March 29, 2023


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Paul Shaffer, World’s Most Dangerous Band Makes Surprise ‘Fallon’ Cameo

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Viewers of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” got a rare treat Friday when television bandleader Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band — legendary for their longtime relationship with David Letterman — replaced The Roots for one night only on NBC’s late-night talk show. The house band.

From Los Angeles to Curate and Play with LL Cool J, De La Soul, Ice-T, Missy Elliot and Others for the 2023 Grammy Awards 50 with Questlove, Black Thought & The Rootsm The year’s anniversary tribute to hip-hop, NBC and Fallon announced Shaffer’s return late on January 30.

“Paul Shaffer is one of the most important musical figures in the history of late night,” Fallon said in a statement Monday. “From ‘SNL’ to Letterman, he’s done it all. I’m honored and excited that they’re getting the band back together.”

“Getting the band back together” for one night meant Shaffer called on “the most dangerous” regulars like guitarist Felicia Collins, drummer Anton Figg and bassist Will Lee, who opened their “Tonight Show” performance Friday by playing The Roots’ common intro theme. Even down to their doo-doo-doo chorus vocals.

“Hey, am I in the right studio?” Fallon teased Shaffer in front of a live studio audience in Studio 6B at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City before coming on stage.

As Fallon fills his monologue with cold weather jokes, the band explodes into every punchline, Shaffer’s traditional “How cold does it get?” In response Fallon even took a jab at Beyoncé’s potential Ticketmaster issue and the Grammys achieving 65-year-old status, saying, “The Grammys are so old, they’re starting to recognize performers at the Grammys.”

Coming out of solitude, old friends Fallon and Shaffer were surprised to talk to each other.

“What a trip,” Shaffer said. “It’s surreal to be here after so long. It’s a coincidence that we’re here tonight because it was 41 years ago this week when David Letterman broadcast live across the hall on NBC, so it’s like our 41St The anniversary we are celebrating. And thanks to you, I got the whole band back together from the Letterman show — boys and girls — and we’re having the time of our lives.”

Speaking about Shaffer’s roots with Letterman, the keyboardist and bandleader told Fallon that after being the pianist for the first five seasons of “Saturday Night Live,” he got the call to work with Letterman on a brand new morning talk show (“10 o’clock in the morning, live!” ) wasn’t something she was particularly interested in. “I couldn’t get up that early. Luckily for me, when that show didn’t happen, they gave her another shot, the late show spot at 12:30. This time I had the sense to say yes. And here we are, 33-years-later, between two networks.”

From 1982 to 1993, Shaffer led the in-house band for “Late Night with David Letterman” before moving to talk show host CBS and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” A naming rights dispute with NBC forced Shaffer to change his band’s title to the CBS Orchestra, continuing with Letterman until the late-night host retired in 2015.

On Friday night, Fallon talked about his time as a comic and appearing as a guest on Letterman, but admitted to Shaffer that he was most nervous about meeting the bandleader.

“I was such a fan,” Fallon said. “Not only did you change the game and raise the bar on what a band could do at a show. Apparently Doc Severinsen (Johnny Carson’s bandleader on ‘The Tonight Show’) was there. But you took it to the next level. And I think you’ve changed the face of comedy too, if I say… when Dave tells a joke and the audience doesn’t really laugh, you go, ‘Hehehhh.’ And, it was funny when you knew. The comedy nerds at home were gong to ‘he’s fine.’ Audiences haven’t gotten it yet.”

Fallon credits Shaffer with introducing the faux laugh to many comedians. “Tina Fey laughs like you. They’re all doing you.”

Shaffer responded to Fallon’s praise by saying, “I didn’t realize I had so much responsibility… I’m humbled. And we all look to Johnny Carson as our model and have Doc Severinsen and Ed (McMahon, Carson’s sidekick) on the panel to talk to him. I used to think I was a combination of Doc and Ed.”

In addition to playing the intro and outro music for “Tonight Show” guests Kit Harington, Tyler James Mitchell and Fallon’s regular “Thank You Note” segments, Shaffer and the world’s most dangerous band Kool & the Gang knock out a loud, brassy version of “Hollywood Swinging.” out and “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” by The Jacksons.

Fallon also followed up a conversation with Shaffer about his choice for this Grammy weekend (“Beyoncé made one of the best records of all time,” the keyboardist said, perhaps poking fun at Kanye West’s famous VMA speech in 2009) with Harry Styles’ “Like It Was.” before claiming a Grammy nomination for Talk Show Song of the Year.

“It’s got everything I love — influences from all my favorite artists,” Fallon said before going into his own version of “As It Was,” backed by Shaffer & Co., featuring vocals from host David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Adam Sandler, Mick. Jagger and Bruce Springsteen to close the show.

One of the nicest tributes to Shaffer came during the “Thank You Note” segment on Friday when Fallon thanked the bandleader with a nod to his time on Letterman. “When people talk about legends of late night TV, you’re number one on everybody’s top 10 list.”

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