By Benjamin Svetkey
September 24, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

More than two decades have passed since TV’s Felix Unger (Tony Randall) was asked to remove himself from his place of residence (that request came from his wife ). Now the honking neat-freak and his compulsively sloppy pal, Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman), are pairing up again for a CBS Odd Couple reunion (the orginal ABC series was on from 1970 to 1975) airing Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. Last week, we set up a phone conference with Randall, 73, at his home , in New York, and Klugman, 71, in Utah, where he’s filming a movie for Showtime. EW: In the reunion, Oscar gets throat cancer and Felix helps him recover (Klugman has battled the disease for almost five years). That doesn’t sound very funny. Randall: I didn’t think it was going to be funny at first, either, but it works. Klugman: Anything is funny if you stay in character. Felix comes to the hospital. But his way of helping is to be a pain in the butt. His intentions are good, but that’s when he’s most dangerous. EW: There was an all-black New Odd Couple in the ’80s, and this season’s The Second Half has been described as ”The Oscar Madison Show.” How come these characters have such staying power? Klugman: People identify with them; they see themselves as Oscar or Felix. Randall: Exactly. If you put two people together in a room, one is always going to be messier than the other. Klugman: People like these Damon and Pythias types of relationships. EW: Damon and who? Randall: Is that reference new to you? It’s only 2,500 years old. EW: Did Felix and Oscar’s animosity ever rub off on you? Randall: There wasn’t any animosity between us. Klugman: We did 114 episodes, and there wasn’t one show that didn’t end with a love scene between Felix and Oscar. EW: Are you guys anything like your characters? Klugman: Well, I wear socks that are too short and my pants bunch up above my ankles. I’m looking at my hotel room right now and it’s just like my bedroom on the show. Randall: I’ve been asked that same stupid question in every single interview I’ve done since 1970-that’s about 25,000 interviews. EW: So what’s the answer? Randall: No. I’m nothing like Felix at all.