Paul Shaffer is best known for his work as the band leader and music director on David Letterman’s late night TV shows, from the late 80’s until 2015. Though he was in charge of choosing and playing the music that would appear on the show, Shaffer was kind of a sidekick to Letterman, pulling things out of hats and setting up joke punchlines for him. Before Shaffer was on The Late Show, he was a band member on Saturday Night Live. He would appear in sketches with Bill Murray and would play piano during the Blues Brothers sketches. Letterman took notice and decided he wanted that rapport to be a part of his show.
Shaffer is not just known for working with Letterman. He has written a couple of really great disco tunes, including the 1983 jam It's Raining Men, and plays with The Late Show's The World's Most Dangerous Band.
He and Jesse talk about his expansive career, what it was like working on a show everyday for half of his life then not, and his impressive eyewear.
Javaka Steptoe is a children's book author and illustrator who has made a career of biographizing his heroes and creating books that reflect the diversity of his neighborhood. He makes an effort to illustrate books that have people of all races, all kinds of families, from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds present.
Growing up in New York and being the son of children's book author/illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka knew he was going to be an artist from the time he was a child. His first book In Daddy's Arms I am Tall, received the Coretta Scott King award for Illustrators in 1997, and many of his subsequent books recieved awards and recognition. His newest book, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has won the 2017 Caldecott award, which is basically the Pulitzer Prize for children's books.
Javaka joins Jesse to talk about what it was like to grow up with a well known father, where his passion and interest in Jean-Michel Basquiat came from, and why he finds it important to create diversity in the books that children read.
Javaka's book Radiant Child:The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is out now.
Louis Theroux is a British documentarian whose career has found himself interacting with some of the most depraved and despised people in our society. He reported on the family who runs the Westboro Baptist Church and spent time with the the leader of the White Aryan Resistance and his family. Louis, whose main interest is finding out why members of niche political parties and subcultures do what they do, also spends time with less harmful people, such as UFO hunters and Swingers on his BBC program Weird Weekends. As a part of this series, he reported on the pro-wrestling community in the United States, and took on the challenge of training with the new recruits. Louis recalls that experience for us as the craziest day of his career. Lets just say, things did not end well.
Louis has a new documentary out now called My Scientology Movie.
What makes a perfect action film? No dialogue.
Hip hop blogger and Pitchfork columnist Andrew Noz joins us with a couple of his all-time favorite hip hop tracks. His first recommendation is Pacific Coast Remix by DJ Quik (featuring Ludacris), a track devoted to sunny Los Angeles's dark side. He also suggests checking out the 1983 track Beat Bop by Rammellzee and K-Rob. It's a song from an era where the uptown and downtown communities mingled in a way that the rap world would rarely see again.
Weird Al Yankovic is the undisputed king of parody music. Inspired by the novelty songs he heard on broadcasts of The Dr. Demento Show, Yankovic began writing his own comedy songs for the accordion -- starting with a love song to his parents' car, entitled Belvedere Cruisin'.
He sat down with us in 2011, before his album Alpocalypse was released. He talks about his food parodies (think "Eat It"), his special talent for rapping, and having an unusually long and successful career for a parodist (or musician of any kind).
Weird Al just kicked off a nationwide summer tour. He's also just released a new children's book, My New Teacher and Me. You can find more information .
Geoff Nunberg is a professor at UC Berkeley, the resident linguist of Fresh Air, and the author of Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years. He talks to us about his studies into the word "asshole," which began life as a bit of slang used by WWII servicemen and has come to envelop the concept of modern incivility.
We spoke in 2012. The book is now out in paperback.
Jesse explains what makes David Letterman such an especially gifted late night host in a world of very good late night hosts.
Got a cultural gem of your own? Pick your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forum.>
A sweet yet haunting late-night listen. St. Vincent was on Letterman last week singing "Cruel" from her new album, "Strange Mercy", which is set for release on Sept. 13th. If you want to hear more, you can stream the album now on NPR.org.
It's stand-up Saturday morning again!
Here's Joe Wong's recent appearance on Letterman. Remember, kids: No means no. Except when it means nitric oxide.
Yesterday, Steve Agee posted this clip of Zach's network television debut. It's an appearance on Letterman's show, but Janeane Garofalo was guest hosting because Dave was having heart surgery.
Terrific inaugural performance and the subtitles only heighten the fun.
A) This is my favorite thing in the world.
B) I am so excited to interview Amy again on Friday night.
C) This show with Amy and Jimmy Carr is one of my favorite middle-period Sound episodes.
My new thing is watching Jack Hannah clips from Letterman.
I highly recommend watching the clip above, which was shared on the forum by GloriousKyle.
Even more than that, though, I recommend watching Thursday's show online. The whole thing's great, including the musical performance by a wonderful country singer I'd never heard named Jamey Johnson, but if you want to cut straight to the animals, fast forward to the second dot on the timeline. Then watch, and laugh like you've never laughed before.
If I ever get a talk show, I want it to be all demonstrations. Cooking segments, animals... fuck celebrities. Just all dumb stuff, all the time.