Abbott had Costello. Jordan had Pippen. And Conan O’Brien? He’s got red hair. Oh, and he’s also got Andy Richter, whose deadpan, ultra-ironic shtick happens to be one of the neatest reasons to watch Late Night. C’mon, let’s snuggle up on the couch with the 31-year-old, rosy-cheeked sidekick.
EW: Before we get started, can I even call you a ”sidekick”? Or is there a more PC term these days?
ANDY RICHTER: Well, cohost has a little more cachet, but that’s not entirely what I am. Look, if you pick up trash, you’re a garbageman; if you sit on a couch on a talk show, you’re a sidekick. I don’t get that worked up about it. My job title could be Smelly Little Schoolgirl — as long as I’m making money, I don’t care.
EW: Any pointers for wannabe sidekicks?
AR: Be heavier than the host, because he’s got to be the one with the sex appeal … A touch of alcoholism doesn’t hurt; that’s always good for a laugh … Practice blank looks — you need to be able to do Dumb at the drop of a hat … Harbor a secret opinion that you’re better than everyone, but in a nice way … And also, pay the audio guy well to keep your mic up, so when you do have something to say, people will actually hear it.
EW: What do you and Conan talk about during commercials?
AR: Oh, random stuff. Sometimes we’re making fun of the guest that was just on: ”What a phony!” ”Who gives a s— what that guy thinks?” Or we may just be continuing a conversation from earlier — you know, what we had for lunch, gossip about one of the Three Stooges or the murder of Bob Crane.
EW: And when you’re sitting there stoically on the couch, what are you thinking?
AR: Actually, I’m searching for physical defects in the guests. I’m looking for spider veins on supermodels, pit rings on starlets, and plastic-surgery scars on aging male stars who were never known for being good-looking anyway. But I do usually try to listen. I mean, Jesus Christ, all you’ve got to do is pay attention for an hour a day — if you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be in show business.
EW: How about some dirt on the guests?
AR: Well, maybe it’s part of his whole holistic, yoga thing, but Sting definitely has a very natural scent about him. And when he used Conan’s bathroom, something about his holistic diet had a very strong scent to it, or so I heard.
EW: If I’m a guest on the show, what sidekick etiquette should I keep in mind?
AR: At least acknowledge me. Because there are some people — I swear, I should get a tape loop of them — who make their entrance, and it’s as if I’m a swinging saloon door that they breeze through on their way to Conan. It’s usually the fashion-model types. I think sometimes people’s nerves get the best of them, and they just see this Big Red Head, and they focus in on that … And don’t be offended if I ask you some personal questions during the commercial break. Because somehow I have to make the show interesting for myself.