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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Andy Richter

May 31, 2009|Choire Sicha

After a nine-year absence, Andy Richter returns to work with talk show host Conan O'Brien, when O'Brien takes over "The Tonight Show" on Monday night. In the interval, Richter did at least two shows on Fox and one on NBC and a bunch of other stuff.

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Where are you?

I'm in my office in . . . I almost said Rockefeller Center! At Universal. I think a lot of people are surprised to find out I'm not on the Conan show anymore. People say to me, as late as a year ago, "Oh, I love your show, I just don't stay up late."

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So why did you turn your back on Conan and friends for so long?

After seven years of being on the show, I got itchy. I have a philosophy that if you enjoy good fortune, rather than sit there and say, "Oh, that's fine, this amount is good enough for me," you should try and push it. You should see how much you can stretch your good fortune. And I was curious. Now I'm so happy to be back and making TV every night, not asking permission from somebody and waiting six months to get their sparklingly clear and cogent notes. And then wait another month for them to get back from Hawaii and say yes, now we can go make television. I felt like a plumber who kept going into the building and saying, can we put some pipes together? And watching my wrenches gather dust.

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It's not really worked out, making TV?

I don't know if I'd do any better. I'd hate to be a development person and place bets on which comedy horse is going to win the race. But some comedy horses, you break their legs. That's where it gets kind of weird. Or I've been in the situation where you're riding the horse they bet on, and at some point in the race they start shooting at the horse. But wait, you bet on me! Why are you trying to kill me?

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So a life on the couch at night -- that sounds relaxing.

Oh, absolutely. I mean, first of all, it's steady! I'm not gonna lie to you. A steady paycheck is a very rare thing in show business generally. And specifically right now a very rare thing. That in itself is the sublime revelation. To get that stress lifted, man, life is really nice.

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Some day the kids might want to go to college.

I hear other people adding up how much it's going to cost, and I choose to not do that. I choose to just pay each bill as it comes. Adding up how much you're gonna spend on your kid's education, it puts ice water in your bowels.

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Your friend Conan -- has he changed over the years?

Um, yeah, but you know what, not in any way that I wasn't around to witness. We've kept up over the years. I've seen him turn from a ridiculous young ninny into a ridiculous old ninny. Now he's very dignified. Touches of gray even! That's mine and his color secret. And I'm giving it to you. I'm kidding! . . . Though he's in remarkably good shape. As everyone else slides southward. Or at least their bodies slide southward.

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He's looking trim!

He's part of the manic-talk-show-host eating-disorder club.

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But you sound emotionally healthy.

Yeah, I think I am. I mean, I have a shrink. I keep up with him. Have for many years. Try and use the therapy the way it's supposed to be used -- rather use it to cure my neuroses, not just buoy them up.

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You mean Larry David syndrome?

Well, I wouldn't put a name to it!

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Was your wife supportive of your old-new job change?

Absolutely. I mean, once she knew I was going to be happy doing it. We've been married 15 years! I think she understood how much fun it would be and how much it represented to me, without even having to ask me. It's not a difficult thing to go to your wife and say, "Honey, I've just been presented with a way to get a regular paycheck."

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