In an exclusive interview with Closer Weekly, Paul Shaffer reminisces on how he landed his Late Show with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live gigs. The 68-year-old admits his goal was to be a musician. “The first real jobs I got out of college were playing weddings, bar mitzvahs, topless clubs — anything available! Then on a fluke, I was hired to conduct Godspell [in Toronto in 1972] with some of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with. Many remain my good friends today, including Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, and Victor Garber.”
And that’s how he ended up in comedy. “We hung out incessantly and tried to make each other laugh nonstop. I was influenced profoundly by them — they seemed like they were having a better time than anybody I knew. They looked at everything through a comedic prism, and I started doing the same.” Paul tells Closer. He landed SNL when Howard Shore, the musical director, hired him to be his right-hand man.
Paul and Dave on the Late Show.
“I knew many of the cast members already, like [Godspell‘s] Gilda Radner. I used to do an impression of [nasal-voiced rock show host] Don Kirshner, and I introduced The Blues Brothers in that character. The next thing you know, they got a record deal and hired me to put a band together for them. I remember the first time we played “Soul Man” — we’d never felt anything like that before!”
He adds, “I did the first five years of SNL and everyone in the original group was leaving, so I decided to see what else was out there. I’d spent two years as a studio musician when I got a call asking if I’d like to come in and speak to Dave [Letterman] about his new show. We hit it off right away — he mentioned liking the Bill Murray lounge singer sketch,” Paul explains. “He says now that he never had anyone else in mind for the job, and I believe him… but I didn’t know it was going to be 33 years together!” Paul says of Dave.
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