Paste doesn’t just own the world’s largest collection of live music recordings. Our archives are deep with stand-up from some of the best comedians of all time. Every Tuesday and Thursday we’ll be sharing classic comedy from legends like George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy and more.
On March 29, 1986, the biggest names in comedy came together for the first Comic Relief USA telethon on HBO. The live event was held at the now-demolished Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles and hosted by Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, the three performers who became most closely associated with the Comic Relief name. Not every comedian who took part could make it out to LA, though, and that includes David Letterman.
By 1986 Late Night with David Letterman was firmly established as the most groundbreaking and vital comedy show on network television. Some of the show’s best segments in those early years were its live remotes, where Letterman would travel through New York in absurdist, deeply ironic little vignettes. It makes since that Letterman’s team would produce just such a video for the first Comic Relief, and today you can listen to that comedy sketch here at Paste.
In this six minute clip Letterman, Paul Shaffer, Chris Elliott and an unseen Tom Brokaw hike up a secluded mountain to discuss the threat the then-nascent cable industry poses to network television. And then some things happen. If you dig that era of Letterman and the work Elliott did on Late Night, you’re in for a treat. And although some of the sight gags might be lost on you in this recording, there’s a friendly radio announcer (who clearly has no idea who Shaffer and Elliott are) to provide some needed scene-setting (And if you want to actually see their tranquil stroll, you can find the video here.)