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Top 5 Favorite Talk Show Sidekicks

Always funny, constantly needed, talk show sidekicks help their shows succeed


Always overshadowed by the host with his name on the show, talk show sidekicks cannot be denied the vital role they play in the success of both their host and their program. There to set up a joke, take a punchline, laugh when no one else will, and warm the seat for the show's first guest, the talk show sidekick is an American institution.

To celebrate this unsung hero, we pay tribute by showcasing our Top 5 all-time favorite talk show sidekicks.

1. Ed McMahon

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There is no debate - none. Ed McMahon is television's Greatest Talk Show Sidekick. Bar none. Capital letters. If for some reason you've been in a hole for 40 years (or you're under 20 years old), McMahon was legendary talk show host Johnny Carson's sidekick on The Tonight Show. McMahon was a graduate of Boston College and The Catholic University of America, and began his television career in Lowell, Mass. He also served as a pilot in World War II and the Korean War.

McMahon met Carson when McMahon served announcer and Carson host of the game show was Who Do You Trust?.

Some say McMahon made a larger name for himself as a pitchman and variety show host. For more than a decade, he was the host of Star Searchand starred alongside friend Dick Clark on the popular mid-80s to late-90s TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes.

2. Andy Richter

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Is it terrible that whenever I think of Andy Richter, Conan O'Brien's charming and childlike sidekick, I think of the sketch that found Richter "naked," standing behind Matt Lauer during a live broadcast of The Today Show?

After McMahon, Richter holds the record for most talented and most memorable talk show sidekick. His quick wit and gee whiz! humor is laced with a little bit of mischief, which makes every moment with Richter a wonder. When Conan and Andy go off on a riff, you pretty much forget the guest is even there. That's not always a bad thing.

You might even say, Conan wouldn't be where he is today without Richter. It was Richter's camaraderie with the host that helped Conan overcome his early nervousness when he first debuted as a talk show host. Richter helped nurture the young television writer and producer into a bona fide TV star. And become one along the way as well.

3. Paul Shaffer

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You might think of him as the leader of The CBS Orchestra, the Late Show's house band. But Paul Shaffer has served as David Letterman's sidekick for more than 30 years.

When he isn't producing some of the meanest licks and grooviest grooves on late night TV, Shaffer is actively acting as Letterman's No. 1 foil. The butt of the joke, the teller of twice bad one-liners, Shaffer is quick to offer his take on Letterman's opinion or serve one up of his own (half-baked or otherwise). And he is always hilarious when he's doing it.

In 1982, two years after leaving SNL, Shaffer joined forces with Letterman, who was then new, brash and unproven. Shaffer served as leader of "The World's Most Dangerous Band," Letterman's house band on Late Night, until the show's move from NBC to CBS in 1993. Adding members, The World's Most Dangerous Band became The CBS Orchestra, and most, if not all, of the original members continue serving the show to this day.

4. Regis Philbin

Yes, daytime's iconic talk show host once served as a talk show sidekick. So see, friends. Sidekicks can grow up to be famous hosts, too!

Philbin began his career as a talk show host on the local San Diego, Calif., program The Regis Philbin Show. Success in San Diego placed him on the national stage in 1967, when he joined The Joey Bishop Show as Joey's sidekick.

5. Geoff Peterson

Geoff Peterson, the Late Late Show's robot sidekick
CBS Television/Worldwide Pants

Craig Ferguson's sidekick has got to be the most unique in all of late night. Why you ask? What, the photo didn't give it away? It's because Geoff Peterson is a robot. Well, a robotic skeleton, actually. One built by Mythbuster Grant Imahara.

The idea spawned from Ferguson's repeated complaints that his show, the Late Late Show, didn't have a house band or a sidekick. More specifically, Ferguson wanted a Robotic Skeleton Army. Imahara offered to build at least one skeletal robot if Ferguson could help him get 10,000 Twitter followers.

Imahara had them within 24 hours. And soon after, Peterson was born.

Peterson is voiced and operated by actor and comedian Josh Robert Thompson. Thompson is a voice actor, best known for his Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions on The Howard Stern Show.

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