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David Letterman thanked director for not casting him in classic comedy

David Letterman is a very funny comedian and was a legendary late night host for three decades, but he absolutely, positively cannot act.

David Letterman in Airplane!

Legendary Late Show host David Letterman has appeared in several movies as himself across the years, but he hasn’t acted in other roles. A new book about the making of classic 80s comedy Airplane! reveals that this is probably for the best.

Airplane! regularly tops lists of the best comedy movies of all time. It was written and directed by brothers David and Jerry Zucker and their friend Jim Abrahams. In their new book Surely You Can’t Be Serious – The True Story of Airplane! (via Entertainment Weekly) the trio recall David Letterman‘s disastrous audition for the role of Ted Striker.

Jerry Zucker says; “He wasn’t an actor, but he was funny. And he looked great onscreen – like, leading-man good looks. But the thing about David is, he’s just really uncomfortable with the whole idea of acting. I think it all seems too phony to him, like he’s bullshitting. It just wasn’t him.”

Letterman says; “I kept saying all along, ‘I can’t act, I can’t act, I can’t act,’ and then one of them came to me after the audition and said, ‘You’re right: you can’t act!’ It was all so good-natured that I just laughed my way back to the car. I never felt any sense of disappointment, because from the very beginning I told them, ‘I can’t act.’ And then I was right, and we all ended up parting as friends. So it was a good time.”

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Jerry Zucker says; “Letterman’s agent was on the set, and I came up to the guy, trying to be optimistic, and said, ‘Well, I think we can make an actor out of him.’ And the agent said, ‘Fat chance!’ I remember calling Letterman to tell him he didn’t get the part. He thanked me profusely.”

It sounds as though it all worked out for the best, as Airplane! is undoubtedly one of the best 80s movies. For more laughs, check out our guide to the best comedy series. We’re also looking forward to Deadpool 3 and Wednesday season 2.