Regis & Kelly: TelevisionWeek‘s Syndication Personalities of the Year

Jan 23, 2006  •  Post A Comment

No show does banter better than “Live With Regis and Kelly.”

Many have tried-more than 60, including a number of shows hosted by personalities who have sat in one of “Live’s” chairs as guest co-host-and have failed over the course of Regis Philbin’s 23 years as talkmeister of “Live.”

“Live” debuted in New York as “The Morning Show” in 1983, a local show created by Mr. Philbin at ABC-owned WABC-

TV. A handful of co-hosts later, it was nationally syndicated by Buena Vista Television in 1988 with Mr. Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford as co-hosts.

Kelly Ripa, who had found fame-and her husband, Mark Consuelos-on ABC’s “All My Children,” was the winner of a months-long search for Ms. Gifford’s successor in 2001, and in the five years since, critics agree “Live” has never been faster, funnier, lighter or more full of laughter.

Mr. Philbin and Ms. Ripa have each other’s back and each other’s number for the hour that starts at 9 a.m. each weekday with them walking hand in hand onstage.

Peter Lassally, executive producer of CBS’s “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson,” has known Mr. Philbin for 40 years, and they maintain their friendship with daily phone calls that are guaranteed to leave Mr. Lassally laughing out loud. Over those years, Mr. Lassally watched Mr. Philbin struggle through a number of attempts to find a show that stuck while Mr. Lassally produced for TV talk greats Johnny Carson and David Letterman, both of whom Mr. Lassally said were “in awe” of Mr. Philbin’s ability to take any guest and make the segment work.

“He has a unique talent,” said Mr. Lassally, who regards Ms. Ripa as “a great second banana. She feeds him all the time.”

The result is the very definition of appointment viewing, even if its sanctioning by the Emmy voters has been limited. Mr. Philbin has won one talk show host Emmy and one game show host Emmy-for his role as host of prime time’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which a desperate ABC too quickly wore out.

To rectify its annual underdog status, “Live” tongue-in-cheekily created the Relly Awards in 2003. Every year since then, viewers decide who will get gold-toned director’s stools among nominees who include only Mr. Philbin, Ms. Ripa and their guests.

Emmys or no, “Live’s” co-hosts have continued to rise to ever-higher iconic status. Mr. Philbin hit No. 8 on the Billboard holiday album list last year with “The Regis Philbin Christmas Album.” Ms. Ripa can be seen on the cover of women’s magazines regularly.

He packs in concert crowds throughout the country on weekends-with performances scheduled just last weekend at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. Her second job is as Faith Ford’s co-star in ABC’s “Hope & Faith.”

Ms. Ripa, a natural mimic who did eerily spot-on impressions of “American Idol” alumnus Clay Aiken and Angelina Jolie on last Halloween’s “Live,” really flexed her comic muscle as host of “Saturday Night Live” in November 2003. Both Mr. Philbin and Ms. Ripa are frequent, playful guests on the “Late Show With David Letterman.”

TelevisionWeek National Editor Michele Greppi, a self-described “Live” junkie, sat down with the show’s co-hosts, both tanned and rested from holiday breaks-he in Florida and she in the Caribbean-to talk about everything from how it feels to be favorite targets of the supermarket tabloids to their infamous technophobias, his upcoming reprisal of his role of Handsome Hal on her prime-time sitcom-an appearance for which they had just finished the table read-and one disastrous dinner with Johnny Carson.

What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.

TelevisionWeek: Both of you now live forever, in the tabloids, in the real estate columns, in the social columns, in the financial magazine press-and of course all of the bikini photos. What does that feel like?

Kelly Ripa: The bikini photos I really hate. Because, you know, nobody wants to be …

Regis Philbin: I think she looks great.

Ms. Ripa: But I don’t care who you are or what you do, nobody wants to be photographed without their knowledge. Especially when they’re playing with their kids on the beach. What if I exhale?

You know, here in New York we see the photographers all the time. They’re very respectful. You know they’re there. They’re taking your pictures; they have a job to do. I don’t begrudge photographers taking pictures, because it’s their job. I begrudge them sort of trespassing on private property and pretending that they’re guests and setting up an umbrella next to your children and putting a camera in between their legs and a towel over their lap and photographing you all the time.

TVWeek: Is that how they get them?

Ms. Ripa: That’s how they get them. And it’s creepy. It’s actually unfair. I’m not complaining, because, believe me, I’m well-compensated. I know they’re not paying me my salary for the job, because the actual job is such a pleasure I would pay them to do it.

So the salary must be for the stuff that goes along with it that some people might consider aggravating. You know, in the big scheme it’s really not that big a deal. I read the tabloids too. I find them entertaining, but I read them for entertainment purposes. I don’t read them to get news from them. I read them to look at the pictures. I mean, I never know what the article’s saying. I look at the pictures.

TVWeek [to Mr. Philbin]: You have had your run-ins with the tabloids. How do you get used to it?

Mr. Philbin: You do get used to it after a while. You become numb to it all, and … you know, frankly, I don’t read them now. When I’m in an airport, maybe, as I’m walking down I’ll see some headline, you know, and [it will] give you a chuckle or something. But I really don’t. So I’m not really up to date. I’m amazed at how many people say to me …

Ms. Ripa: Is it true?

Mr. Philbin: Yes. You and Kelly are fighting, or whatever the latest, you know, they have their own little book. Their own little theories, their own little scenes … to make a good story, I guess. And it never fails to amaze me the lengths they go to create this imaginary story they’re working on.

TVWeek: So the Enquirer didn’t save your job?


Ms. Ripa: Don’t you remember, there was this whole “save Regis” thing.

Mr. Philbin: Well, there was nothing to save Regis about. But I appreciate them saving me. I don’t know what the hell to say about it.

TVWeek: Is it certification of your success?

Mr. Philbin: I don’t know if that’s it or it’s because their readers may be our viewers, 9 o’clock in the morning. It would seem to me like there’s a lot of them out there who would be enjoying the tabloids and our show at the same time. So I think maybe that’s why they kinda concentrate on us.

TVWeek: So, New Year’s Eve, we know where you were. Where did you go afterward?

Mr. Philbin: I went to the Carlyle Hotel, took Lou Holtz with me. This summer when I was making a Christmas album, I had dinner with Lou, and I said, “Where are you going afterward?” He said, “I’m gonna go back to the hotel.” I said, “Well, why don’t you come with me? I’m going to a studio where I’m making my record, CD, for Christmas. You’ve never seen anything like this, Lou, c’mon.”

So we went. And there was Lou Holtz, football coach all his life, with these New York musicians and all. To watch these two cultures mesh and enjoy each other and appreciate what the other one does, some of these guys really knew their football, and Lou was interested to see how they made music together. And it was a wonderful night, and that was the night I did “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Which, ad-libbing that part about Rudolph, he really enjoyed it.

So anyway, I run into Lou Holtz two weeks ago when I emceed the All-America football team … and he said, “I’m gonna be
up there New Year’s Eve. I don’t know whether I should fly home or should I stay over.”

He worked two straight weeks on ESPN for these bowl games, then came Sunday, which is give it back to the pros, but there’s one more bowl game on Monday, so I said, “Why don’t you stay, Lou? I’m doing a show for Fox, make the bowl predictions and then, you know, well, is there a party to go to afterward?” He was my guest. He did a great job. After the show, Joy and I took him to the Caf%E9; Carlyle to see Steve Tyrell, who was terrific. And he created quite a sensation in the Carlyle.

TVWeek: Did you enjoy the whole New Year’s thing, the broadcast?

Mr. Philbin: You know what? It really is one of the toughest gigs in our business, because it’s so long, because you have to get in place before the cops shut down the zones.

TVWeek: What are your plans for the new year?

Mr. Philbin: Gosh, I don’t know. We just kind of do it every year. We don’t have any big plans, or do we? Ah, here’s one: Regis appearing on “Hope & Faith.”

TVWeek: Again.

Ms. Ripa: Again.

Mr. Philbin: Handsome Hal [is] coming back, with a very funny twist. Can’t talk about it.

TVWeek: Do you have more lines this time?

Mr. Philbin: Damn near carry the show.

Ms. Ripa: They give Regis the exact amount of lines that he wants. I think we should make that perfectly clear.

Mr. Philbin: I wish there were fewer lines.

Let me tell you something. It is a tough situation to remember those lines, to say them in reference to what you have just heard or where you’re going. And I marvel at these people. I do this once a year, but you should hear them. I’m really impressed.

Ms. Ripa: Well, you’re just as good and you’re only there once a year.

Mr. Philbin: Perfect comic actress.

TVWeek: Hilarious on “Saturday Night Live.”

Mr. Philbin: She’s great. She is this generation’s Lucille Ball.

She does all the schtick Lucille Ball did. She can do any acrobatic move, deliver lines …

TVWeek: Your show, probably more than any, just continues to do what it does and sort of what it has always done. What is the secret to that?

Ms. Ripa: Regis is the secret, I think.

TVWeek: But beyond Regis, what does it say about the audience?

Mr. Philbin: I think they enjoy hearing something fun, something light, something entertaining.

Ms. Ripa: But listen, why is it fun and entertaining? It’s fun and entertaining because you, and I said this before, I think, are the best storyteller ever. I am so engaged, I can listen to him tell the same story 35 times. I’m never tired of it. It is amazing. You know, we had dinner in Nevis [in the Caribbean]. And it’s the same gang that we always, you know, the gang, the big dinner. And everybody around the table said the same thing: Regis is missing, because he wasn’t there to sort of move the story line of the dinner party along. I mean, he really has a dialogue, a narration, he’s like a narrator of things, and without him, it’s a void, it’s a hole. And so I think he is the secret of the show.

There have been a few co-hosts. But he, I think, is what people tune in to see. He’s the reason people tune in: because it’s comforting and it’s fun and they know they’re not going to have to worry about hearing anything downbeat or depressing or awful. And quite frankly, just hearing about how his trials and tribulations.

Today, driving the car with the stick shift … just listening to Regis try to operate a stick shift was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. And the audience was in tears. It’s like one of those things where the audience falls silent, and you go, why isn’t the audience laughing? And you realize that the audience is laughing so much that they’re actually hyperventilating. They can’t breathe and they’ve got tears coming out of their eyes.

Mr. Philbin: We keep trained medics on the set at all times, to take care of this audience. They’re told if you see somebody hyperventilating, get to ’em before Regis kills ’em.

TVWeek: Where and why did you try to drive a stick shift?

Mr. Philbin: Well, we were talking about what we did on our vacations, and I was in Florida with Joy, and I got a little Pontiac car that had a stick shift. And [wife] Joy said, “No, it’s got a stick shift.” And I said, “I’ve driven a stick shift for years.” So I pick up the car. And of course, there were dire warnings [from Joy]: “This is going to embarrass us, you’re going to get into an accident.” I said, “No, I’m not because …” and then the tension, and this car only starts in reverse. You have to turn it on in reverse.

Ms. Ripa: What did you call the gears today? You called them “levels.” He said, “It’s got five levels.”

Mr. Philbin: Well, I …


Mr. Philbin: So one time the damn thing did stall in the middle of Palm Beach, and the traffic stops, and Joy, instead of getting the mocking laugh-you know, that laugh that mocks you, and then it’s denied-I got the mocking smile. You know, like, “You’re too much of an idiot to breathe.” Anyway, I’m so embarrassed and I got back into reverse. …

And then the first time we took it out, we were at a mall or something, and … I stopped the car, and I can’t get the key out. So I couldn’t leave the car with the key in it. Joy’s in the store, and I wanted to go in and say, “Let’s get going,” but I couldn’t leave the key in the car. Finally she came out, and I had the thing in neutral-this is before I found out you gotta have it in reverse. And I could not get the damn car to start. So I stopped a kid, and I said, “Can you do this?” The kid couldn’t do it. An older man can’t do it. Nobody can get this car started until, finally, a guy came and said, “You have to pick up the nozzle, here, and then move it into reverse.”

TVWeek: Over the years there’s been a long list of things that you’ve professed not to be able to master.

Mr. Philbin: I’m not mechanically inclined.

TVWeek: So that’s the truth.

Mr. Philbin: I’m not Mark Zorro, you know what I’m saying?

Ms. Ripa: (laughing) Mark Zorro.

Mr. Philbin: I’m just Regis. That’s all I am.

TVWeek: So if you had gone into anything except syndication and become this kind of a success, would you be able to get to this point in your life not knowing so many things?

Mr. Philbin: Probably not, not knowing anything. Don’t know how to do it. Don’t have a cellphone, don’t have a …

TVWeek: I thought you did have one, but Joy carries it.

Mr. Philbin: But it’s hers. But I have learned how to use it. Once.

TVWeek: Once?

Mr. Philbin: I’ll tell you a funny story.

TVWeek: That’s redundant; they’re all funny.

Mr. Philbin: Peter Lassally and I went to see Johnny Carson once. He had just retired. So we went there. And Johnny can be, you know, could be an icy person, or he could be fun, but he was totally relaxed this time. We went to his office in the building that Arnold Schwarzenegger owns out in Muscle Beach-not Muscle Beach …

Ms. Ripa: Venice?

Mr. Philbin: Venice. So, I’m telling Johnny stories. Johnny’s laughing. And he said, “Let’s go to lunch.” We go to lunch. More stories, more stupid Regis stories. After lunch Johnny says, “Let’s have dinner.” I said, “Sure, what do you want to do? Friday night? Where’s it going to be? Granita? Out at the beach? I’ll be there, 8 o’clock. Got it.” Well, we were staying at the Century Plaza Hotel. And I thought, I had lived in Los Angeles for a long time. Now I’m very nervous about having dinner with Johnny, becaus
e, I’m thinking, you know, maybe the lunch thing was a fluke. And I get myself lost. It’s about two minutes after 8 and I’m still lurking around the airport.

So there’s a cellphone there. I said, “How am I gonna use it?” I picked it up and-honest to God-I prayed, and I pressed information: Granita, Malibu. Somehow, I dial that damn number. I get Granita! I get Peter. “Where are you?” he said. “You’re not going to believe this, but I’m at the airport.” Peter said, “Look, just get here as fast as you can.” I sped, heart pounding, got in there. Cold as ice. And I went in there with Johnny, and it was altogether different. And god-darn it do I hate bringing this up, that this is the last time I would see him in a social situation. Oh, I tried. I did all my schtick, you know, all my stupid … . At the end of the night he said, “You’re a funny guy …”

Ms. Ripa: Oooooh.

TVWeek: Well, maybe that’s why you’ve got the problem with the cellphone. It just turned out so badly.

Mr. Philbin: That was the first time I used a cellphone.

TVWeek: And the last time for a long time?

Mr. Philbin: Yeah. I use it once in a while.

TVWeek: But you had the great lunch.

Mr. Philbin: Great lunch.

Ms. Ripa: And no one can take that away from you.

Mr. Philbin: I haven’t told that story in 100 years. What is it? What else do you need to know?

TVWeek: Well, we sort of got off track. I was saying that you have lived a life and your career is such that you can get away without knowing how to master things that so many people use every day.

Mr. Philbin: You’re right. I’m still turning on my radio. Because it says “on,” “off.” Same thing here [points to Ms. Ripa]. She’s not that into the computer that much. Although she is getting better, I think.

Ms. Ripa: Well, no, I got a computer and I got an e-mail account, and after two days of trying and failing to retrieve my e-mails, that’s it. I’ve never opened my computer.

TVWeek: How long ago was that?

Ms. Ripa: It was in the summer, right? August?

TVWeek: You have a very high-tech audience. They begin faxing and e-mailing the minute you two say things.

Mr. Philbin: I guess it amuses them.

TVWeek: Gives them something that they can …

Mr. Philbin: Chuckle about, feel like they’re better than Regis at. Regis doesn’t like to admit that!

Ms. Ripa: You’re right, oh my God.

TVWeek: What is the formula for your perfect show?

Mr. Philbin: We have to have a good opening segment. It’s a high for us when everything happens right, when the audience is responsive and we have good stuff to tell them.

Ms. Ripa: It’s the fastest 20 minutes. It literally feels like 20 seconds.

Mr. Philbin: It really feels great.

Ms. Ripa: And you, when they pull up that card to go to travel trivia, it’s sad. We’re not done yet.

Mr. Philbin: And following that, if we could have some terrific guests …

TVWeek: At what point did you realize that guests felt they needed “Live” to be part of their media mix and that they got the show?

Mr. Philbin: We grew into that position. It was always tough to get guests. I started this thing in ’83, and they sit back, I think the people who represent the guests and who manage them, sit back and watch and see what kind of a show it is. Is anybody going to get hurt? Is anybody watching? Is there any rating to this? And through the years, I think, we’ve only improved our reputation. Now I think we get practically everybody.

Ms. Ripa: Everybody that we want. Yeah.

TVWeek: But do you remember one morning or one day looking at the booking wall and thinking …

Mr. Philbin: I think it got better through the years, and the last five years with Kelly have really been the best. I think we get the best guests now, since she’s been on the show.

Ms. Ripa: It has nothing to do with me.

Mr. Philbin: No, c’mon.

TVWeek: As a viewer, I say it’s the combination of the two of you.

Mr. Philbin: Oh, sure.

TVWeek: It’s the salt and pepper.

Mr. Philbin: Give her credit. These girls come out, boy, I’m gonna tell you. We have somebody from “Sex and …”

Ms. Ripa: OK.

Mr. Philbin: No, let’s say Sarah Jessica Parker comes out. It’s a look-over. The two of them are looking each other over.

Ms. Ripa: Well …

Mr. Philbin: Sizing up the shoes, the dress, the beads, the earrings, the hair. At least for half the interview.

Ms. Ripa: Regis was like my husband. Regis thought that women put themselves together for men. No. We put ourselves together for other women. We want to impress the sisterhood. If it’s Jennifer Aniston …

Mr. Philbin: Va-va-voom! Then she [Ms. Ripa] looks good.

Ms. Ripa: I pull out the nicest outfit I have.

TVWeek: And if it’s George Clooney you put on a necklace that’s sure to get caught on his jacket buttons.

Mr. Philbin: Absolutely …

Ms. Ripa: I will never recover from that. That will live with me, I fear. I hugged him and my necklace got stuck in his belt buckle.

TVWeek: Oh, it was the belt buckle?

Ms. Ripa: It was his belt buckle.

Mr. Philbin: I saw something happen. I said, where-where-belt buckle? What? Oh, never mind.

TVWeek: That’s part of what’s so much fun about the show. We all get to see it …

Ms. Ripa: All go wrong.

TVWeek: But how quick on his feet George Clooney was. He handled that very neatly.

Mr. Philbin: Oh, he is quick.

Ms. Ripa: He’s great. He gets it. He’s a great guest.

Mr. Philbin: He is. But here is a terrific example of what you just asked. Clooney would not do the show for a long, long time.

TVWeek: Didn’t he do it during his “ER” years?

Mr. Philbin: No, we didn’t get him until Kelly joined the show. He was tough to get.

TVWeek: Was it that you guys just never begged him hard enough?

Mr. Philbin: I don’t know, [executive producer Michael] Gelman does all that.

Ms. Ripa: He sends Gelman out to do all the begging.

Mr. Philbin: [Mr. Clooney is] a great, great guest-smart, funny, great-looking guy. A lot of good stories, a lot of good inside stories.

Ms. Ripa: I think he wants to be your friend also.

Mr. Philbin: Well, he’s awfully friendly. He really is.

Ms. Ripa: He invited Regis to Italy. And then I quickly invited myself along.

Mr. Philbin: And that killed it right there.

TVWeek: So what kind of personality does not work in this setting?

Mr. Philbin: Well, someone who actually takes the questions they are asked in the pre-interview seriously. Many times they’ve got stories or things they want to get out, and that’s in exchange for them appearing on our show. So we respect that. But the times that we somehow get off the beaten path …

Ms. Ripa: A guest that can go with the flow is a great guest.

TVWeek: When you get a guest who isn’t comfortable playing, what do you do?

Ms. Ripa: I fall silent. And then I let him take over. It’s really great for me.

Mr. Philbin: If it’s a guest that has never done our show, then I have a little concern about how they’re feeling. ‘Cuz … we’re guests on “[Late Show With David] Letterman.” We’re guests on these other shows.

Ms. Ripa: And it’s awful
. It’s nerve-wracking to be a guest on a show.

Mr. Philbin: If it’s the first time, or somebody that I’m a little concerned about, I go backstage during a commercial break: “Hi. How you doing?” you know, make a little kibitzing. “We’ll have you out here in just a minute.” Reassuring them that they’re in good hands. It makes a big difference, I have found.

TVWeek: And if they just couldn’t loosen up the first time, or perhaps the second time, but it’s a guest who has cachet, who has some interest?

Mr. Philbin: You stay with them. And I think it’s because we have experience as being guests. And sometimes, it is the host that takes you down the wrong path and leaves you nothing to talk about.

Ms. Ripa: Sometimes it’s the biggest star that’s the most nervous.

Mr. Philbin: Because I think they feel like they cannot live up to their stardom. To what the expectations are in the audience.

TVWeek: Some talk show guests seem so scripted as they make the rounds that viewers can practically say their lines with them.

Ms. Ripa: Where you see the same interview on “Good Morning America” and the “Today” show, and …

Mr. Philbin: Well, I hope you see a little difference on our show. We are getting them like third. There is a hierarchy to this guest booking game. You know, it’s “Letterman” and it’s “GMA,” and so they’ve been through the drill twice.

TVWeek: In a lot of cases you’re the second place, the morning after “Letterman.” How did that evolve?

Mr. Philbin: Because the infighting between producers and press agents got pretty heavy. Now it’s established. Everybody knows what the

lineup is.

TVWeek: And as long as they observe the lineup everybody’s happy?

Mr. Philbin: Exactly. It’s almost better now that all the rules are spelled out. This is the order. The press agents know it. The producers know it. The shows know it.

Ms. Ripa: Otherwise it’s a war.

Mr. Philbin: A free-for-all.

TVWeek: So now, when it comes to booking guests or asking them to play with you, is there anybody out there who isn’t game and willing to play around with you?

Mr. Philbin: I think most everybody has been enjoying what we do, and they find it refreshing.

Ms. Ripa: I’ll tell you who I think is one of the most game people. Joaquin Phoenix. He has wrestled with us. I mean, we couldn’t get him to Jell-O wrestle this time around, but …

Mr. Philbin: But I think things are a little looser, because there is no script here. There’s very little writing.

Ms. Ripa: And it’s a comforting … it’s not an intimidating atmosphere. If the guests are going to be comfortable, you cannot intimidate them backstage. They see us first, you know.

Mr. Philbin: They’re getting made up right next door to us.

Ms. Ripa: Sometimes they’re changing in my dressing room because we’ve run out of room. We’ve had guests borrow my undergarments because they’ve forgotten theirs. Things happen. People forget things and, “Do you have a spare bra?” Although my bras fit very few women. A couple of men, but that’s about it.

TVWeek: Dakota Fanning?

Ms. Ripa: Dakota Fanning is one that comes to mind. And her younger sister.

Mr. Philbin: Dakota is a terrific guest. And I thought when Kelly goes on vacation, I would love to get Dakota Fanning as a co-host.

Ms. Ripa: She’d be amazing. And that would actually be very funny.

Mr. Philbin: I could tell her my problems, she could tell me hers. It would be fun.

Ms. Ripa: No, but you could say “Kelly can’t live forever; in 10 years …”

TVWeek: That would start a whole new round of tabloid stories.

Mr. Philbin: You’re right.

Ms. Ripa: We sometimes start our own.

Mr. Philbin: Forget about Dakota Fanning.

Ms. Ripa: We sometimes are responsible for our tabloid stories, though, unintentionally, of course. You’ve got to remember, everything we say can be …

TVWeek: Can be twisted just by printing it on a piece of paper?

Mr. Philbin: Oh, absolutely.

Ms. Ripa: We can be laughing and joking, but if it’s printed, that gets left out.

TVWeek: Then there are the Mom’s-dream-come-true shows and the wedding shows that make viewers cry.

Mr. Philbin: Yeah, yeah.

Ms. Ripa: It actually makes you weep, when you’re doing the show. I’m thinking, oh my gosh, I’m gonna lose it. But then you know you have a show to do. So you can’t really lose it because it’s just not appropriate. It’s about them. It’s not about you and your feelings. So when I watch it at home, I’m sobbing. I’m literally sobbing. I love stuff like that. I mean, I was a viewer of “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” when it went national. I just loved it. I always loved it. And for those reasons. It’s a very comforting show. You feel like you’re having your friends over to have coffee with you, and then they’ll show you something like that and it just really sucks you in. Amazing. Even our ugly couch competitions, one of my favorite shows.

Mr. Philbin: There’s a little bit for everybody.

TVWeek: Did you at any point have to be talked into these shows?

Mr. Philbin: No, no. No, no. I could see the value of it.

Ms. Ripa: You had to be talked into the penguin costume.

Mr. Philbin: Once in a while Gelman will come up with a topic I’ll give him a little struggle on.

TVWeek: How many of these ideas, like the streamer and confetti popper machines, are his way of torturing you?

Ms. Ripa: Yes, the popper things are to torture us.

Mr. Philbin: Yes, the penguin costume. What show was that?

Ms. Ripa: It was the “March of the Penguins.”

Mr. Philbin: And I had to put that on to see how the penguins would react to another older, taller penguin.

Ms. Ripa: Much bigger penguin. Some would say a giant penguin. The head emperor penguin.

TVWeek: But how much of it is to torture you?

Mr. Philbin: Some of it is, some of it is, yeah. But you see, it brings out another facet of my personality: the tortured Regis, the unhappy Regis!

TVWeek: Well, that’s never far away.

Mr. Philbin: But yeah, it’s right. It’s Regis on the edge.

(loud laughter)

Mr. Philbin: And people like that too. It can’t all be, “You’re wonderful.” Once in a while Regis is angry.

TVWeek: Just once in a while?

Mr. Philbin: Yes, angry. I’m never angry at [Ms. Ripa], but if I’m telling a story in which Regis got burned or steamed or angered, then it comes across kind of funny. Next question: “Then what is it that bothers you, Regis?”

TVWeek: No, what I was going to say is we see your personality on the air every morning, and we feel like we’re seeing some raw, real personality at times.

Mr. Philbin: Yes.

Ms. Ripa: Um-hmm.

TVWeek: Does that give you license to vent or react in an unvarnished way when you’re out in public?

Ms. Ripa: Wait, can I answer that?

Mr. Philbin: Sure.

Ms. Ripa: Regis and I recently did “Letterman” and at the end of the show Regis and I drive away in a convertible. It happens to be raining, and Regis can’t find the light switch and he can’t find the windshield wipers, but it doesn’t matter. It’s Regis, and we’re just going to pull away. But we’re just going to pull, you know, 100 feet ahead, pull over, then we’re going to get out and run back into the building. Well, Regis says, “I’m Regis and I’m going.” And he did. We go, we take off
, and instead of stopping at the red light, Regis sort of beeps his way through it and says, “Regis is coming. Regis is coming.”

Mr. Philbin: The paparazzi are running alongside us.

Ms. Ripa: And the paparazzi are clicking away. And he says, “Boy, I can’t see, you know, between the windshield wipers not working and the rain and the paparazzi flash, this is, you know, this is a potentially disastrous situation.” And he’s talking to me like we’re having a very normal [time].

Mr. Philbin: And the rain is pelting us.

Ms. Ripa: Pelting. It’s pouring rain.

TVWeek [to Mr. Philbin]: You were wearing a yellow slicker, as I recall.

Mr. Philbin: I had a slicker on, thank God. Because I had a feeling it was gonna rain. And incidentally, the beginning of that story is that, at the end of the interview, on a cue I’m supposed to blow the horn: “Kelly, c’mon.” Well, it starts to rain, and so I’m out there blowing the horn, and Letterman says, “Let’s watch him get mad.” And I am getting mad. It’s pouring down, and instead of leaving the top up, they left it back so they can see. Oh my God, I finally got out of the car: “Is she ready yet?” I stormed into the studio and dragged her out.

Ms. Ripa: It was amazing television.

TVWeek: [to Ms. Ripa]: And as I recall, you were wearing hair extensions that night.

Ms. Ripa: I was wearing hair extensions.

TVWeek: Did they hold up?

Ms. Ripa: No. You have to understand that I had parent back-to-school night after the Letterman show. It’s where you try to show all the other parents how normal you are, right? So you have to understand, and I say this unashamedly, I was a very glamorous woman that night. I had it all working, right? I had the padded bra on. I had false hair extensions, false eyelashes. You name it. I had time to get ready. Here I’m ready in like a half an hour. So I did the whole thing. Now we go around the block in the car, in that hail storm, and I literally look like a Chihuahua that they have found at a shelter, an abused animal. Well, then I had to take a car to the school and look like a normal person.

TVWeek: Not gonna happen.

Mr. Philbin [to Ms. Ripa]: Did you do anything?

Ms. Ripa: I ripped out the hair extensions. I washed my face. I didn’t have any of my makeup removers, so I used those, you know, those Handi Wipes, those anti-bacterial Handi Wipes. My face was on fire. My skin was on fire.

Mr. Philbin: See? That’s raw, real Kelly.

TVWeek: I’ve walked down the street here with you, and I see how there’s really not a person who passes who doesn’t hail you.

Mr. Philbin: They all say hello, yeah.

TVWeek: What if you’re not in the mood to be friendly to all the people who acknowledge you. Do you have license to be a little bit surly because of your on-air persona?

Mr. Philbin: Yes, yes, because they never know whether I’m kidding or not, but sometimes I will say, “Regis is getting annoyed!” and mean it as a joke, but in Regis’ heart, maybe he means it.


Ms. Ripa: And when that fails he throws me at them. I’m not kidding.

Mr. Philbin: Oh, absolutely.

Ms. Ripa: “Pippa wants her picture taken with you.”

Mr. Philbin: It’s great, great stuff.

TVWeek: David Letterman has never liked to have guests on who need to stay in character. Does he know if you’re in character or not?

Mr. Philbin: Yeah, I think he goes along with it pretty well, and I think he understands what I’m doing. You know, it’s more of a comic effect than anything else.

TVWeek: If we could do a quick round of word association …

Mr. Philbin: Oh my God. What ever happened to the old-fashioned interviews? Now suddenly it’s like you’re on a psychiatrist’s couch. OK, let’s play it.

Ms. Ripa: I like it.

TVWeek: Loyalty.

Ms. Ripa: Gelman.

Mr. Philbin: I think it’s important.

TVWeek: Sensitive subject.

Ms. Ripa: Vaginal itching.

Mr. Philbin: I’ll go along with that. Next!


TVWeek: “Sensitive subject” doesn’t bring to mind your honeymoon with Joy?

Mr. Philbin: My honeymoon has remained a secret. But I’m under intense pressure.

Ms. Ripa: Trust me, I will get it out of him. Before they get me off of this show, I will get it out of him.

Mr. Philbin: It’s not what you think. It’s not, it’s not even a good story.

Ms. Ripa: I don’t care.

TVWeek: Letterman.

Mr. Philbin: The best.

Ms. Ripa: I agree.

Mr. Philbin: Best show.

TVWeek: You know he’s also in beach photos in the same supermarket tabloids that have your most recent bikini photos.

Ms. Ripa: I know, it’s funny.

TVWeek: Contracts.

Ms. Ripa: My agent’s problem.


Mr. Philbin: Uh, contracts, hate them, too binding.

Ms. Ripa: Too binding.

TVWeek: [to Mr. Philbin] You now get more time off. How are you going to spend it? Are you going to keep touring with your nightclub act?

Ms. Ripa: Yes, let’s delve into this.

Mr. Philbin: I go out like once every couple of months.

TVWeek: But will you do that more often?

Mr. Philbin: No. I am going to Atlantic City in March.

Ms. Ripa: [coughing theatrically] I think Fridays off was my idea.

Mr. Philbin: She’s a pretty good little contract player.

Ms. Ripa: I wanted Fridays off for both of us.


Mr. Philbin: Regis forgot about anybody else.

TVWeek: This is quite a pace that you’ve been keeping up, though.

Mr. Philbin: You know, it got frantic with the Christmas CD, and I did a lot of guest appearances because of that, but it’s all I got.

TVWeek: What would you do if somebody said you could not use sarcasm?

Mr. Philbin: Am I that sarcastic? Tell me the truth.

TVWeek: That’s not a knock.

Mr. Philbin: It isn’t? No, I love sarcastic comments. I love Don Rickles. Loved him all my life. I just think that’s the funniest of funny things to say, when you exaggerate to the point where it really can almost be considered an insult, but really isn’t. Here’s my luxury: After 44 years of doing this, I hope people would understand that’s me. You know?

TVWeek: How many of those 44 years did it take them to understand that’s you?

Mr. Philbin: I would say that now they get it 100 percent. I’ve been here 22 years, and I think they got it pretty quickly.

Ms. Ripa: We did a show on which we showed Regis-we were putting together some children’s toys-and Regis was putting together an Easy-Bake Oven. This is two years ago. And he couldn’t do it, and he opened it, “Gosh, the way they package these things.” They show that tape, and then they show a tape of Regis, it had to be 30 years ago …

Mr. Philbin: 40 years.

Ms. Ripa: 40 years ago. Regis opening an Easy-Bake Oven and trying to put it together, “Gosh, the way they package these things …”

Mr. Philbin: Nothing’s changed.

Ms. Ripa: And then you realize this is, you know, that’s who he is. I’ve always thought, and I’ve said this before, he’s like my oldest child. He reminds me of my son Michael so much. They have the same personality. They’re reminiscent of each other. Michael loves Regis.

TVWeek: Who doesn’t?

Ms. Ripa: Exactly. But I felt, and I still feel, when he’s away, I feel like
I fail the show.

Mr. Philbin: No. It becomes your show.

Ms. Ripa: It’s how I feel. When he’s not there, I’m suddenly thinking … I’m on the show thinking …

Mr. Philbin: Thinking, Kelly?

Ms. Ripa: Thinking, which is like something I try never to do.


Mr. Philbin: [rising] Well, it really has been great.

Ms. Ripa: That’s funny. Is he leaving?

Mr. Philbin: I’m leaving you, an aging Regis, right before your eyes.