Paul Shaffer reveals that Harry Shearer got him the role of Artie Fufkin in This Is Spinal Tap

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      Three days ago I called up Paul Shaffer at his home in New York City to talk about his upcoming performances with the Vancouver Symphony.

      But we didn't just talk about that.

      I also had a few other questions for the music legend, including some about his role as Artie Fufkin, the "Polymer Records" midwest promotions man in Rob Reiner's 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.

      For one thing, I wanted to know if the hapless Fufkin character—who sets up a disastrous in-store autograph session for the Tap—was based on an actual record rep that Shaffer had met in his music-business dealings.

      "Yes, absolutely," he replied. "I had been hanging out a little bit with a promo man in New York, and his name was Jim Knapp. I don't know whatever happened to him; I haven't see him since the '80s.

      "But I got a lotta phrases from him, to do with his business. And then acting-wise, I was no actor, but I used to do an impression of Don Kirshner on Saturday Night Live, and that was all I could do as an actor, so I just did that. My promo man turned out to talk a lot like Don Kirshner."

      Shaffer went on to explain how he scored the role in the first place.

      "Harry Shearer, good friend for all these years, got me that role. He said to the other guys, 'Paul will be funny in this.' So he called me up to tell me about it, and I was excited and I said, 'So you'll send me the lines?' And he said 'Well, you'll be making them up'. I couldn't believe it, but that's how they worked, you know. No script, just scene outlines."

      For more from Paul Shaffer—including his fond memories from working on Saturday Night Live and being David Letterman's bandleader for 33 years—see the story in next week's Georgia Straight.

      Read it on paper for that old-school Polymer Records vibe.