Entertainment Music

Paul Shaffer finds a new groove

By Jane Stevenson, Postmedia Network

Longtime David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer says he's busier than ever now that the show has ended. GETTY

Longtime David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer says he's busier than ever now that the show has ended. GETTY

After 33 years as David Letterman's musical foil, Paul Shaffer wasn't sure what his post-Letterman life would look like when the late night funnyman n retired from TV two years ago.

Turns out it involved returning to the road for the first time since 1980, with the World's Most Dangerous Band in support of Shaffer's first album in 24 years featuring guest vocalists ranging from Jenny Lewis (Sorrow) to Bill Murray (Happy Street) singing classic rock and R&B covers.

"I'm sure having fun," says Shaffer.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," admits the 67-year-old musician. "To tell you the truth I thought, 'Maybe it's time to smell the roses and travel or something. I've been working so hard all these years.'But boy, I got bored and depressed right away. I must say we have been very well received. Maybe people do miss us."

24 Hours caught up with the amiable Thunder Bay, Ont., native down the line from New York before his Wednesday hosting duties at Canadian Music Week's Live Industry Awards in Toronto and his Thursday night show at Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ont. (He also plays Ottawa's Centrepoint Theatre on May 3.)

How much of an adjustment has it been not being on TV with Letterman?

It was a big change. How could it not be? We were going 100-miles an hour, doing five shows a week for all those years. Then all of a sudden, you don't have any schedule. It was so much fun. But I think both Dave and I are aware you can't have all the fun. You've got to eventually move over and let somebody else have a little bit of it. So we had our run. We had a great time.

Do you still see each other?

Yeah, we do. We started having dinners. He said, "I would hate for this to end and us to never had really gone out to dinner a few times,'and then we just continued doing it. About every three or four weeks, we get together. He was the greatest boss a person could possibly have and he became a great friend.

Given the state of American politics, his absence from TV seems even more pronounced ...

Besides doing a hilarious monologue, he's still the only one who could sit down and have a learned and knowledgeable conversation with a scientist or a politician or any non-show business person. I don't think any of [the current hosts have that quality] but they're all great. He really showed everybody how to do the job. And he learned from Johnny Carson, who I agree was the best at it.

You must have known David's mother, Dorothy, who just passed away at age 85, well?

Oh, of course. She was always very sweet to me.

Sire Records' president Seymour Stein was the guy who suggested you do another album, which led to this tour, right?

The whole thing has been fabulous. And I got to reunite the band from the [Letterman] show. Everybody was very happy to come back together and play together.

Can you envision a date where Bill Murray could join you and the band?

Well, if he's not in Morocco! You never know where he's going to be. He gets around. If it worked out, I would love it if he came around; you never know. I was just thrilled that he did the record. He loves to sing but he usually does it for comedic effect. He wanted to do a good job. And he worked hard in the studio all afternoon. He did take after take until everybody was happy with it. He's a good friend too.

Do you stay in touch with the famed Godspell Toronto cast (1972-'73) that included you, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Victor Garber, Andrea Martin, Dave Thomas, and the late Gilda Radner?

We became very close-knit and we're all still best friends. It was all our first professional show business jobs. I was 22, a lot of us were 22. A couple [of others were] a few years older. We all hit it off. We were like-minded.

Why have you always attracted such funny people to work with?

The kids in that Godspell show in Toronto influenced me a lot. I looked at them and said, 'Well, these people are laughing a lot more than I. They're having more fun with their lives than I am? I want to be a little bit more like them.'They became influences over my own life. Especially Martin Short.