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October 6, 2015

Andy Richter Curses the Universe

by Gary Susman, posted Jan 25th 2010 11:00AM
Did Conan O'Brien's 'Tonight Show' fail because of an Andy Richter curse?

Actually, it probably failed because of a Jeff Zucker curse. But still, what of poor Andy? He seems to have been operating under a perpetual cloud ever since he left Conan's side the first time, when he quit his job as sidekick on 'Late Night With Conan O'Brien' in 2000 for a Hollywood career. He's worked consistently since then, but his list of credits over the last decade consists largely of box office flops and short-lived TV series. To which we can now add 'The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien.'

Richter himself has joked about his hard-luck résumé; just last week, on 'The Tonight Show,' he spoke of his relief that Conan hired him back when took over the franchise last spring. "Oh, man, I thought my worries were over," Richter said. "I mean, come on, it's 'The Tonight Show.' What show business job is more bulletproof than that?"

Andy Richter Makes a Statement on 'The Tonight Show'

Alas, the Conan-and-Andy 'Tonight Show' goes off the air just as the pair were beginning to get their comic groove back. For the first few months of their 'Tonight Show,' with Andy doubling as announcer and sidekick, their chemistry seemed a little stiff and awkward, maybe because poor Andy was stranded out in the middle of the auditorium, behind a podium. In recent weeks, Andy had moved back to the guest seating by the desk, his old perch on 'Late Night,' and his interaction with Conan became more nimble and relaxed.

Here's hoping that, if Conan develops another talk show elsewhere for this fall, he brings Andy with him to drop his patented snark bombs from the end of the couch. At the very least, it would keep poor Andy from tempting fate again with projects like these:

'Dr. T & the Women' (2000). Richter's first high-profile role after leaving 'Late Night' was another sidekick gig, as hunting buddy to gynecologist Richard Gere in this Robert Altman-directed mess. The film featured a typically large Altman ensemble cast, and Richter got lost in the crowd.

'Andy Richter Controls the Universe' (2002-04). This was actually a very funny, surreal, absurd sitcom, with Richter playing a Walter Mitty-ish guy with a soul-killing office job, a silent crush on a co-worker, and a vivid fantasy life. Unfortunately, Fox canceled it after 19 low-rated episodes. Producer Victor Fresco went on to create the very similar 'Better Off Ted,' currently struggling for survival on ABC.

'Lenny the Wonder Dog' (2004). Richter played the voice of a talking dog in this live-action kids' movie. 'Police Academy' noisemaker Michael Winslow produced and co-starred in the movie, whose mad-scientist villain was played by future Conan O'Brien late-night rival Craig Ferguson. The film went straight to video.

• 'Quintuplets' (2004). In another Fox sitcom, Richter and Rebecca Creskoff played parents of five squabbling teenage quints, each more annoying than the last. The show was as bland and witless as 'Andy Richter Controls the Universe' had been clever and edgy. It lasted just three episodes longer than Andy's first sitcom.

• 'Andy Barker, P.I.' (2007). O'Brien produced this NBC sitcom about a strip-mall accountant (Richter) who moonlights as a detective. Another funny show that played to Richter and O'Brien's love of absurdity and wacky characters, it lasted just six episodes.

'Semi-Pro' (2008). Richter has appeared in walk-on parts in several Will Ferrell hits, including 'Elf,' 'Talladega Nights' and 'Blades of Glory.' He has a slightly more prominent role here as Ferrell's "son-friend." Film earned just $33 million in North American theaters.

• 'The Mighty B!' (2008-09). Richter appeared in nine of the 21 episodes of this animated Nickelodeon series about an overachieving girl scout (Amy Poehler). Richter's wife, Sarah Thyre, appeared in 12 episodes.

'Aliens in the Attic' (2009). Richter played an uncle to the kids who find extraterrestrials infesting their house. The movie earned just $25 million at the domestic box office.

Richter's one big success story over the last decade has been the 'Madagascar' franchise (two movies, Nickelodeon's series 'The Penguins of Madagascar,' and some 'Penguins' TV specials). In these projects, RIchter voices the role of Mort, an obsequious, accident-prone lemur. Of course, watching the toons, you can hardly tell it's Andy. Just his luck; his one hit project, and he's unrecognizable and unrecognized.

The legacy of this last clip, on the other hand, will echo into eternity. For no apparent reason, let us leave you with Andy Richter lip-synching "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree. You're welcome, Internet.

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