In This Episode
Andy Richter’s relationship with Conan O’Brien has extended over decades; overall, it’s lasted longer than most marriages (the average US marriage ends after eight years, sadface). The Conan show on TBS comes to an end on June 25 and we got Andy on the line to reflect on how to make relationships work, how to do comedy as woke white guy, and what he’s going to do next. After that, an “Adorables” interview about Brussel Sprout and why he looks like the Google image result for “dog.”
Ana Marie Cox: Hi, I’m Ana Marie Cox. Welcome to With Friends Like These. Andy Richter is our guest this week. His relationship with Conan O’Brien has extended over decades. It has, in fact, lasted longer than most marriages. Americans stay hitched for an average of eight years, and all told, Andy and Conan, it’s been an almost 20-year partnership, with a decade in the middle where they were kind of seeing other people, and that might be the secret. Their relationship is still evolving. “Conan on TBS” ends on June 25th, and no one is quite sure what comes next. Conan’s moving to HBO Max. Will Andy join him? As Andy put it: maybe. Still what’s the secret to a long relationship, workplace or no? How do you know when it’s over, and how does a woke white guy do the right thing in an era when people say they want to stop hearing from woke white guys. After Andy, we’re going to learn about Brussel Sprouts, the animal companion of Pod Save America producer Olivia Martinez. Andy Richter coming right up.
Ana Marie Cox: Andy, welcome to the show.
Andy Richter: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Now is it Annamarie, or is it Anna?
Ana Marie Cox: Oh, God, it’s Ah-na.
Andy Richter: Or is it depends if I’m scolding you.
Ana Marie Cox: It’s actually Ah-na. [laughs].
Andy Richter: Oh, OK. It’s Ah-na. It’s just Ah-nna.
Ana Marie Cox: It’s just Ah-na. [laughs]
Andy Richter: I’m sorry.
Ana Marie Cox: Unless I’m in trouble. In which case you feel free to put on that second name, ’cause . . .
Andy Richter: Yeah. That’s. Yeah. Right. That’s what your mother uses.
Ana Marie Cox: Yes.
Andy Richter: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: As we were saying earlier when we booked you, I just wanted to talk to you because I think you’re interesting. But now—
Andy Richter: Thank you. I do to. I’m one of the few. You and me together, babe.
Ana Marie Cox: —but now I have to ask you about Conan going away, at least off, off of uh, TBS.
Andy Richter: Yeah. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s weird. It’s not an unexpected thing. And in actually in many ways, I think that may be COVID sort of, like I don’t think like COVID made the show on TBS go away. It actually kind of became almost like a, a therapeutic ramp, you know, kind of from from one existence to another. Because we couldn’t do the show in the studio and then it became evident that we weren’t going to go back there because, and it was sort of mutual, I mean, and, you know, it just didn’t seem like it was going to work out with TBS. And I can’t tell you, you know, I mean, I, I don’t, I’m not in on the, I’m in on the conversations about the conversations, not the actual conversations, you know what I mean? And thank God that I don’t have to be in on the actual conversations [laughs but it just, it didn’t, it just seemed like it was not going to happen. It was the end of a contract thing, and he sort of signed on with HBO Max and they started just because of rent and because of the costs and knowing how long COVID was going to go., they started tearing down the stage in January and, and in December, actually. I hadn’t been, I went to, I went to clear out my office, and looked in the stage was gone. Like it was just our set was just gone. Our audience was gone. Our our dressing rooms, it was just gone. And it was very strange. And, and I cleaned out my office and it’s all just stacked up in my garage. And, and the next step is, is something with HBO Max but we don’t exactly know what. There is, I guess, difference of opinion about, what they want and what we want, and we just you know, among our organization, there is just this feeling that a, a booking-dependent late night talk show doesn’t work behind a paywall. So we want to try and figure something out different and it’s just that figuring out of something different that we don’t know.
Ana Marie Cox: You know—
Andy Richter: And, and I don’t know. I mean, I personally don’t know. I’m, I’m sort of treating it like, you know, I’m, I’m auditioning for things, I’m having to self-tape, which I haven’t done in ages. I mean, at least on camera stuff—I do voiceover stuff all the time. So, yeah, I’m, I’m on the market. Anybody listening to this, if you got a part for me, I’ll take it.
Ana Marie Cox: So I was actually just going to say that what you described is kind of like the process by which COVID exacerbated or helped birth a new, you know, the end of a relationship. Sounds like a lot of relationships in COVID. [laughs]
Andy Richter: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I well, yeah, I mean, from the point of view that it was, that it was, that it would have ended anyway, probably, and then it just kind of in many ways—because honestly, when we started doing shows at home, like it was just weird. I felt in the first part, like I was retired. I just stayed home with my dog and, and my kids would come over and but I would, they would send me a bit, you know, they’d send me a script and say, can you shoot this? I’d shoot it myself on my phone or on my computer, send it off and it’d take me 20 minutes. A couple of times, like I went out and bought props for my own bit. And then sent it off and it got on TV. I felt like I was, like I was a subcontractor with some weird Internet business that wasn’t exactly porn, and—
Ana Marie Cox: Not exactly.
Andy Richter: Yeah, not exactly. I mean it definitely is—
Ana Marie Cox: Are you going to start an only fans, Andy? Is that the next—[laughs]
Andy Richter: No. No. Maybe, I got to drop a few pounds first, let’s put it that way. But then when we started, then they started going to this theater, Largo, which is a theater that I’ve, I’ve been, it was in a previous location, I’d known at the people at Largo. I performed at Largo for 25 years on and off. And so it’s, it’s a hangout for me. So for me it was wonderful. They, they had to start out kind of slow with a very skeleton crew of people. And then as it became a little looser, I came in and I sit in the audience. And that has been just plain old fun because we just go in, there’s not an audience that you have to worry about pleasing. We’re all hungry for adult interaction and I’m with these funny people that I love and we fuck around—um, can I say that? I’m sorry.
Ana Marie Cox: Yes!
Andy Richter: We, we screw around for an hour or two hours and then we all go home! And it’s you know, I can wear shorts! It’s, it’s been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed the shows that we’ve done at Largo and we’re actually doing them with an audience. The last two weeks we’re going to do audience shows. So we will kind of go out in the way that we that we started.
Ana Marie Cox: I am just again struck by some of the ways in which when you talk about the arc here, it is like a relationship.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. And I wanted to ask you about that because so the Conan’s been doing late night for almost 30 years.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: Right.
Andy Richter: Yeah, ’93.
Ana Marie Cox: You’ve been with him for most of that.
Andy Richter: Yeah. Well, now let’s see if you add them up . . . Yeah, most of them, a little over half of that. Because I was on, I was on the late night show for seven, and I think he did it for nine afterwards, and then we’ve been on since. So there was out of thie, out of the 30’ish years, there’s maybe nine or 10 that I wasn’t with him.
Ana Marie Cox: That does mean that your relationship with the show has lasted longer than both of my marriages. Combined.
Andy Richter: [laughs] You know, and I guess combined to, with mine, too. Because, you know, I wasn’t married when I started working with Conan, and I, and I’m going to end working—well, I mean, at least in this iteration with Colin. I’m going to end working on this iteration with Conan being unmarried again. So, yeah, that’s you know . . .
Ana Marie Cox: So what’s the secret like? Can we learn—I’m actually kind of serious. Do you think there’s anything you can learn about relationships in general from your continued relationship with Conan and being on the show and being able to go through all these kind of chapters of the show?
Andy Richter: Um. Well, there’s a lot of it that fit, that features into it that, well, the basic thing is that he and I have a good partnership. You know, we’re, and at this point, it is like family. You know, that’s a, that’s a bullshit phrase that people kick around a lot. We’re like a family—most times, like: no, you’re not, you’re just people at work too much and spend too much time together. But we really, I mean, it’s been you know, we’ve gone through births of children and, you know, losses of loved ones, and changes in marital status and we still enjoy each other’s company the way that we did when we first met, at least between him and me. And we still complement each other in many ways that we always did. But there’s also been the thing of, I went away for a while, I got I was there for seven years. I never set out to be on a talk show, I never set out to be myself on television, I wanted to be a comedic actor so doing Conan it felt like a little bit of a side trip, but it was a side trip that gave me a career and it gave me my life and my notoriety. But it did reach a point where I was a little itchy and I kind of felt like I had enjoyed this good fortune and I wanted to see if I could, I could do something more with it on my own. And I definitely had a desire to do something on my own. And I did. I came out here and I did, I was number one on the call sheet for three different TV shows. And then he went back to do The Tonight Show and, you know, I was in the midst of pitching things, which is just one of the most humiliating processes, or it can be one of the most humiliating, infuriating processes of casting your pearls before swine. And he said to me: You want to work on The Tonight Show? And for me, it was like, do you want to come back and make daily television, make television in which you basically have a direct conduit to the airwaves? You can think of something on the drive to work and put it on TV that night, where I was in this, in this churning froth that like we have an idea and maybe 18 months from now you’ll get to do some sort of bastardized version of it. So for me, the chance for that immediacy was to get back to that was really exciting. And I was very happy to go back to these people that I loved. And I’d had, we’d had time away. We’d had time to kind of grow and just kind of, you know, I want to say, sow are wild oats, but you know like, you know. I mean, he got, he did the show on his own, which I don’t know, I assume that he kind of, you know, I mean, I think that that was like something that was a question and that was, if he was going to like even doing that. And I got to go out here and say like I can do this other stuff, too, but I’m happy to come back to him and I’m happy to come back to this kind of television. And, and then it just continued on from there. The Tonight Show ended so abruptly and so unnaturally and so weirdly that I felt, like, I had to go to the next thing because I didn’t want the people at NBC or Jay Leno to have written the end to my story with Conan. And, and then we started doing the TBS show and I had a, I don’t know, like a four-year old and a nine-year old at home, and I got to spend the next 10 years being home for dinner, and working four nights a week. I mean, we’d work on Fridays, but not, you know, I mean, it wasn’t a shoot day. So and that’s invaluable. Like, there’s people, I know people in that are sort of my same peer group who won’t see their kids, you know, for days at a time because they’re working on something or they have to go, they are traveling so much. But I live 10 minutes from the studio and I know I could go home for lunch if I wanted to, and I could, and, you know, and I got to be there for my kids growing up and that, that was a component of it that doesn’t even, that’s not show business. That’s just me happy to be able to make a steady living in an, in an unsteady job or an unsteady profession and, and be at home. I have a lot of time at home.
Ana Marie Cox: But you’re going to continue being with whatever show comes next?
Andy Richter: I think, I mean, because, but, we don’t know. I mean, because we don’t, like he does the travel shows, and I’ve been a part of a couple of those, but that’s mostly kind of him going off and doing that. And it might take that kind of, that kind of form. There’s also, you know, he does a podcast and it might take that kind of form. But right now, I don’t think either one of us can make a commitment to each other based on something that’s so nebulous. You know? And I also, quite frankly, I’m, you know, I’m excited to act again.
Ana Marie Cox: I was going to ask that a lot of things have changed in the entertainment industry since you last decided to go out and do some stuff on your own.
Andy Richter: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: For instance, there’s no, I mean, there’s, there is still turnaround time. There is still pitching stuff. But you can also film on your phone, you know, like . . . everything has changed about how you can get an audience and who your audience is. So do you feel differently? Like are you excited about something different, looking at opportunities now?
Andy Richter: Well, I. I’m older, so I’m, I that’s another aspect, and answer to the your other question, your previous question is we’re both older, so we don’t, we don’t get worked up about stuff. We’re happy, we’re happy to do the job. We don’t we don’t break our backs. So, you know, when we started out doing the Late Night Show, you know, we were killing ourselves because we felt like we had to do everything we possibly could in order to survive. And now we’re kind of like, yeah, you know what? We’re just, we’ll do a funny show. And I still, you know, that’s one thing I feel. And that’s, that’s an aspect the way I’ve always been there—I still feel, and I just told somebody that was interviewing me about the same topic, it’s, ours is the funniest show on late night just hands down. I just believe that. And, you know, and I mean, I grew up—idolizing is such a weird word—but David Letterman was this shit to me. But I still think our show’s funnier than David Letterman’s. In the aggregate, our show is the funniest late night show that’s ever been on. And that’s just how I feel. And I have always felt, even when I’m like crabby and pissy, they’re still like a bit on the show that will just be plain old hilarious, you know, and that I just am like so happy that I work on a show that’s that that’s this weird, you know?
Ana Marie Cox: I was going to say that I you definitely have the Letterman DNA in this show because I, I grew up on Letterman and the late, late Letterman, you know.
Andy Richter: Yes, that’s what I mean.
Ana Marie Cox: With the guacamole suit and the dry things off the building, and that, the episode they did where they just turned the camera around slowly over an hour and didn’t say anything about it.
Andy Richter: Yeah, yeah, just weird experimental stuff. Yeah. And Chris Elliott or Larry Bud Melman and all these, you know, just all this real absurdist stuff that that—
Ana Marie Cox: I feel like that’s in your DNA. Like you definitely like the loosest show, I would say.
Andy Richter: He was definitely a formative influence on everybody that worked on that show. And because we took over for him directly, we were creating that show in reaction to him in many ways. Not in any, nothing that was sort of, where there was some sort of, you know, mimeographed guidelines tacked to the wall or anything. But there was plenty of times where we would think of the bit and talk about it and then go, you know what, that sounds too Letterman’s. Like we had to make it somehow a little bit different than Dave’s kind of super dry, ironic Midwestern kind of stuff. You know, ours was just a lot, a lot wetter. His is dry, ours was a little wetter.
Ana Marie Cox: I was going to say and maybe, maybe this sort of is a parallel to being wetter, I certainly think that Conan more obviously enjoys what he’s doing than Letterman did.
Andy Richter: I think that is true too.
Ana Marie Cox: Letterman always was like just a bit removed, you know.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: And kind of a, it was kind of a chore. I mean, like that was I think that was a bit. But, you know, like he would rather be doing something else with sort of the . . .
Andy Richter: Dave has a need to do that show and he has to love-hate relationship with that need. Whereas Conan kind of needs to do the show, but he just loves do it. He just really enjoy, it’s his favorite thing in the world. I mean, outside of, I’m sure, his family and his children—although, you know, what do I know? I’m just assuming that’s what he’d say. He loves being in front of a crowd and he loves, he actually loves talking to people. And, you know, he, he wants—I know! Like he wants to when you go to a new town, he wants to go walk around, and he doesn’t say because he wants to, you know, press the flesh and like, be noticed and talk to strangers. But it is kind of a, just because he’s like, like you reminds me so much of like, like your, you know, your Midwestern uncle who, when you go out to dinner, just opens conversations with the people next door to him. Like, yeah: what do you got there, buddy, what are you eating? And, you know, so many people in my family were like that, you go to the coffee shop and then you’re having a conversation with six strangers. And that is not me. That is not me.
Ana Marie Cox: I was going to say, maybe the people listening would be surprised to hear this from both of us, but Yeah, not me either.
Andy Richter: No, no.
Ana Marie Cox: Like, I would be happy to. I go to new towns and stay in my hotel room until I have to leave.
Andy Richter: Yeah, well, I like I like going out and doing stuff and I, and I, and I certainly in my job I’ve learned that I you know, but like, if I had gotten, if I had gotten some other job, I think I would be a lot more introverted and a lot more just kind of, you know, I don’t know,
Ana Marie Cox: Just like on a late night talk show, we have sponsors. Here they are.
Ana Marie Cox: So I want to talk to you about this, this lengthy experiment that you’ve been a part of, you know, this show that’s been going on for so long and it is different than other shows. So I want to get your perspective on the rest of late night in a way, because it’s changed a lot.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: Since you started working in late night. I mean, it’s funny because I would actually say that Conan’s show, that chemistry is actually there’s some consistency there that I see.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: But other shows obviously cycle through different hosts, and we now have this era of the late night host as quasi newscaster.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: So what do, what have you seen?
Andy Richter: Well, that particular thing is something that started after we were already on the air and there was not, there wasn’t a real precedent for heavy serious political topicality like there is now, you know. We would, you know, we’d make silly jokes about Bill Clinton, you know, and we’d have, you know, we used to do this thing that we called clutch cargo, which is an old cartoon where they would, it was just basically a still and then they would, basically, I forget what the word is, you know, they’d fade in somebody’s mouth, an actual human mouth moving to talking. It was an old cartoon that, was in Chicago it was on Ray Raynor, WGN in the Mornings. And it was like an adventure cartoon. And actually the man that invented it, his son was deaf and he wanted to make a cartoon that his son could lip read. So which is, you know, it’s a sweet origin of it, but we used it as a cheap way to do topical bits where we just take a still of somebody and then you just do a dissolve over their mouth and you dissolve in an actual mouth saying lines. And you can have you know, you don’t have to have somebody put on makeup, you can talk to Bill Clinton or Boris Yeltsin or Howard Stern or whoever or whomever you want to do a fake interview with. But then The Daily Show came along and it, and it’s it seemed so important to, you know, have some sort of political bent and then it started to infect the others—not infect affect or effect—if it started to, all of those really. It started to, started to affect the other shows. And then it kind of like that was sort of the way that it moved. And we just, we knew that we would just look like dilettantes and Johnny Come Lately, as if we all of a sudden we’re like, OK, we got to revamp this thing and we got to really, you know, we got to really hit hard on all this political stuff. Which, you know, in conversations with Conan, I remember we had one once about it and he said he said, I don’t care about doing that kind of humor. He said, I don’t want to do that kind of humor. And it’s, and it’s something that I feel too. It’s like so much of it is just kind of cheerleading. It’s just preaching to the choir. That’s a lot of the reaction that a lot of shows like that get is just rah rah our side. And that’s not—
Ana Marie Cox: Have you heard the term “Clapter”.
Ana Marie Cox: Oh, is that what it is? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a good one. That’s, that’s apt. Very, very apt. And I don’t have any interest in that. And frankly, I’m a, you know, I’m a politically aware person. I don’t find it that funny, especially the last however many years. So, and Conan once said to be said, you know, we started here doing the kind of show that we kind of had to do because it’s the sort of show that we’re just going to naturally, organically create, and it’s absurd, and he said and I actually feel in the long run that this absurd, that an absurd kind of comedy is going to actually matter more. It’s going to actually do more for the humanity that’s watching it than these pointed, you know, Trump sucks, down with Mitch McConnell-kind of things, you know. And there are people that like that kind of stuff. There’s, and I don’t mean to you know, I don’t mean to to crap on anybody, but I mean—
Ana Marie Cox: Feel free, if you want to.
Ana Marie Cox: It’s not to my taste. Well, I know, it’s good for you. But I mean, it’s just, it’s not it’s not to my taste. And a lot of them, and there’s like, I have so much respect for the people that do that well. And, and I can enjoy their shows, but I do not watch them with regularity because I just I don’t, I don’t know, it just like it’s kind of this you have to assume an attitude of outrage that can’t be, as you just, I mean, because I know I’m in show business, I know that when you have to adopt an attitude, there’s days where you’re not into it. Where it’s, it’s a, it’s a front you’re putting on. So if you’re, if you’re, if that what your mode is, is moral outrage over these wrongs that are being committed and you make that show biz, I feel like, oh, you know, it feels like evangelical and a little bit, just phony, in a bit. And that phony because I don’t, I don’t think people are saying things they don’t believe. I just feel like they’re amping it up for show biz and they’re making these things that are serious, show biz. There’s a lot of new shows that have too much fucking show biz in them. And I just am like, you know, like new shows that are being snarky now.
Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, I—
Andy Richter: Don’t be snarky. I don’t want snarky from somebody that’s telling these serious things. I want information. I don’t want you to be cute. I don’t want you to get in zingers. You know? That, that’s a side trick.
Ana Marie Cox: No, I think this is actually something, I mean, I, I think about a lot, because there was a point in my life that comedy was the thing that I wanted to do, so . . .
Andy Richter: Oh, really? Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: And what I think about political comedy, and actually one of the reasons why I chose journalism in politics is because I found, what the feedback I got on some of the stuff that I did that was funny was about it was a lot of outrage, was a lot of like: Yeah! You know, the sort of what’s now become like: you destroyed that person. You know? Like, you really, you know, whatever. I’d like to report a murder.
Andy Richter: Right, right.
Ana Marie Cox: And that seemed to me and even today and I say this is someone who consumes and enjoys some of that late night news . . .
Andy Richter: Yeah, news-fo-tainment.
Ana Marie Cox: News-fo-tainment. It is, you are doing a cultural hijacking, you know?
Andy Richter: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: Like you’re taking the energy that people already have around something that they’re passionate about and then being like: ha ha! You know?
Andy Richter: Yeah, I’m going to make entertainment out of this.
Ana Marie Cox: I going to make it, you know, you’re passionate about this and I’m just going to steer it a little bit over here.
Andy Richter: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: And the other thing that I thought about when I was actually looking at some of your best tweets and think about what we would, we would discuss is that this blending of news and comedy, like making it OK and having people who, I mean, let’s face it, like may not have the most sophisticated political like backgrounds.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: You know, like I’m not saying they’re dumb, I’m not saying, like, nothing.
Andy Richter: Right. It’s just, they don’t have the capacity to care what. A lot of people just don’t care that much.
Ana Marie Cox: It’s just not what they do for a living, actually.
Andy Richter: Yeah. Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: And we’ve sort of, it’s the rise of the pseudo expert. And actually I sort of was thinking, I wonder if this is what made Joe Rogan possible? Like this idea that people who entertain us also get to, like, tell us serious things, like educate us.
Andy Richter: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: He’s, I picked him out because you obviously tweeted about him recently in his—
Andy Richter: Yeah, yeah. No, well, I mean, I don’t have any you know, I don’t have anything against Joe Rogan, or anybody that kind of does that kind of stuff, except, I mean, the only reason I mention Joe Rogan is because he said something about how you don’t need the vaccine if you’re young and healthy and that is just dangerous.
Ana Marie Cox: And you did a callback to, though, his Fear Factor stuff. Right. The same way that made people get in tubs of whatever it is that they did.
Andy Richter: Yeah, put insects on their face and stuff like that.
Ana Marie Cox: And that’s what I though of this like, it’s this thing where we’ve made it, made entertainers into our news sources.
Andy Richter: Yes. And, and in that moment, too, I’m making a point, but I am also kind of making a joke. Like I’m doing it myself. I’m saying, I could have just said, hey: Joe Rogan, this is dangerous. But I said, I said, you know, are you really going to take health advice from a guy who used to get paid to make people eat bugs? So which is, which I think is also apt for Trump. I mean, you know, and that’s not anything I discovered, but God damn game show host, and all of a sudden he’s the leader of the free world. OK. It’s all to me, so much of it is professional wrestling. It’s all this, in professional wrestling there’s this concept of kayfabe, you know, about that? You know, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a shared sort of fake front, sort of a story that you’re all living on that you have to commit to being real. And that’s really what, and especially Trump, but I do think that the right wing has has figured out, like, let’s make this entertaining. And Trump, I think the reason Trump was so popular is because he was so much more entertaining than anyone else. And he is. Take him separate him from, from the damage that he can do, and he’s a riot. He is a character. He is like, he says shit, that is just unbelievable, that you put in a script and people go like: that’s too much. And yet he’s a real person. You know, he’s like a, like a, like a Dabney Coleman character. But, you know, like Dabney Coleman has a little more class. And, and I ,and I just think that that’s kind of what happens, too, is that every bit of information has to have a bit of swagger, has to, and also to—the latest thing that he said that Joe Rogan said was that white men are going to be silenced, which is just fucking absurd.
Andy Richter: [laughs] See that’s absurd. And so I have to laugh. It is funny in its own way, I guess.
Andy Richter: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: But it’s only funny because it’s demonstrably untrue.
Andy Richter: Right, but I mean, and it’s, and it just begs the question, does he really believe that? Or is that just like a stance that he’s taken because a, here we are talking about it, you know? Whereas if he had said, you know, this, this cancel culture is a bit much and I think everyone should calm down about it—we wouldn’t be talking about it. But to say that white men will have to be silenced, that’s going to get people like you and me to go: oh, pleeease.
Ana Marie Cox: Well, also the other thing is, I would be OK with that if that was part of the plan. Like, if we could do that, I would be for it.
Andy Richter: Yeah, but it’s not, it’s not going to happen. And I mean, and ideally, no one’s going to get silenced. But the point is we all need to share. That’s, the basic thing, is like we, like let’s share. But let’s, let’s, and that’s that the things that we try and teach our children, nobody believes. Like, you know, let’s let’s share the spotlight. Let’s share the power. Let’s share the money, you know? Let’s share the access to wealth and a better life. Let’s share, law enforcement, lets the justice system, you know?
Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] Let’s have law enforcement look the same for everyone, that would be—
Andy Richter: Yeah, just you know.
Ana Marie Cox: This is a great segue because, you know, there’s more than one way to be political. There’s more than one way to be conscious of a political context and it doesn’t have to be that you’re snarky about the news. It can be the way you run a show.
Andy Richter: Yeah, absolutely.
Ana Marie Cox: And like, for instance, you recently re-tweeted someone who made a joke about someone finally making space for Harvard grads to work in our industry.
Andy Richter: Yes. Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: Now, I happen to notice that you work for a Harvard grad.
Andy Richter: Yes. But I don’t think that he would I don’t think he would have any any qualms about me saying, like, because the point that the per—because it was about that there is a, an organization that facilitates Harvard graduates to make it in show business.
Ana Marie Cox: That is [laugh] sorry, laughing again.
Andy Richter: Yeah. You know, and that’s like that’s again, it’s like, yeah, and like it, that would be like a group devoted to making sure that white men aren’t silenced.
Ana Marie Cox: Yeah.
Andy Richter: It’s like it’s not really—I mean, I get it. Every school has kind of like a network of graduates and alums that help each other, but this just seems extra silly. And it was, it was being promoted, and this person said, oh, if only there was some way for people, Harvard graduates to make it in show business. And I, Conan I think would understand why that’s funny.
Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, and I don’t actually mean to call him out kind of specifically and yet to get back to this idea that you can be in a political context by the way, you run a show.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: You know, in the same reckoning that we’ve all had—white people mostly—since last June, I know the entertainment industry has done its own self-examination. Right? About the makeup of writers’ rooms.
Andy Richter: Absolutely.
Ana Marie Cox: About the makeup of who gets on stage . . . is that a conversation that you’ve been having?
Andy Richter: Yeah, I mean, it it is, and I, and I mean, our writing staff is still largely white and male, and that’s kind of the way the comedy industry goes. But there’s a, there’s more women and more African-Americans working on our show. Our show is still too white. I mean it, I mean it’s, it’s changing but it’s too white and, you know . . . I certainly am guilty of not, you know, of being laissez faire about it. Of saying that like, oh, it’s not, you know, I don’t do the hiring. You know, and I can, you know, I can push from within about sort of, you know, I mean, because it’s there’s also, there’s been a learning curve in comedy about like you can’t make that joke anymore. And there’s, and there are members of our staff have, there’s been a, you know, over the years, there has been a different learning curve for the individuals on the staff who will make, say, let’s say this, and there will be one person in the room that says: you really can’t say that anymore, that’s not, that’s not apropos. And maybe there’s a greater conversation about like, why was that ever funny? But I know there’s things, there’s jokes that I’ve made, I mean, since I’ve been on Twitter, which I think I’ve been on Twitter, Jesus, ten years now. [shudders] I look at early jokes that I made and I think I wouldn’t make that joke now because I understand that, I mean, on the far end, it’s hurtful to someone, but even on the other end, it’s just tacky. It’s just tacky, and hacky, and there’s a lot of tacky and hackie takes. As far as hiring goes, you know, it’s definitely on my mind to, well, you know, if I go do something else where I am a producer on something, I’m going to make, you know, I’m, I am, I personally feel committed to guests. I just can’t, and a lot of times it’s laziness. If you don’t, if you don’t make a point to, the room just fills up with white men. You know? If you just say: well, let’s start a show, let’s hire some people, let’s do this—and it just fills up with white men because, you know, they’re trying not to be silenced, so they come rushing in. And so you have to make an extra effort because there’s, there’s a queue, you know there’s a history and a structure in place and an institution and an architecture that just, you know, unless you make the point to divert the stream, it’ll just end up being white, and it’ll end up being white men. And I’m not perfect at it. You know, I’m, I’m aware of it, but I still have my blind spots. I still have my, you know, I still can be lazy, you know, when in situations like that.
Ana Marie Cox: Well, these are muscles that white people have not used in a very long time, if ever.
Andy Richter: Absolutely, yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: I mean, I don’t think, I don’t want to make excuses for u, but at the same time, I think that people who are trying should have a little bit of grace for themselves.
Andy Richter: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: Because if you don’t, then you might give up, number one.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: You might just be like, you might turn into the person that’s like: oh, you can’t say anything, white men are being canceled! You know.
Andy Richter: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: And so yeah, it’s like sometimes I’m going to say shit that I wind up regretting.
Andy Richter: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: You know?
Andy Richter: And I mean and—
Ana Marie Cox: Or do something that’s insensitive, and I just have to kind of be like: oh yeah, that happened.
Andy Richter: Yeah. I think for the most part the whole notion of people getting canceled like a, I mean, Mel Gibson still making movies. You know, I mean, it’s a lot of people still doing just fine. And the people that are, but then, like Harvey Weinstein is really cancelled because he did something really, really bad, you know? And I think that, that most of the people that had been truly, truly canceled have, they don’t, in cancel court, I think that they would be found that it was, it was correct.
Ana Marie Cox: Well, I was going to say that—
Andy Richter: With some exceptions, you know,
Ana Marie Cox: That the thing about the people who get truly canceled—and air quotes for pod cast listeners— often they did something illegal [laughs] or that you can demonstrably say, like, this was a wrong.
Andy Richter: This was a crime.
Ana Marie Cox: This was a crime or a wrong that we recognize as a society, as being a wrong, and therefore, that person has consequences. Where we struggle as white people is thinking that having your reputation harmed or having people say bad things about you, is the same thing as suffering.
Andy Richter: Yes. Yeah, accountability. I mean, that’s that—
Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. That.
Andy Richter: To the per—I can’t remember the exact quote—but you know, accountability feels like suffering if you’ve never been held accountable. And it’s not. It’s just it’s a, it’s a correction. And there’s, if you know, you get to really make a point to not use your eyes if you look at our current society and not think that there’s a ton of correction that is absolutely necessary.
Ana Marie Cox: I want to bring up another sort of way that we can work in a political context without making snarky jokes, which is,, I would love to hear you talk about booking. I know you’re not responsible for booking, but that’s the front-facing part of a show of an interview show.
Andy Richter: Yes.
Ana Marie Cox: And that’s real white too.
Andy Richter: Yeah, it gets, it is better. It’s a lot better than it used to be, and I mean and I, you know, I have my own podcast and I’m very trying to be very conscious about making sure we get all kinds of different people and that it isn’t just white comedy guy, white comedy guy, white comedy guy. And, and, you know, but then there are times and it’s like, you know, I mean, you book a podcast, it’s like: oh shit, I got three white guys in a row, like, oops, sorry. You know? But yeah, definitely, I think, I mean, I like the people, I like, I like the booking that we’re doing on the Conan show now, I think we have a, it’s a fairly diverse group of people, just racially and by sex and sexuality. You know?
Ana Marie Cox: You mentioned you have a podcast. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that late night hosting gigs do go to comedians because, you know, making jokes is only part of a late night show. Like you interview people as a fairly significant part of that show. Just minutes-wise, I think it’s probably as much as making jokes. And I don’t know, do comedians necessarily make good interviewers? Like, you know, Conan has his own inter, specifically an interview show now and you have a podcast where you interview people.
Andy Richter: But especially in a late night television show, the emphasis is always going to be on getting laughs. It’s, you know, that’s that show, that show comes on—and I mean, all of these paradigms are breaking down—but that show comes on after the news, where you got your dose of serious stuff and now it’s time as you’re laying in bed with the TV on at your feet, you know, to kind of have some light laughter and to, some conversation and sort of interesting chat with beautiful people. So it’s always going to be on the light side, which on the light side means laughter and means comedy. And there’s a lot you know, there’s comedians that have tried to be interviewers and they’re not good at it, because a lot of comedians don’t play well with others and in order to be an interviewer, you got to be a listener. And sometimes comedians aren’t perfect listeners. So, yeah, that, that happens. But I mean, for the most part, podcasts that are meant to be just entertaining as opposed to informative or educational or edifying or political, they’re going to, they’re going to kind of go towards laughter. You Know they’re going to, they’re going to go towards jokes. And that’s, that’s like the human marketplace, I think, you know, I think that that’s just kind of, you know. I think if you just added up television commercials, you know, probably 70% of them are supposed to be funny, as opposed to be inspiring or whatever, you know?
Andy Richter: And now just a few more ads.
Ana Marie Cox: One of the reasons I’ve wanted to talk to you, one of the reasons why you’re a great follow on Twitter, is that, at least from my observation, which is distant, you know, um, and selective, like you seem to be actually political. Like you have educated yourself.
Andy Richter: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: And I used to interview a fair number of celebrities, and they can always be great people and have the right kinds of opinions that I agree with, but I have found that often those opinions come from a place of feeling, let’s say, and not because they’ve necessarily done, it is not their job to do like the work or whatever.
Andy Richter: Well, there’s lots of people that are terrified to say anything.
Ana Marie Cox: That’s true, too. And I want to give credit to anyone who says anything.
Andy Richter: Yeah. And I don’t I don’t blame people for that because, like I say, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. And you can certainly, and I mean, I might have my personal qualms with it, but you can go through life and not be that politically active. And it, it is arguably not that big a deal. I mean, because I certainly, you know, at times as active as I’ve been, especially like in 2016, I felt like and what freakin good did it do? Here I am tweeting and arguing and retweeting and linking and giving money and doing fundraisers. And then, you know, and then that’s what happens. And it was very, it was it was debilitating. I mean, I didn’t stop. And actually this year, this election, I actually was involved with a group called Collective Impact that basically just set up like social media, phone trees. And I was one of the first steps on the phone tree in which they would have an initiative that they said: you make a video about it. And then you send it to all your influential mutual followers and then they’ll send it to theirs. So like I say, it was just a phone tree that got information and it was palpably productive. It made a lot of money. It changed, like tens of thousands of poll workers that you can directly link because they click on links. So it’s like that felt like, all right, finally, it’s, it’s something other than just yelling into the air and inviting trolls. So I don’t, I don’t blame anyone. But for me, I just, and people, I mean, they don’t say it so much anymore just because it’s, I don’t know, they said it a million times, but, you know, you could be potentially alienating 50% of your audience, it’s just like: sweetheart, try 35%. And, and I, and I just always kind of felt like, well, sorry, I don’t, what I tweet politically is because I feel like I have to do it. I feel like I try and keep my Twitter account as much, as much as it can be, just a conversation with me, the person, and what’s on my mind and like, what funny thing I, the observation, I have them about a commercial or like something my daughter said, or, and then also can you believe what this article says? You know, and you should give some money to these people. And I, I just do that because, I just feel like I have to, and I should, and I, I, I do have, as they say, a platform, and I do have a number of followers and I feel like there are people that are likely to agree with me who just aren’t activated or just aren’t engaged, and here’s something. What do you think about this? You know, and if you just, if you can just make a little bit of a nudge in the right direction, that’s really all that I can hope for. And I also, too, I believe in persuasion. There’s a lot of, there’s so much of the discourse on social media that I just feel like, and I mean people that I agree with, just because I don’t, we don’t agree on a candidate or on a particular something or other, just acting as if like I’m a, you know, a corporate shell! Who is a dirty centrist! And it’s always kind of like, listen, I want Denmark as much as you do, but learn how to talk to me nicer. You know, like this is not the way to get me to your side by calling me fat. It’s just that kind of stuff is like, do you really care about this? Do you really care about getting this person in office or getting this this issue looked at? Try persuasion, try salesmanship or saleswomanship or salespersonship. Just you know, it’s not all just one-upmanship.
Ana Marie Cox: Before we go, could you say your podcast, could you tell people what your podcast is?
Andy Richter: Yeah, I have a podcast. It’s called The Three Questions. And it’s, it’s basic as a, as a guest on it John Gabrus referred to it: origin story. Like everything has to be comic book now, so its “origin story.” But it’s basically, I have been in therapy for many, many years. It’s a kind of language that I’m very conversant in. And I kind of wanted to trick people into having a therapy session. So the three questions are: where do you come from, where you going, and what have you learned? Which is sort of, I think, kind of the roots of the therapeutic process and the talking cure. And, you know, I’m not trying to, like, heal anybody, but I do like it when people. When, when people make linkages in their own life, you know, like where they were like, I did this and then I did this and, oh, you know, this is probably why I’m like that. That to me is, is always vital, interesting conversation.
Ana Marie Cox: But people weren’t, won’t learn too much. They—
Andy Richter: No.
Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. OK. All right. Yeah.
Andy Richter: No, no, no. I’m not licensed. When I get my license, maybe then you know. But then I’ll have to charge them.
Ana Marie Cox: No. All right. Thank you so much for being on this show. This has been delightful.
Andy Richter: I’m happy to be. It’s been great talking to you.
Ana Marie Cox: On this week’s With Adorable Like These, you will hear from Olivia Martinez, one of the associate producers on Pod Save America and America Dissected. She’s going to tell us all about her pandemic pup, Brussels Sprout, and why he looks like the Google image result for dog.
Ana Marie Cox: So what is your adorable’s name and can you please describe your adorable.
Olivia Martinez: Yes, my adorable is named Brussels Sprout. He is an approximately two-year old rescue dog. Our best guess is that he’s a beagle, like pit bull mix. But we’re really not sure because all we had when we got him was just a picture, no personality or anything. And it really, it all worked out. Brussels Sprout has been such a joy in this time.
Ana Marie Cox: Well, that sort of answers the next question, which is how did your adorable come into your life?
Olivia Martinez: Yeah, yeah. Like I mentioned, we had just a picture of him, like no description of what he was like or anything. They told us he was really hyper, which has turned out to be pretty true. He’s very energetic. But like a lot of people, we adopted him during the pandemic and so we really like had to hustle with the adoption agency. I think we emailed about like 20 dogs and just weren’t having any luck. They were really going like hotcakes. But it all worked out because Sprout has been, I think like the perfect fit
Ana Marie Cox: And we just got a little bit of a shot of him there. He’s a piebald I believe is how they say it when it’s a cow. [laughs] Is that, I’m not sure if that’s how you describe dogs as well, but he’s white with kind of like brown and black markings. Like a good old heifer.
Olivia Martinez: Yeah, like a classic dog, I always say looks like a cartoon dog or like if you looked up dog in the dictionary, it’d be a picture of Sprout.
Ana Marie Cox: So Brussel Sprout. How did that name come about?
Olivia Martinez: I just have always loved the name Brussels Sprout and I’d had it picked out and when we got them, we were like, all right, Sprout it is. I kind of don’t think it really fits them too well. I wish we’d named it peanut butter, but it was a little bit too late. And the name Sprout is stuck.
Ana Marie Cox: Is it, doesn’t fit him because he’s a sweetheart, or?
Olivia Martinez: And I think he’s like—
Ana Marie Cox: And Brussels sprouts, I mean, I love Brussels Sprouts, but let’s face it, they are on the savory side.
Olivia Martinez: Yeah, they’re savory, like a little bit stinky, and like kind of small and cute. And he’s like, I think a little bit to medium sized for Brussels Sprout.
Ana Marie Cox: But peanut butter would suit him somehow.
Olivia Martinez: I think so. I think maybe because of his coloring, like you described.
Ana Marie Cox: Like peanut butter and chocolate. He could be Reese’s, maybe. What is the most you’ve gone out of your way for Sprout, or the biggest way you spoil him?
Olivia Martinez: Oh, that’s a great question. He needs a walk, like every single day, maybe even twice a day, which is hard to keep up. I’m not a big runner, but between me and my partner, like he goes on a couple runs a week, a walk every day, and still he’s just like super hyper, would love even more attention. So we’ve—this is embarrassing, it’s the most California thing we’ve done—but he has a hiking group he goes on, where someone named Francis picks them up twice a week and he goes on like a two-hour hike with all of his friends, and then gets dropped off and he’s like super happy, super Zen. He’s been the most sociable in the pandemic because he has his hiking group.
Ana Marie Cox: And we believe that all animals are emotional support animals, but is there a particular way in which Sprout supports you?
Olivia Martinez: I think so. We always say Sprout’s like good for content, especially this year when there hasn’t been a ton going on. It’s nice to just have another being there that is like funny and doing things to laugh at. He’s definitely a ham. He’s great for TikTok. And I think it’s, it’s just been really nice to have another friend, another, another being here to be a companion this past year for sure.
Ana Marie Cox: Is there a cause that Sprout might support?
Olivia Martinez: I’ve given this a lot of thought, and [laughs]
Ana Marie Cox: That’s not usually the first answer I get, the first response I get to that question . . .
Olivia Martinez: If he were like against something, he would be against candles. He really is so scared of candles. So he would be probably up for banning all candles. But if we didn’t want to go negative here, if he needed something he was for, he’d probably be pretty pro national parks and protecting the parks because of his hiking group. He loves a good park. His dream is to just be running around a park all the time. So he’s up for defending the national parks.
Ana Marie Cox: Bark for parks.
Olivia Martinez: Bark for parks. That’s great.
Ana Marie Cox: Let’s get, let’s get the Crooked political team involved.
Olivia Martinez: I would buy that shirt in a heartbeat.
Ana Marie Cox: And you’re adorable have a voice that you do?
Olivia Martinez: He does. He does. I’ve also heard this is controversial, of people being embarrassed to do the voice, but Sprout does have a voice.
Ana Marie Cox: People wonder what to say for this part, so if he could voice his support for national parks, if you need something for it to say,
Olivia Martinez: Hi, my name is Sprout and I love national parks and I think you should go.
Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] Olivia, thank you so much for telling us about your adorable.
Olivia Martinez: Of course. Thanks so much for having me and Sprout on. And I think Sprouty says thank you so much.
Ana Marie Cox: And that is it for the show. Thanks to Andy for his time and to Olivia and Sprout for theirs. This show is a production of Crooked Media. Allison Herrera is our senior producer, and Jordan Waller produces With Adorable Like These. Izzy Margulies books our guest. Louie Leeno engineered this episode. Whitney Pastorek thinks Dirty Dancing will never stop being the soundtrack of summer. I’ve been traveling a bit this summer and it’s been weird. Great to see folks. Slightly terrifying. Not that I’m afraid of the virus, it’s that I worry I’ve forgotten how to do that part of being human that involves other humans in person, live, at the same time. Here is my hack. I schedule a lot of alone time, and that might sound wild given we’ve had so much alone time, but coming back to normal is like depressurizing from deep-sea diving. You can not come back all at once. You will get the bends. Don’t get the bends. Take care of yourself.