Meet David Fuhrer. Or, as David Fuhrer would put it: Teem Divad Rerhuf.
Fuhrer, 28, has a rare skill: He can speak backward fluently—if it’s possible to speak backward and still be fluent. This may not sound like a marketable talent, but it has landed Fuhrer on both the Letterman and Tonight shows. And, more recently, he has parlayed his ability into a board game called Backwords, which sold 300,000 sets since it was launched last fall and is in development as a TV game show.
Fuhrer likes to say he discovered his unique gift as a toddler: “The first words I ever said came out backward—’Mom’ and ‘Dad!’ ” Growing up in New York’s Westchester County, Fuhrer actually started by saying some of his friends’ names backward at age 10. There was I Moan (Naomi), Ah Satan (Natasha) and Y Not (Tony). He also discovered that he could read off street signs backward without any difficulty. “I just picked it up,” he says. “And because people thought it was funny, I was encouraged to do it.” That encouragement came mostly from friends at school. “For years,” he says, “my parents just told me to shut up. Now they see me on television and it’s, ‘There’s my son who speaks backward.’ ”
Fuhrer’s public breakthrough came when he sang the words to the Star-Spangled Banner back ward for his friends at summer camp. His big network break took place in 1983 when a former Boston University schoolmate who worked for David Letterman arranged for Fuhrer to appear on the show. Fuhrer’s spot was bumped five times before he finally made it—singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game in reverse.
“I can say anything backward that I can spell,” claims Fuhrer. In fact, he says, the only time he has ever been stumped was when someone asked him to render a phrase in Danish in reverse. “I couldn’t do it,” he says, “because I didn’t understand what they were saying forward.”
When he’s not practicing his own particular form of back talk, Fuhrer, a bachelor and an avid athlete, works out religiously at a local gym near his L.A. condo. Fuhrer says most people he comes across seem intrigued by his act. Not so, though, a young woman he met in Boston. When she heard him do his routine, he reports, “She screamed that I was the devil and ran away from me.”
Then again, maybe she just thought he was saying something forward.