Television Appearances

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Needs to split into Appearances and References, with separate pages on most - and one chronological list - the basics - chronology

See also, when is Phish on TV next

The Basics

Phish's first television appearance was on MTV. They've since been on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and more.

Lone Video: There was a short-lived video for "Down with Disease", which appeared on MTV perhaps thrice, plus a special appearance on "Beavis and Butthead" (who commented "Phish are stupid. They swim around with their own turds.")

Hangin' with MTV: Phish was the house band for the 7-23-92 episode of Hangin' with MTV, which featured dancing, interviews, and live music. (Each episode had a different house band; others included: __.) This particular episode featured a battle of the bands, in which Metallica's video beat out Megadeath's. Phish performed for about 10 minutes total, doing instrumentals of "Buried Alive", "Landlady", and "BBFCFM" for the intros and outros to the commercials. (Thanks to Sandra Carpenter , , Thomas Patrick Perona , and Jeff ) According to Syd Schwartz (12/1/97), " Elektra (in a promotional blunder that likely cost them a few friends at MTV) sent out pre-labeled (but blank) VHS tapes with which to tape the Phish appearance to various music industry folks. ... many (myself included) wondered about the logic of encouraging people to tape an MTV appearance on a band that was being marketed as decidedly un-MTV..." -- MTV has used clips of Phish in promotional ads; Cory Ferber noted (11/23/97) one instance in which the main riff from "Possum" was used as background to two guys in camoflouge. See also, Singled Out.

Letterman Appearances: Phish have played on David Letterman's show five times:

  • "Chalkdust Torture" (reportedly at Dave's request, and shortened, with Page only on grand piano) on 12-30-94 (Jerry Seinfeld was the first guest), the afternoon before the first Madison Square Garden show
  • "Julius" on 7/13/95 backed by a 4-piece horn section (Dave Grippo and some local musicians)
  • "Character Zero" on 3/5/97.
  • "Birds of a Feather&qot; on 10/27/98
  • "Heavy Things" on 5/15/00

(Thanks also to Nick Johnston )


Conan appearance: On Late Night with Conan O'Brian on 11/7/97, Phish debuted "Farmhouse". All four members had a beard (a first, at least since circa 1986), and they played "Mike's Song" on the way to the commercial break following their performance. And note that the performance was 4 minutes 42 seconds, longer than their Letterman appearances. To thank the show (for having Phish, and for allowing them a reasonable window to play in), send 'em an email. They returned to the show 6/27/00 to play "Get Back on the Train".

Complete Chronology

Ubiquitous, already TV mentions have become too long to list (though some aren't really "Phish sightings"), but here are many:

News First: Channel 6 News in New York (WNYT) used "Weight" as their background music in a few weather commercials in 1993. Gary Mercier 12/6/98

Beavis and Butthead: The video for "Down with Diesease" was featured on an (April 1994) episode of Beavis and Butthead; Beavis and Butthead exchanged deep thoughts about aquariums as commodes for fish: "Phish are stupid. They swim around with their own turds."

8/95 Lettermen in-absentia: As a bit of trivia from a later Letterman show, which also became the subject of some net discussion, from John F Kodenkandeth (8/9/95): "Patricia Arquette was telling Letterman about a strange experience she had on a French talk show. At one point during her interview, a transvestite was lowered from the ceiling. Anyway, so Letterman did the same thing on his show. While, the transvestite was lowered the CBS Orchestra played 2001. It was the exact same arrangement as Phish uses. I thought that CBS borrowed this arrangement from PHISH. It turns out that both Phish and the CBS Orchestra were covering Deodato's funky arrangement of 2001."

ESPN: Dick Vatale praised them on ESPN coverage of the Wake-UMass basketball game 12-6-95, one day after the 2nd Mullins Center show.

ABC's In Concert: Herschel Gelman emailed 6/8/96 to add "Last night (June 7/early morning June 8) Phish was on ABC's In Concert, and they showed most of a Bouncing Around the Room, which the host claimed was from Great Woods. It seems like it would have to be 7/1/95, since that's the only Bouncing that was played at GW after 93, but it doesn't seem to match my 7/1/95 tape... I seem to remember the In Concert version having this little slide by Trey after the first chorus (which the ALO version also has), and 7/1/95 doesn't have that... Hmm... probably need to wait for more net argument about it... :)"

Lettermen in-absentia, Part II: Herschel Gelman () emailed to add (6/8/96) "when Lawrence Fishburne (sp) was a guest on Letterman, the band played part of Julius when he came out. This was sometime after Phish's appearance in which they played Julius, though I can't remember exactly when he was on. There's probably a Letterman guest archive somewhere on the net with that info, though."

Band in the stands: In September 1996, during the Hockey world championships (formerly the Canada Cup) Team USA was playing Team Canada in the finals in Montreal (right up the street from Burlington). On two occasions after Team USA scored a goal, the tv camera zeroed in on some familiar USA fans: Trey Anastasio and some friends. (Brian 8/6/98)

King of the Hill: On one of the first few episodes (the "Wumatanya" episode; first aired Fall 1996) of King of the Hill (a cartoon aired on Fox), "Free" is heard coming from a VW bus full of hippies as the main characters and their sons arrive at the campsite. (Thanks to Matthew Grillo , Kristen Lee Buehler , and Justin C. Fauci .) A Nov. 1998 episode, when Hank Hill and the boys go to Vegas, one of the neon signs flashes "Phish" according to Troy Cryder .

Simpsons: Moved to a separate page.

Olympics: During coverage of the August 1996 Olympics, a blurb about women's basketball (past games, players, strategies, etc.) used as background music the piano solo from "The Mango Song" from Picture of Nectar (according to Mike Weitman 12/1/97).


More MTV: MTV has aired short pieces on several events, including the 1996 Halloween.

Conan in-absentia: When Steven Wright appeared in January 1997, he mentioned Phish's new album at the time (Billy Breathes) repeatedly, mostly in response to unrelated questions, held up a copy, and raved about it.

German TV: "Phish's 2-16-97 concert at Wartesaal in Cologne [was] televised in Germany on the program Rockpalast on the station WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) [receivable also in Hungary, Belgium, and the Netherlands]. The first transmission [was] on February 18th at 11:30pm and [lasted] 80 minutes; the second airing [was] on March 2nd at 1:30 AM and [included] the full performance." (From the 2/3/97 Hotline message) The airing included interviews with each member of the band (and several fans) between songs (one, unfortunately, cut off the Crosseyed jam). The 6-22-97 show was also broadcast. (Note that Germans with VCRs use PAL tape format, while U.S. folks have NTSC format. You can buy a PAL>NTSC converter for circa $100 bucks, or find a duplication service who'll probably charge $20-30. ) And 3-1-97 (soundboard) was broadcast by German radio (NDR 2) on two different dates (circa May and June 1997) for the two sets, leaving the Adeline encore unaired.

Singled Out: On the March 3, 1997, "Singled Out" on MTV, during the final round, one set of options was "some other band or Phish" (The guy and two of the three gals' said Phish, and the host turned to the musician and asked, "Have you ever seen those guys They're great!")

MSNBC: On July 12 and 13, 1997, MSNBC's Edgewise program aired American Road, "a seven-minute tour of all 48 contiguous states set to the music of Phish." The filmakers -- two new college alums (Peter Shapiro and a friend) living off credit cards -- filmed events and landmarks nationwide on a 30-day trip covering 13,254 miles, and set the seven-minute clip of edited results to the first half of "You Enjoy Myself" (the portion just prior to the singing). Actually, they aired it four times each day (and ran an article online titled "Phish's Song Remains The Same".)

Rolling Stone aired a special 5/21/97 called "The Rolling Stone State of the Union", and featured YEM as the background to a segment on the Zendik Farm community in Texas.

NFL: "Cars Trucks Buses" was the theme song on the ABC NFL Air It Out on 8/24/97, according to Dan Epstein .

Seinfeld: The executive producer is Suzie Mamann Greenberg -- no relation, but M. Barton Hodges posted that at the close of a 10/97 episode, Seinfeld said "fish" (talking about a fish tank) at the moment that Greenberg's credit came on the screen. Coincidence

ESPN, on the 11:30 Center 10/21/97, "Linda Cohn did the Flyers v. Lightning Highlights, and after the segment, she mentions the band phish, and the lead singer trey anastasio, anastasio (she said it twice because she had a hard time with pronounciation). anyways, she mentions that trey is a huge flyers fan and that he and john leclair are great buddies." (Reported by Paul Chung )

Real Stories of the Highway Patrol: On the 11/17/97 episode (according to Dennis John Midkiff ), when five guys in a weaving maroon Volvo coupe were pulled over and the trooper searched the car, he found a "flipdisc" which included A Live One (both discs), Lawn Boy, and Hoist.

Random Fan: During a televised footbal game 11/23/97, Michael Wagner noticed a fan's sign that read "Trey 420" (likely mocking the then-popular "John 3:16" signs).

ABC Sports: During the halftime of ABC's televised Nebraska vs. Colorado football game on [11/28/97], they had a segment on the best unheard of players in college football. There were four players and during the highlights they played "Cars, Trucks, & Buses" in the background. (R. Sindelar )

Airline Ad: An American Airlines advertisement (fall '97) is said to have used the last piano riff from "Bathtub Gin" as background music (according to Mike Weitman 12/1/97). Others insist that "they used the riff from 'Rhapsody in Blue', which is where Phish kind of got it from." Emil Hedaya 4/7/98 (See Lawnboy.)

SportsCenter: Phish sang the national anthem before the Flyers-Sabres game 12-1-97. SportsCenter's Linda Cohn said "nobody, nobody, belts out Run Like An Antelope better than Trey!" (Cohn grew up in Vermont, and went to UVM with Mike.) (Thanks to Arlen and Isaac 12/4/97.)

More MTV: On MTV's Holiday Shopping Guide (12/18/97), host Matt Pinfield recommended Slip Stitch and Pass as "a great Christmas gift" for viewers' "hippie" friends or relatives

Olympics: Jeffrey B. Lukens <> posted that during TNT's coverage of the Olympic games 2/10/98, and "they were doing a story on Japanese supermarkets ... and the background music >was none other than Sparkle."

Early Edition: In 1998, the album cover of Ghost was shown on Early Edition, a series (which ran for about two years) in which the main character found a newspaper each morning that would have that day's news in it.Final Four: On 3/21/98, during the Road to the Final Four Show, "they were showing clips of Arizona's Championship last year, they played a clip of Cities [from Slip]. No words, just the music." 

Skiing Show: A local Ann Arbor station showed extreme skiing with "Chalkdust Torture" as background music on 3/22/98 (possibly from the Tony Roberts video. Josh Pashman And "Free" appears in a free-skiing video entitled Harvest, published by Teton Gravity Research, Jackson Hole Wyoming.

More MTV: On MTV's program 12 Angry Viewers (spring '98), one of the "jurors" said she did not like a video by a band called Liquid Liquid because it was too trippy and "too much like a Phish concert" 

Jeopardy: One of the board answers was "Phish Food and Cherry Garcia are both flavors of this company's ice cream." The 'question' was of cource Ben & Jerry's. And on 3/28/14, one answer (for "What is Bonnaroo?") was "It was obvious what state the festival takes place in when Phish played it's unofficial anthem 'Rocky Top' as the encore of their 2012 performance."

Boston Common: "Two burned-out kinda hippie guys are talking and remember to go get Phish tickets. Later in the show only one of them comes back and says [the band] started to play the Mango Song and then he couldn't find his friend."

Local News: On 7/3/98 (and possibly other dates), KOMU TV channel 8 Columbia, MO, used "Stash" to accompany the weather report (Brian 7/4/98), and WRGB TV in upstate NY has used the opening of "Weigh" for their news promos.

Colorado PBS: As of August 1998, "Chalkdust Torture" (just the music, no words) was used as the theme song to the Denver PBS show Colorado Inside and Out

American Journal: This tabloidy news show had a report on abuse of nitrous oxide amongst American teens. Part of the report centered on a Phish parking lot outside a Denver show, where people were lined up for nitrous and one guy talked to the camera while huffing on a balloon. The report showed a brief clip of Phish playing ("Glass Onion", strangely enough). The report also noted the the band discourages nitrous sales and consumption at Phish shows. Ellis Klein 8/31/98

Letterman's Top 10: "From the Home Office in Wahoo, Nebraska,it's the Top Ten List for September 1, 1998: Top Ten Things That Average Americans Think 'NASDAQ' Is:"
        10. The drug Mark McGwire uses to hit homeruns.
         9. One of the sweathogs on "Welcome Back Kotter."
         8. Merv Griffin's Peruvian houseboy.
         7. I dunno, but it has something to do with how Jodie Foster got pregnant.
         6. That country whose butt we kicked in the Gulf War.
         5. God willing, it's some delicious new kind of fudge.
         4. Something you bake in brownies and sell at Phish concerts.
         3. Pakistan's version of the "Rat Pack."
         2. A new Ben and Jerry's flavor made with nazberries and duck.
         1. The North American Society of Daqs.
The audience roared at number four. (Posted by 9/2/98)

Farm Aid: ...

Buffy: There was a poster for a 7/30/ Phish show on the bulletin board in the school courtyard on an August 1998 episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". (Jeremy Birchman) And there was a posted for Phish at Madison Square Garden in the coffeeshop (the main characters' handout joint) in two episodes, aired 9/29/98 and circa 10/1/98. Thanks to Russelle Suszanne Snyder (9/30/98) and Dan Hobbs (10/8/98).

Dawson's Creek: featured "Birds of a Feather" as background music 10/7/98, less than a week after the single was sent to radio stations and nearly three weeks before its release on album

Viva Variety: On an October 1998 episode of the Comedy Channel's Viva Variety, Mr. Laupin announced during the opening, "we have lost of fabulous guests on our show, like Jenaine Garafolo, who dresses like she just got kicked out of a Phish concert." (Reported by 10/7/98)

More Conan: On 1/5/99, Conan O'Brian rambled on about having attended 12/31/98 (see photo). He said "it's a scene baby" -- said he felt stiff and out of place for 5 or 10 minutes then started spinning (at which he waved his arms side to side and went "woooOOOOoooooo! wooooOOOOOoooo!") and got into the scene. He "became a hepster". Then he said he left a little bit early and on the way out was getting recognized and "about six thousand" people, with no shirts, wanted to hug him ("i looooooove you, man!") on the way out so that when he got home (still in his suit) he smelled like 3000 sweaty guys ("and I kinda LIKED it.") No comment on the music or show (only on the scene), but it was nice and upbeat and fairly positive.

Sessions on West 54th: Phish performed a one-hour set in the studios of Sessions at West 54th, a PBS show which in this (its second) season is hosted by David Byrne. The broadcast (between 1/9/99 and 1/16/99, depending on local broadcast schedules) included three songs (Birds of a Feather, Ghost, Taste) interspersed with clips of interviews with Byrne.

Still More Conan: On "2/11/99, Conan O'Brien mentioned being at a Phish concert where Fred Savage tapped him on the shoulder, and told Daniel Stern, whom he was interviewing how funny it would have been if Daniel had been behind Savage narrating the events, as Stern was the narrator of The Wonder Years, of which Savage was the star." (Thanks to Dave Herrnecklace 2/13/99).

Even More Conan: On 2/24/99, Fred Savage was a guest and the first subject was how Fred and Conan saw each other at the 12/31/98 Phish show. Fred said he was freaked out by it, like seeing one of your teachers at the mall. (Thanks to Abdul Rhajad , Mark Toscano >>, and Dan Meilcarz.)

CNN again: Phish was featured in an episode of CNN's World Beat, aired thrice on the weekend of 2/13-14/99.

Another Letterman Top 10: From the Home Office in Wahoo, Nebraska, it's the Top Ten List for April 5, 1999: Top Ten Historical Inaccuracies in Peter Jennings' The Century:         10. Lincoln was not assassinated at a "Phish show"          9. Dogs were not "invented in 1963"          8. Prior to invention of the airplane, people did not "fly around by flapping their arms"          7. Eleanor Roosevelt never competed in a wet T-shirt contest          6. World War I did not start because Fabio was hit in the face by a goose          5. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were not the neighbors on "I Love Lucy"          4. Lyndon Johnson known as "LBJ" not "LL Cool J"          3. Turning point of World War II not "that part where Tom Hanks finds Matt Damon"          2. Neil Armstrong's first words on the moon were not, "Pretty fly for a white guy"          1. Person of the Century probably not "Peter Jennings"

Dirge When JFK Jr. was missing and presumed dead (August 1999), either CNN or MSNBC showed him on his boat and played Phish's "Bliss". (Joe Boncek )

More about Letterman: As is true of all acts on television variety shows, Phish's performances on Letterman have been very short, compared to the average length of songs in their more-typical live performances. As Jake Hall reported to (3/1/97), "A bunch of people have written the Late Show asking them to give Phish more time to play. An intern who apparently likes them responded, but isn't sure that they'll get more time. Here's a copy of the post:



  • From: (ASoriero) Subject: LETTERMAN SHOW RESPONDED TO OUR REQUEST Date: 28 Feb 1997 00:33:59 GMT I got this letter from the letterman show today. Here it is. Hello, I am the lowly intern who reads all the email and I am also an admirer of the band. I saw them play a show in Colorado Springs about 4 or 5 years ago. I fully understand your eagerness to have extra time for the band. I myself am a unrepentant deadhead who understands the importance of extended improvisation with regards to certain types of music. I have told the people above me about the overwhelming responses from folks over the net. I have no idea what will come of it. I would be surprised If extra time was alloted for the band because the show is already run on such a tight schedule already. I suggest you try and contact the manager or publicist of Phish and see if they can notify the Late Show about the tremendous response and potential audience of Phish fans. If the publicist can convince the show that Phish fans could truly boost the ratings (or something to that effect), the show might allot more time. I am not sure at this point. I do want you to know that I am the only one who reads all the emails so no matter what I say to my employers, they never really see the viewer response. The whole internet thing is still fairly new here and is more of a side project than a direct pipeline into the show. So you can continue to tell people to send me mail and I can continue to tell my superiors but all the emails really stop at me without the other employees having a clue about them. I am pulling for you guys.

Not bad huh. At least we got a response now to all of you who didn't write in yet can do it now!



Thanks also to MT 3/99.>

That's Not Phish

Several "sightings" aren't really Phish, or intentional Phish references, or so many contend:

  • Most of the Simpsons references are subtle and disputable (even dubious), although their volume may speak to some intention of allusion.
  • An April 1998 Cadillac commercial featured music which reflected the blues riff of "My Soul" (a Clifton Chenier song, teased at the start of a Stevie Ray Vaughn song, that Phish began covering in summer 1997). The piece was actually just a snippet written for that ad, and performed (3/5/98 2-5pm in Santa Monica) by Elias Associates (a company that produces music for many televison and radio ads), featuring Johnathon Elias as leader, Micheal Lang on keyboards, Ernest Hamilton on bass, Ralph Humphrey on drums, Gary Grant and Jerry Hey on trumpet, Steven Holtman on trombone, and Donald Markese on woods. (Thanks to , Alex Griffin , and Brett Milesinsky whose father made the ad.)


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