The prodigal sidekick has returned. And how.
For the first time since Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show departure, Andy Richter appeared on TV this morning, filling in for a vacationing Regis Philbin and breaking all manner of land-speed records in getting a few things off his chest.
"I actually can be on TV," he told Kelly Ripa right off the bat. "Conan can't—in fact, I'm not even sure I can say his name. I may be getting him in trouble for even saying his name."
If he can get in trouble for that, we hate to think what the fallout may be for the rest of his NBC and Jay Leno-bashing stint.
When asked by Ripa—who hedged her question by acknowledging that he would likely not answer honestly (ha!)—whether he bore any ill will toward NBC and Leno, well, that's when the fun began.
"Um…yes. Yes, I do," he said. "Why wouldn't I? Why wouldn't I? I mean, my God, I'd be some sort of self-hater...I mean, NBC definitely…everybody said they were gonna do something, and then they didn't. They all said years ago, 'We're gonna do something,' and then they didn't.
"There was all kinds of talk about our ratings not being very good, but they were pretty good all summer. And then our lead-in changed and then they weren't so good anymore."
"It's very hard, I would think, to have a lead-in for a nighttime talk show that is a nighttime talk show," Ripa interjected.
Sounds like Team CoCo just drafted another player.
Richter, who incidentally remains under contract with NBC—"we'll see if those checks keep coming"—wasted no time in turning the conversation to Conan's less than magnanimous predecessor/successor.
"It's very frustrating when somebody says…and especially when they're on videotape saying, 'I'm gonna take this No. 1 show and hand it over and hope that the next guy makes it a No. 1 show.' And then doesn't. And says things like, 'Well, I didn't have any choice. They wouldn't let me out of my contract.'
"Which…you know how multimillionaires are always being forced to do things they don't want to do. It's frustrating. It's very frustrating."
Also frustrating to Richter was the public perception that Conan & Co. walked away from NBC with some sort of golden parachute deal.
"It's not like that at all," Richter explained. "In fact, Conan is putting a lot of his own money out there. He formed a little corporation just to pay people to keep them, because all these people moved from New York to California to work on this show."
The show which Richter himself couldn't have been more thrilled to be a part of.
"I thought, 'Oh, I'm on the Tonight Show. That's as good as it gets in show business. I'm a tenured professor of show business now.' And I guess I'm really good at getting kicked off the air, 'cause it's what I've been doing the last 10 years. In fact, you're brave to have me here."
And Conan will show a similar amount of courage when Richter most likely joins him on the road this spring.
"I can't say," the erstwhile sidekick said of plans for O'Brien to tour. "Yes, it's a possibility. It's a distinct possibility. It would be fun. It would get me out of the house. My entire family would love that."
Not to mention a legion of fans.
Richter's not the only one lashing out. Hear what Howard Stern had to say about the late-night shake-up.