Regis Philbin, morning-show host, game-show phenom and the man who, according to Guinness, has been on television for more hours than any other human, announced on today’s Live with Regis and Kelly that he will be stepping down from the show, some time around the end of the summer.
Philbin is a master of what is, when you think about it, one of the strangest occupations ever invented by humankind: TV hosting, which is to say, professionally being watched while being yourself in the presence of others. I interviewed Philbin a few years ago—when he was about to debut on the first season of America’s Got Talent—for a feature on the curious, Zen-like job of hosting and why this guy was so distinctively good at it:
This week, Regis Philbin returns to prime time, hosting a show called America’s Got Talent (NBC, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. E.T.). That is ironic, because while America may have talent, Regis does not. At least, he says, that’s what he thought when he became a San Diego TV host almost a half-century ago. “I wasn’t a comedian or a singer or a dancer,” he says. “I didn’t have any of the abilities you need to succeed in this business.” It wasn’t until 1967, when he became second banana on Joey Bishop’s late-night ABC show, that the Rat Packer told Philbin he chose him for his special talent. “I said, ‘What is it?’” Philbin recalls. “I was on pins and needles. He said, ‘You! You are a great listener!’ Which was not the answer I was hoping for.” …
Clearly Philbin was good at that and more, and his departure, like Oprah’s later this year, will create a vacuum and opportunities in the daytime-hosting world. Happy trails, Reege.