA on bass.
It feels like a proto-version of them doing “Sabotage” on every television show imaginable a couple years later. At the time, however, this probably confused viewers who hadn’t seen Beastie Boys since “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).” After the commercial break, Dave says to Paul, “The Beastie Boys were here. I just hope to hell they’re not neglecting their schoolwork.” Paul shoots back, “They’re traveling with a tutor!”