Paul Shaffer talks about upcoming performance at Playhouse

After 33 years on television with David Letterman, musician, comedian, and sometimes actor  Paul Shaffer will be performing at the Ridgefield Playhouse this Saturday with the rest of The World’s Most Dangerous Band. The show is part of the band’s first-ever tour.

The tour is promoting The World’s Most Dangerous Band’s self-titled CD, which was released about six weeks ago.

His experience with Letterman has filled him with comedic spontaneity.

“The thing is David Letterman himself was such a great boss to work for,” Shaffer told The Press.

“And really encouraged me to become way more spontaneous than I ever was, he was doing something different every night and my job was to support and follow him.”

He brings his Letterman experience — his knack for improvising and quick thinking — to each of the shows.

“We’ve had a wonderful reception, the people it’s almost like they miss us or something,” he said.

“It’s really lovely… people seem interested in the inside stories about some of the artists that I’ve gotten to work with; and then they like to hear the songs too by those artists.”

He and the band have already played in Atlantic City, Boston, Long Island, Niagara Falls, among several other locations.

The show includes a mix of songs and comedic storytelling, and is emceed by Shaffer.

Comedic rhythm

Shaffer takes his music seriously, but it feeds and influences his comedy.

“Comedy timing is very musical and I think that whatever timing I might have picked up over the years from wonderful funny people that I know,” he said, “I’m able to think of it in musical terms and it helps.”

He keeps the pace during the shows, inserting humor where it best fits.

“Just the stories that I tell in between the songs — I do get some laughs if I may humbly say,” he said.

“When we go into the songs we’re just grooving, but we may have a couple of little steps that are more funny than anything else.”

Improvisation

Since the band plays American Big Band music, jazz is a strong component of the genre.

“We improvise all the time, there’s lots of space for improvisation,” Shaffer said

“I have real jazz player in the band and I’m a jazz aficionado — I play a few free form solos myself during the night,” he added.

‘Oldies but goodies’

Shaffer refers to the songs they play as “oldies but goodies” and songs by “the people they love,” like Michael Jackson.

The set list for the show includes Ain't No Mountain High Enough, It's Raining Men, and Solid, along with a James Brown tribute and a Michael Jackson medley.

The performance at Ridgefield will feature guest Valerie Simpson from the renowned husband and wife duo Ashford and Simpson — Nickolas Ashford passed away in 2011.

“This is the biggest thrill for me,” said Shaffer.

“She is all about funky, she with her late husband composed so many of the great motown classics... She comes out in the middle of the show and does a set and it’s just phenomenal.”

Simpson will be singing classics that “everyone recognizes” by artists, such as Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye.

From TV to theater

Shaffer hasn’t toured since the 1980s, so he says he’s a bit rusty on the travel hacks, but he’s quickly picking it up from fellow bandmates.

“Others in the band know how to do it; I even watch what kind of luggage they bring,” he said.

“The tricks to the traveling... that’s the hardest trying to get those down, but it’s all worth it when you finally get on stage — it’s a privilege.”

As far as the audience, Shaffer loves them both, TV and live.

On Letterman, he performed for an audience of about 450 people, but he was always conscious of the millions of other viewers watching at home.

“In theater it is more intimate — it’s a different art form,” he said.

“I’m getting used to it and finding it interesting and exciting.”