On this day of chocolate-fueled hysteria, mylar burn, and obligation sex, I’d like to shift the focus away from the man who was clubbed, stoned and beheaded for marrying people against the state’s will (which maybe accounts for all the red?) to lavish praise on a man who is perhaps less obsessed with labeling relationships, but whose unique talents are criminally undervalued in our age. That man is Andy Richter.
Let me begin by saying…we’re all married here. St. Valentine would be proud. Andy’s spoken for; so am I. And happily so. No one’s going to show up on anyone’s doorstep with a batch of homemade Roofycakes iced to represent the milestones of an Illinois boyhood. Nope; I’ve learned my lesson where antics like that are concerned (plus buttercream doesn’t travel well.)
But Richter deserves serious props. The guy is really, really funny. Let me count the ways:
First, he’s versatile. His funny can be stingingly acerbic or sweetly self-deprecating, cerebral or completely silly. Andy is as comfortable on Conan’s couch as he is helming a (sadly short-lived) comedy series. He can play a tough, ladykilling private eye named Andy or an adorably unassuming short story writer named Andy That’s range, people!
Second, he’s an assured, nimble improviser, the true litmus test of which is his ability to support Conan and get laughs of his own, night after night. It was a crabby college acting teacher who once remarked that it’s a much harder job to be Ethel than Lucy. And he wasn’t just talking about ego. The second banana on a talk show needs to have a razor instinct about when to interject, when to spar, and when to rescue the host by changing the subject, all while never stealing focus or making it look contrived. Lucy wouldn’t be Lucy without Ethel. And Coco wouldn’t be Coco without…his…Nut? Crap. Failed metaphor. Cut to a bullet list!!
Facts that I enjoy about Andy:
- May look pocket-size next to Conan but is actually a brawny 6’2”
- Played Mike Brady on stage opposite Jane Lynch in The Real Live Brady Bunch
- Does a voice on the Amy Poehler-written/ produced animated series The Mighty B!
- Was on the wishlist to play Mitchell in the original cast breakdown for Modern Family
It was another, slightly less-crabby college acting teacher who once dropped this nugget of truth: “If you look at the puppet, the audience will look at the puppet.” While you could argue that many of the celeb guests on Conan have one or more parts of themselves shoved WAY up their own sock-holes, that’s not the comparison I’m going for. My point is this: Andy’s attention never leaves the guests. After some brief camera-time during the monologue, and some banter after the first commercial break, he cedes the couch and the spotlight to every sports thug or model-actress-hyphenate who struts through the curtains. And for the rest of the show he listens. Pays total attention to whatever banality they’re plugging. And as a result? They become the most interesting people in the room.
Third, he’s fucking adorable. I mean, look at his face. LOOK AT IT – how could you not fall for that picture-day hair, that impish smile? That’s a smile that helps you pick up your groceries when you trip over a sleeping Schnauzer double-parked in front of the Whole Foods. It’s a smile that listens to all your Dad’s golf stories and then makes an insightful comment about them later that makes you tear up juuuust a little. But most importantly, it’s a smile that’s ready and willing to marinate in a bathtub of coffee for a 30-second gag – IN A SUIT MIND YOU. (“Sure”, you’re probably thinking, “I’d lower myself into a piranha bubble bath if the price was right.” So would I! But COULD YOU CONVINCE US YOU ENJOYED IT? Yeah. That’s what I thought.)
According to Andy’s Wikipedia page he was voted prom king in high school. I would KILL to have heard his acceptance speech and watched his ceremonial cry-walk through the gym, because I’ll bet it was funny, humble, and probably made everybody there feel like the most interesting person in the room.
Happy V’Day y’all.