Watch David Letterman Call 18-Year-Old Todd Barry in 1982 - Rolling Stone
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Watch David Letterman Call 18-Year-Old Todd Barry in 1982

Fledgling comic does horrible Paul Shaffer imitation over the phone to late-night great

One week after David Letterman said good night to Late Show, many comedians inspired by the late-night great continue to share their touching and often hilarious Letterman tributes. Todd Barry is the latest to reminisce about Letterman’s tenure, and on the comic’s Tumblr (via A.V. Club), Barry shared his own personal VHS copy of his two quasi-appearances on NBC’s Late Night.

In the first clip in 1982, an 18-year-old Todd “Razz” Barry from “near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida” sends Letterman a handwritten note via Viewer Mail that he could do an “unbelievable impression of Paul Schaeffer,” the incorrectly spelled name of Letterman’s longtime band leader. Barry gives the host two options: Flying him to New York (and paying for everything) or calling him by phone. A cocky Barry even signs his Viewer Mail “your friend and idol.”

Letterman opts for the latter option and what follows – on air – is a quick phone call to Barry. After the awkward opening moments where Barry tells Letterman how a telephone works, the fledgling comic delivers an impression of Shaffer so inaccurate and grating that the host wastes little time before hanging up, rolling his eyes in the process.

Two years later, Barry wrote in again to celebrate the “second anniversary of my appearance on your show.” In this piece of Viewer Mail, Barry shows that he now knows how to correctly spell the name “Shaffer” and once again gives Letterman the option of flying him to New York or “celebrating by phone.” Instead, the late night host opts for option C: “Just forget about me. I’ve already gotten more than I deserve.”

Barry did have the last laugh, though, eventually making it onto Late Night multiple times with Conan O’Brien as host:


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