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Ron Burgundy stages an all out—yet very classy—late-night takeover

Ron Burgundy, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show

When the pre-air late-night listings just read “special guest TBA” across the board, as they did on Thursday, you know it can only be one person. Michelle Obama announcing a late-game run for the Democratic nomination was a solid guess. But no, the reality of the big surprise was perhaps even bigger, as San Diego’s most legendary newscaster somehow managed to appear on The Late Show, Conan, The Late Late Show, Late Night With Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and The Tonight Show all in the same night. Even though all six shows tape at approximately the same time, and on two separate coasts. How is that even possible, you might ask. As Ron Burgundy no doubt would say, “Don’t fret your pretty little head about it—it’s science.” (He stressed to Colbert—to puzzlingly knowing audience laughter—that the date of his seemingly phsyics-defying feat was August 8, all around. He’s just that good.)

Technically, Burgundy was making his late-night blitz on behalf of the second season of his iHeartRadio podcast, which premiered that very day. (Titled The Ron Burgundy Podcast, natch, although he claimed that Catherine’s Ode To Catherine was on the table at one point, scuttled at the last moment because there is no one associated with the show with that name.) Burgundy ruled the various roosts with his signature blend of old-time show biz anecdotes (although decorum forbad him from finishing that one about Walter Cronkite, himself, and Debbie Reynolds), his celebrity beefs with the likes of Shawn Mendes and Kylie Minogue, newsroom insights about the never-ending quest for truth (“If you cant find it, there’s plenty of handsome white guys who’ll lie right to your face.”), and the lingering scent of rich mahogany and dark scotch.

Oh, and stand-up comedy, as, to really bring in the listeners, Burgundy took to the each stage to deliver some classic observational bits about Buffalo Wild Wings, New York subways, and how kids today use “party” as a verb way too freely. (As Ron said, a party in his day meant drinking until you got into a fistfight with “pet birds and dogs.”) Indefatigable pro that he is, Burgundy even brought out the “property comedy” on Conan, and a ventriloquist dummy on Late Night, a doubles act (with a tat-sleeved hipster named J.J. Hipster) that, sadly, quickly turned violent. Noting that he steals most of his material (“The other comics, they don’t care,” Burgundy confided to Kimmel), Burgundy explained each time that he must have done well, since he was invited over to the couch to chat with the host. And while he confided to Conan that “out of 20 shows I have done, 17 have not been supportive,” Burgundy was undeterred, telling Meyers in their sit-down, “80 percent of that was some of the best material I’ve ever done.” And, as ever, you just can’t question that math. It’s science.

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Pulling out all the stops, Burgundy did an animal segment with James Corden and a keeper from Ron’s beloved San Diego Zoo. (No pandas, but Ron did admit that most of the exotic animals brought on were ones that he had irresponsibly abandoned in the greater San Diego area.) With Colbert, the two old newshounds talked topical shop, with Burgundy engaging in some Scaramucci-esque praise of old golfing partner Donald Trump’s athletic acumen, and calling Trump “a riverboat gambler,” with no little measure of respect. (Ron also bragged about being on the ground floor of Trump University, where he was delighted to receive three degrees just for writing the check.) It was, if you add up the total screen time, essentially another improvised Rob Burgundy movie, parceled out over every late-night show in the land, a spellbinding media firestorm that, as Ron Burgundy knows better than anyone, only one man could have pulled off. And that man . . . is Ron Burgundy. Stay classy, A.V. Club commenters.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.