Chris Gethard on Why He’d Be Kelly Ripa’s Best Co-Host

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As the search for Kelly Ripa’s new co-host started in earnest in May, an unexpected person raised his hand to say he’d do a good job if considered. It was Chris Gethard, comedian, actor (Big Lake, Broad City, and many others) and talk show host, and he was serious. “I want to be clear — my desire to be Kelly Ripa’s sidekick is not a joke,” he wrote on Twitter, under the hashtag #KellyandGethard.

Considering he’s hosted a wild and wooly talk show, The Chris Gethard Show, for two seasons on Fusion and, before that, four years on public access and two years at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in New York, he’d likely have more experience than any of Kelly’s guest hosts not named Anderson or Andy. He’s even had huge stars like Jon Hamm and Diddy on the show in the past year. Gethard talked to TV Insider about how the campaign started and why he thinks he’d be the best choice.

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How’d the #KellyandGethard campaign start?
Basically, I saw one day that some kids were posting in a Facebook fan-page for The Chris Gethard Show, and they were saying, “Yep, it should be Kelly with this new co-host,” and that was actually the first I heard that they were doing auditions. When I read it, I was aware these kids were maybe being a little facetious, but I was like, “Man, that would actually be a dream come true.”

That’s the show I’ve been aware of since I was a small child. It was my mother’s favorite show. Then I got to thinking about it, and it kind of hit me in the gut. I was like, “Man, I’d really love to do that job.” The more I thought about it, the more I was like, “This actually makes a lot of sense.” I grew up watching Regis. I think he’s a really brilliant guy. I remember exactly how much my mom liked that show. I remember why she liked that show, and I think I get it.

It’s funny because a lot of people I think initially see me posting about and it and they’ve been like, “Oh, this is kind of odd,” but then I’m getting more and more feedback from people who know my work who are like, “This actually would be a really great fit.” I think so too.

You mentioned that it was was the only thing that brought your mom some calm during the day. Why is that? What was it about the show that helped her out for that hour during the day?
A lot of that is actually stuff that I’ve realized now that I’m a 36-year-old man and I look back on it. My mom loved that show so much. She thought it was so funny. She got really into it. It’s the 9 AM to 10 AM hour. I’m just a kid sitting there with my mom watching my mom giggle at the show and shut out the world for a little while.

As an adult, I realize again, her morning, every morning, started at like 6:00 am when my dad lumbered out of bed. He’s stomping around. He’s getting ready for work. She’s got to get me out of bed and I’m this manic little kid. I’m running around. My brother … He was the type of kid who she had to physically drag him out of the bed every morning. She’s got to put some breakfast in front of us, she’s got to make sure we don’t miss the bus. Just chaos. It’s just chaos tending to a lot of other peoples’ day. Starting your day by having to give your whole effort towards other people starting their day. It’s not that fun. Now that I’m a grown up, I realize it’s not a fun way to do things.

I think that show for my mom was kind of like, “All right. Everybody’s out the door. I can clean up all the chaos they left behind, and now let me just drop down into the chair and here’s these funny people who seem like friends, just kind of shooting the shit about stuff.”

You’ve been doing The Chris Gethard Show for 2 years on Fusion, before that on public access. You’ve been doing it for a long time. You’ve been a talk show host, so were you surprised that people thought it was a joke?
No, not at all. I anticipated that people would think it was some kind of a hipster comedy stunt from this guy who’s a comedian who does a lot of shows in Brooklyn. I totally get why people would think that, but that’s why as soon as I started tweeting about it, I tried to be very clear of like, “No, this isn’t that. I’m middle-aged now. I’m married now. I really loved my mom. My mom really loved this show. I think I get it. I think I’d really like to give it a shot.”

I really want to underline that. If they gave me one of those guest-hosting slots, like one of those audition slots, I wouldn’t half-ass it, I wouldn’t go in there with a smirk on my face. It wouldn’t be ironic detachment. I think that show has a cool legacy. I want to be a part of it. I think I would nail it.

If Michael Gelman called you up and said, “Chris, we want you to guest host,” What would be your game plan?
I do, and I have a few things to say about that. One … I think the key is I’m totally respectful of Kelly’s position as the alpha dog in this show. I’m not looking to come in and pound-for-pound contribute as much as she does. It’s impossible. It’s her show. It’s her legacy. I feel like that’s one thing I really clearly believe is my job is to come in and be her sidekick, not her co-host. You have to earn co-host. I haven’t earned that yet. I’m humble enough to admit that.

I feel like if I got that show right now, mid-2016, it would be like … I would say if I could make it until 2020, that’s when I’d be comfortable feeling like, “Okay, this is starting to feel like my show as well.”

I spent 16 years as an improviser at The Upright Citizens Brigade learning how to play big personalities and facilitate what they want to say because that’s what the job of a comedic straight man is. I have a lot of confidence that those skills and that training could really come into play and help me fan the flames of everything that Kelly is bringing to the table. That’s step one, is make sure she knows she might have the co-host to cheer for her, not in competition with her.

You probably have more skills than Strahan did when he got the job.
I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus. I’m not trying to talk bad about Strahan, but I don’t know. I think I’d certainly have a different take on it and I think I could hit the ground running pretty hard.

Has anyone from the show gotten back to you after this made EW and some of the other press?
Zero people have gotten back to me. I’ve not heard a single murmur of activity from their end. That being said, still holding out a lot of hope. I think this is going to happen.

Since they’re going to be looking for co-hosts for a while, they should at least bring you in for one show. Why do you think they haven’t?
These [guest hosts] are a lot of people with high visibility, much higher visibility than mine I believe. I think if they just gave me one shot … I’m not going to say it would be a bullseye right out of the gate, but I am going to say that everybody’s gears would be turning about it being a real possibility more so afterwords. I think I’d shock the world a little bit. I think the underdog kid from Jersey, come out and throw a few punches, and I think people might see that I have a punter’s chance at this.

I can’t imagine you’d be the type of person doing shtick up there.
No, I don’t think shtick is really my style. I think I lean towards genuine, and I think that’s one of the things that show has. What I really love watching that show, and that the first 10 to 20 minutes sometimes, whether it the two co-hosts talking about … An episode I watched the other day Kelly was like, “I just went and saw this play in New York. It was great,” and D.L. Hughley was like, “Oh, that sounds cool. I’m not really a play guy. What was it about?” They’re just chit-chatting. Very, very genuine. Very, very honest conversation.

I think with The Chris Gethard Show, as absurd and as goofy as that show is, I feel like if you watch any of our celebrity guest appearances, one of the things about it that’s just really true is they always enter our world. We don’t put celebrities on a pedestal. Kind of invite them to come hang out with us. I think Live, in a much less absurd, goofy way, kind of matches that mission statement of, “Come hang out with us. Be genuine.”

What would you talk about with Kelly during that host chat? Would you talk about getting the turkey sandwich down the block at this great place, or would you start being that guy who goes to parties and restaurants and stuff like that?
I don’t think I’d ever be the guy who starts going to the parties and the cool restaurants. I don’t think I have that in me. Regis existed in an era of television that was defined by Carson. That makes sense. It was Sinatra, it was Carson. That was the vibe, and he was the 9:00 am version of that, and I think in a very charming way.

I think to me these times are represented more and more by regular people being able to contribute to a show on Twitter or people who are watching TV while they’re in a chat room discussing the TV as it happens. I think culturally Regis represented the morning version of an era that was all about show biz. Vegas, the Dean Martin roast each other, all this stuff. That’s great, but times have changed. Now it’s about regular people being able to participate.

I think I would talk about regular things that happen in my regular life. I’d talk about what it’s been like to move to Queens. I’d talk about what it’s like that too much LaGuardia airplane traffic blows over my house. I’d talk with Kelly about what it was like when I did some shows in Denver and how weird it is to do comedy shows in a city where marijuana is legal now. I think I’d just talk about regular things I encounter in my life. Just keep it very genuine. If those things are home life things, great. If they’re professional things, great. But always honest. That would be my policy. Always honest.

If Kelly starts trotting out stories about her kids or one of her trips or something, you would be interested?
Yeah, and I’m a pretty nice guy. I think my mom raised me right. I think if people want to open up, I’m ready to listen. I’m kind of maybe notoriously a little too willing to listen. I’m down. I’m ready to go. Kelly Ripa is cool.

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Hey, she showed up in Broad City. That blew my mind when she did that.
We have that in common. I’ve been on Broad City. My first ever non-commercial acting role, I had a one-bit part on Hope & Faith. She might even remember me. Who knows?

What was the role?
I played a guy named Wally who had been kicked in the head by a horse. Yeah, I think I was 23 or 24 years old.

What was the evidence that he was kicked in the head by the horse?
From what I remember, the bit was that one of the characters was making fun of me because I always wore a hat inside, and the other character had to explain, “Hey, chill out. He was kicked in the head by a horse. He wears that hat to cover the scarring from the horse-related injury.”