The Talented Mrs. Ripa
Over the past 20 years, Kelly Ripa has cemented her role as the sweetheart of American television. But entertaining America is much more difficult than it sounds.
Most people are terrible to talk to on the phone. At least we have learned a lot during this wicked year. Kelly Ripa, who zooms under Kelly’s humble iPad grip, is a rare exception. The moment I enter the chat, she starts the story. I had to go to a specialist to wipe this root canal and he asked me: Who is so tall in your family? This is a very strange thing for a maxillofacial surgeon, she begins. And I said: Oh my mom is tall. Wait, why are you asking this? And he said: Oh, you have high teeth. She pauses long enough for me to express mild confusion, then continues: So I said, what does this mean? He said: You have the teeth of a tall man. On x-rays, your teeth are about 20% larger than others should be. I ask if she took it as a compliment. I was thrilled! she said. I was eager to share this with Ryan Seacrest because we always feel like short people who should have been tall.
Big Teeth Energy Kelly Ripa is an adorable joke that has disarmed Live guests for 20 years. As the female half of the most popular talk show in syndication history, she switches between psychologist, comedian, and cheerleader without even changing gears noticeably. Comedian, writer and podcaster Danny Pellegrino put it best when he tweeted: Kelly Ripa is really great at her job and I feel like no one is talking about it. As with hair dye or makeup, if it’s good, no one talks about it.
And Kelly Ripa, who turned 50 last year, is categorically good. As of the end of December 2020, Live With Kelly & Ryan was the most watched daytime talk show among women aged 25 to 54. In each iteration of the show, Ripa first played alongside television veteran Regis Philbin, then media newcomer Michael Strahan, whose awkward departure was a pain point, and now her longtime friend Ryan Seacrest intuitively expands or contracts to balance the dynamics. The training process lasted 20 years. I learned a lot from the beginning that men and women are judged differently. She says it’s completely different. Admirable qualities in males are often disgusting in females.
It’s true, Kelly Ripa does nothing or does nothing, this is not news. Before our interview, I set up a Google Alert, and within one week I was notified of countless articles, including Kelly Ripa lifting killer legs in spandex after a strange hip walk, How Kelly Ripa’s husband protected her from bad comments, and Why Kelly Ripa was said to keep your hands in your pockets live today. Last month, her husband, Mark Consuelos, caused a flurry of headlong out of breath when he joked hilariously on her Instagram photo with a shiny sweatshirt. I’ll save you from clicking: he said: is it the letter G or C? But the cliter is not a thing.
Consuelos was leaving to shoot Riverdale, and COVID precautions are keeping them from seeing each other. If I have two weeks of vacation, say, for spring break, and I go to visit him in Vancouver, I will have to leave the day I come out of quarantine. So it’s really a lot of time and energy to call, she says. From time to time we will leave flirty comments on each other’s posts. And then, obviously, it develops into something else, especially when it gets disgusting. I ask if she and her husband enter into each other’s private messages and she objects. We’re not really DM, no, she says. We’re just going to talk about how you and I talk on Face, whatever it is. This is Zoom. We’ll do something like Zoom call.
Ripa’s massive popularity is not so much calculated as algorithmic. The show’s DNA hasn’t changed in the 20 years it hosted a heterosexual couple poking fun at soft, apolitical news, but the world around him has changed. To stay relevant, Ripa had to develop a certain duality: she’s a scream of prey and a Zoom date. Home lady and buddy. A tiny person with a lot of tooth energy. And the line between her personal and public I must be constantly updated.
For 10 years, Ripa’s eldest son, Michael, who was three years old when his mom started Live, didn’t want his name to be pronounced on the air. I was not allowed to discuss anything, she tells me. I could not talk about his life, his grades, although they were excellent. I couldn’t talk about school. I was not allowed to show his prom photo on TV, although I could do so if I got the girl’s permission from her parents. She kindly gave all three of her children: Michael, now 23, Lola, 19, and Joaquin, 17. It would be very unfair to use.