After reports earlier this month that longtime David Letterman bandleader and sidekick Paul Shaffer would not be renewing his contract, Shaffer now insists he is staying with Letterman. The rumors of Shaffer leaving began after he gave an interview to TV Guide Canada in which he said, “We’ve been on 30 years so now we’ve got another two years…I’m going to be certainly ready to lie down after that, take a nap.”
Shaffer’s contract expires in 2014. Shortly after giving that interview to TV Guide Canada, Shafer, 62, issued a statement saying, “In an interview with a reporter, I made two unrelated points which, joined together, seem to say something that isn’t true. It’s true that the show was recently extended for two years, and yes, someday when it’s all over, I will most likely take a nap. But I hope that day never comes. As long as the show goes on, I will be there for as long as Dave wants me on it.”
Shaffer, born and raised in Canada to a Jewish family, began his career as the musical director for the 1972 Toronto production of Godspell, which featured soon-to-be famous Jewish performers Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, and Victor Garber, along with Andrea Martin, Martin Short, and Dave Thomas. Shaffer was a member of the house band on Saturday Night Live from 1980 – 85, occasionally appearing in sketches as well. He also worked with Radner on her 1979 Broadway show, which was filmed as the 1980 movie Gilda Live.
He has been with Letterman since Late Night with David Letterman debuted on NBC in February 1982. After being passed up for The Tonight Show following Johnny Carson’s departure in 1992, Letterman moved to CBS, taking Shaffer with him, on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Shaffer’s memoir, We’ll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Show-biz Saga, was published in 2009. Shaffer has been married to Cathy Vasapoli since 1990, with whom he has two children, Victoria, 19, and Will, 13.