May 27, 1982: Todd Barry’s teenage debut on Late Night with David Letterman

On this day in 1982, the first year of David Letterman’s 33-year run in late-night television, Todd Barry already was a man with a plan for his comedy career.

Or as Letterman introduced him: “Todd Barry. Apparently a man with a lot of time on his hands.”

That’s because he wrote a letter to NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman, which the host read on-air as part of the “Viewer Mail” segment, boasting about his Paul Shaffer impersonation. Even if 18-year-old Barry couldn’t spell Shaffer’s name correctly then, and also more importantly, gave himself the nickname “Razz” to go with his Barry surname.

“Dear Dave, Dear DEAR Dave,
Here’s the situation: I do an unbelievable impression of Paul Schaeffer (sic). Here are your options: A. fly me to New York, pay for everything and I’ll do the impression on your show, or B. call me and I’ll do it over the phone.
So go ahead Dave, pick either A or B. Either way I’m sure it will turn out to be a real nifty gig.
Your Pal and Idol,
Todd “Razz” Barry
Near Ft. Lauderdale, FL”

Also, quite remarkably, Barry already acts so cool, calm, collected and deadpan as Letterman talks to him on the phone for the studio audience. “Oh, it’s unreal Dave,” Barry said then of Shaffer impersonation.

Yes. Unreal is apt. Roll the clip! Stay tuned for the second part of the clip, which picks up the Viewer Mail segment two years later for an epic callback and Letterman response.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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