By ADAM BUCKMAN
NEW YORK, March 9, 2010 — Andy Richter emerged this morning as the first member of Team Conan to speak out publicly since NBC canned his pal Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight Show.”
Richter’s opportunity came on “Live! with Regis and Kelly,” where Richter was subbing for Regis Philbin, who was on vacation.
Kelly Ripa dove right into the topic of NBC’s late-night debacle at the top of “Live” this morning.
“It’s a big thrill for us to have you here,” Ripa told Richter. “I feel like you are the ‘get’ of the century right now.”
In reply, Richter, O’Brien’s sidekick and announcer on the ill-fated Conan “Tonight Show,” confirmed this was his first appearance on TV and first chance to speak out on the subject since the show ceased production in January.
“And I actually can be on TV,” Richter noted, “Conan can’t . . . In fact, I’m not even sure I can say his name. I may be getting him in trouble for just saying his name.”
“Does that mean you didn’t get the big money [referring to the multimillion-dollar severance package reportedly negotiated by Conan’s reps when he exited NBC]?” Ripa asked.
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“Conan is putting a lot of his own money out there,” Richter said, explaining that most of the Conan “Tonight Show” staff did not receive generous severance packages. “[Conan] formed a little corporation just to pay people,” he said. “All these people moved from New York to California to be on the show and a lot of the people, they’re robbed of their contacts and so even in a downtime like this they don’t have the contacts that they would have here on the East Coast to go get work elsewhere. . . . Now they’re in Los Angeles with lots of skills in a television town and not really knowing a lot of people there.”
Richter revealed that he’s OK financially, at least for now, because he’s “still actually under contract at NBC for a while — not on the air, but I’m still an employee.”
“So what do they have you do now — cleaning up the office and stuff?” Ripa asked.
“No, in fact it was ‘We need your ID!’ It was like that, yeah,” he said, describing the way he and other show staffers got the heave-ho. “We had a week or so to pack up and clear out.”
Not surprisingly, Richter said he was as surprised as anyone else on the Conan “Tonight Show” that NBC had decided to halt the program. Indeed, he felt he was set for life. “I thought, ‘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!”
Getting to the heart of the matter, Ripa asked him, “Do you have any ill feelings toward NBC and Jay [Leno]? Not that you’re going to be honest . . .”
But Richter was honest. Said he, “Um, yes! Yes, I do. Why wouldn’t I? NBC, definitely . . . Everybody said they were going to do something and then they didn’t. They all said years ago, ‘We’re going to do something’ and then they didn’t.”
Ripa asked him if the difficulty of producing a new “Tonight Show,” starring Conan and his team, was compounded by NBC’s decision to place, essentially, another late-night-style show — “The Jay Leno Show” — at 10 p.m. weeknights.
“It was very difficult,” Richter said. “I don’t think it was a good plan. There was a lot of planning that was done that was very short-sighted.”
Ripa also asked Richter about the rumors that a Conan stage show was being organized for a summer tour. “It’s a possibility, a distinct possibility,” Richter said.
Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com