Regis Philbin, a familiar face to US TV viewers as an energetic and funny talk and game show host who logged more hours in front of the camera than anyone else in the history of US television, has died aged 88, People magazine says.

The magazine said Philbin died of natural causes on Friday, one month shy of his 89th birthday, citing a family statement.

“His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him – for his warmth, his legendary sense of humour, and his singular ability to make every day into something worth talking about,” the statement said.

“We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss.”

He was known for his rough edges, funny anecdotes, self-deprecating humour and a Bronx accent that was once described as sounding “like a racetrack announcer with a head cold”.

US comedian and late-night host David Letterman, a long-time friend, called Philbin the funniest man on television.


Philbin – known to fans as “Reeg” – was a fixture on various US shows for a half century with co-hosts including Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelly Ripa, winning millions of fans as well as honours as the top US talk and game show host.

He hosted the successful Who Wants to be a Millionaire program when it debuted in the United States in 1999 as well as other game shows.

Philbin signed a deal in 2000 making his salary for Who Wants to be a Millionaire $US20 million ($A28 million) a year, the most ever for a game show host.