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Andy Richter on Being Andy Barker, PI

Published March 1, 2007 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of NBC.
Andy Richter Andy Richter is Andy Barker, PI
One of the foundations of comedy is you take somebody who does one thing, make him do something completely different and then see what trouble he gets into. That seems to be the premise of Andy Barker, P.I., in which an accountant (Andy Richter) gets into detective work. However, it turns out, the two jobs aren't too distant.

Andy Richter Talks Andy Barker, PI

"They are pretty similar because in reality both jobs are pretty boring," said Richter. "I mean, from what I understand, there was a PI on the set one day. He was telling me a little bit about what it's like, and the reality of it is a lot of sitting outside of somewhere, in a car, drinking coffee, watching, trying not to fall asleep to watch somebody if they actually are incapacitated and are fraudulently drawing workman’s comp and things like that. So I think they probably are pretty similar in many ways. I think what Andy Barker enjoyed about it is he looks at it as both of them are altruistic pursuits in which he is utilizing his problem solving skills in order to help other people."

Television has a rich tradition of detectives which would be ripe material for parody, but Richter intends not to do the Police Squad version of detective shows. "We don’t want to make the show be about that. It’s just something that I think is somewhat unavoidable but we don’t want to be cute about the sort of nostalgic aspects of it. We don’t want it to be a complete anachronism or make it some sort of show that’s just about making references to other things but it does definitely seem fun when it becomes, as we discussed at points, kind of making it a Quinn-Martin comedy and to kind of keep some of the things, the same kind of tonalities in the music and the pacing and then the story
lines. There are things that have been through the laboratory of television that seem to work and who are we to question them? You know, if you mix this with this, it makes a puff of smoke and everyone likes to see a puff of smoke so who are we to question it?"

Andy Barker will present very much the same persona as Andy Richter, thanks to writers who know him and his own influence over the material. "They know me. It's easy for them to write for me. One of the things about being a mid-season show is that we did have a luxurious amount of time compared to what normally happens and I was there during the summer while we were writing. Not the same hours that they did because it's not like they're going to fire me if I go home early. But I was there. I'm fairly involved in the writing. It's a perfect situation for me because there would be lines that would come up while we were writing the script that everyone loved that I didn't really like and then I would just put that in my file of, 'Well, I'll just change that when we're shooting it.'"

A famous talk show sidekick, whose previous sitcoms did not fare well, Richter is slowly becoming more comfortable leading his own show. "There were times when I was offered series deals and I just kind of felt like, 'Okay.' But I'm getting more comfortable with the notion. I just sort of base it on, 'Well, they gave me the job. Who am I to question?' And you get a few noble failures under your belt. People still want to work with you, I guess."

Andy Barker, P.I. premieres March 15th on NBC.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of NBC.

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