The drumbeat of publicity is under way for the November 8 premiere of Conan on TBS, and fans of the talk show host received welcome news Tuesday with the announcement that Andy Richter is returning as Conan O'Brien's sidekick and foil.
In a statement, Richter announced, "I'm thrilled to be going back to work with Conan, and very excited to start a whole new venture on TBS. However, I am mostly looking forward to getting out of the house again." O'Brien's facetious response? "This decision was made without my authority. I will get to the bottom of this."
Richter and O'Brien have almost singlehandedly kept alive the tradition of the talk show sidekick who doesn't double as a bandleader. Richter was part of the lineup when Late Night with Conan O'Brien premiered in 1993, and as he was every bit as unknown as the host and seemed not to know his niche, he came in for his share of criticism. But by the time he left Late Night in 2000 to pursue acting roles, he had become a fan favorite.
Despite decent reviews for the sitcoms Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Andy Barker, P.I., none of Richter's major projects since leaving Late Night have caught on with audiences. When O'Brien took helm of The Tonight Show last fall, Richter returned as the show's announcer, playing a role similar to the one that Ed McMahon had with Johnny Carson. He lost that job when everyone else on the show lost theirs.