Both wearing black, Ripa and Seacrest began the program looking somber, with Seacrest calling it a “difficult and emotional day for all of us here at Live,” as they began to recall their experiences with Philbin, and Ripa sounded choked up as she started to talk about him, but they both found fond memories of Philbin that made them laugh during the hour-long broadcast, as executive producer Michael Gelman and executive-in-charge Art Moore shared their own recollections of working with Philbin.
Both Seacrest and Ripa recalled their initial disbelief at hearing the news over the weekend that Philbin had died, with Ripa saying that she had hoped that Philbin “would live forever…that God would give him a special ticket.”
“As people get older, some things are inevitable, and passing away is one of those things, but Regis is one of the people that we all believed would somehow figure out a way around the inevitable,” Ripa said. “It was not in the cards, I suppose.”
The pair also separately shared that they each initially believed that the news of his death was a rumor or hoax and, indeed, Ripa said she was waiting to hear Philbin shoot down the rumor before they learned that Philbin had indeed died.
Ripa recalled how she and Philbin, in their early days working with Seacrest, felt like he had the intangible quality of a good host.
“We always looked at you, Ryan — they don’t make them like Regis anymore, right? — And then here comes Ryan Seacrest and Regis is like, ‘That kid’s got it.’ It’s that thing that you don’t see anymore. The work ethic and the storytelling ability,” Ripa said, adding of Philbin, “He could tell a story like nobody else. He could have you crying.”
Seacrest recalled watching Philbin growing up and studying his ease on camera, which allowed viewers, including Seacrest, to feel like they knew him.
“There are so few people who are so iconic and very good at what they did and that is Regis Philbin,” Seacrest said.
Ripa added, “Regis and [original co-host] Kathie Lee [Gifford] were all of our best friends.”
She also spoke about how she loves to remember how Philbin interacted with her kids, pointing out that while he talked to them like they were adults, they responded to that.
“They just worshipped him,” Ripa said of her kids’ feelings toward Philbin, remembering specifically how he got her son Michael, from a young age, into Dean Martin and the Rat Pack and when he babysat her kids for a bit on the show, which the show aired footage of later.
Seacrest recalled turning to Philbin for career advice, saying, “When certain opportunities were offered to me in primetime…I would call Regis and say, ‘What do you think? How did you make that work and how did you do both shows in both day parts?’ He was on the phone in a second and so generous with his guidance, his advice.”
Ripa later said, “There is no on-camera Regis and off-camera Regis. There’s just Regis.”
Gelman spoke about how he both started his day with Philbin and ended it with him, as Philbin wanted Gelman to call him before he went to bed with any changes.
“He’s with [Don] Rickles and many of his idols now, and I think they’re all laughing and singing and having a great time,” Gelman said of Philbin.
Guests Kiefer Sutherland and Michael Symon also remembered Philbin when they appeared on the show later on Monday.
The broadcast also aired a video of clips of Philbin’s time on the show, mixed in with photos of the late host, set to the special version of Rent‘s “Seasons of Love” — with the chorus altered to “Regis we love,” and ending with “thank you for the love” — that played on his final episode of Live.
And Seacrest revealed that Philbin’s final episode of Live, from 2011, will re-air on Friday, while Ripa shared that Philbin will be buried at his alma mater, Notre Dame.
Separately, on NBC’s Today show, Gifford talked about how she had been able to see him a few weeks before he died.
Gifford recalled having lunch, and sharing some laughs, with Philbin and his wife, Joy, at Gifford’s Connecticut home.
“I was just so grateful the Lord gave me that final time,” Gifford said Monday’s Today. “And it was so precious because when I talked to Joy the day that I found out right after he had passed, she said, ‘Kathie he hadn’t laughed in a long, long time.’ She said, ‘I was so worried about him.'”
Gifford added, “And she said, ‘The day that we came to have lunch with you was the last time I heard him laugh.’ That will forever be a precious gift the Lord gave me, that I got to laugh again with one of my best friends in all my lifetime.”
And, invoking her late husband Frank, Gifford said Philbin seemed aware that his life was coming to an end: “I think he was like Frank. He was just ready, you know?”
Gifford, like Ripa, recalled how she and Philbin had unscripted conversations during their time co-hosting Live.
“When we first started, we had no idea what we had, but we knew what we didn’t want,” Gifford said. “We didn’t want writers, we didn’t want a million producers, we didn’t want it overproduced. We just wanted to sit there and have fun together.”
She added, “We never talked before the show. We didn’t have what they call ‘elements’ in our business. He’d hold up the newspaper, and we’re off to the races. Or I’d say, [my son] Cody threw up, and we were off to the races. We never planned it.”
“He was an entertainer in his guts, and so was I, and so when we came together, although we didn’t have a friendship yet, we had a mutual respect for what we had accomplished already in our careers,” Gifford said. “And we had the same sense of humor, and I wasn’t afraid of him, and he sure as heck was not afraid of me, and we just took off like a rocket.”
On Good Morning America, former Live co-host Michael Strahan, who hosted alongside Ripa from 2012 to 2016, said of Philbin, “the man gave me the start, the reason I’m here right now, sitting in front of everyone on this TV screen.”
In the ABC morning show’s look back at Philbin’s career, they aired a clip of Strahan on Live in 2008, where Philbin remarks on the NFL star’s “charisma” and “personality” and asks him what he’d like to do with his career and Strahan starts talking about wanting to co-host Live.
“He created a show that just fit me perfectly,” Strahan said. “He was always so gracious and helpful with me. When I took over — when I went to the show — I said ‘OK, I’ve got to fill these shoes of Regis Philbin.’ When you get there, you realize, you can never fill those shoes. That show was Regis … when he left it would never be the same, with me there or anybody else.”
9:51 a.m. This story has been updated with Michael Strahan remembering Regis Philbin on Monday’s Good Morning America.