Watch David Letterman's Unsuccessful Screen Test for 'Airplane!'

The 1980 film Airplane! is one the greatest comedies of all time. It featured many memorable characters: Elaine, Dr. Rumack, McCroskey, Kareem Abdul… er, Murdock, and of course the inflatable autopilot. But today let’s turn our focus to the character of Ted Striker. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Robert Hays in the role.

Before Hays was awarded the part, another person you may have heard of auditioned for it. Heck, he even got a screen test. His name? David Letterman. That’s right, the late-night television icon did some acting, though that’s largely forgotten these days. Though the footage has floated around in the past — the talk show maven shared it himself on Late Night back in the early ’80s — a YouTube user recently uploaded it to remind us of Letterman’s failed tryout.

Fortunately, he found a home elsewhere, and Hays helped turn the part into something kind of wonderful. Letterman himself didn’t seem too hung up on the fact that he lost out the part. It probably had something to do with being, well, on his way to becoming a beloved millionaire comedy hero.

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