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Jonathan Groff on Andy Barker, PI

Published March 9, 2007 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of NBC.
Andy Barker, PI Andy Barker, PI
The idea of an accountant/detective is the comedy premise of Andy Barker, P.I., but series creator Jonathan Groff revealed that it's not so far fetched. There is such a thing as a forensic accountant, which came to his attention after developing the series.

Jonathan Groff Creates Andy Barker, PI


"A forensic accountant is basically an accountant who acts like a private investigator," said Groff. "She actually goes in and there’s overlap where she goes in and kind of incorporate espionage or investigation, looks at like accounting stuff with an eye toward detecting any kind of criminal activity. I don’t know if it's a huge field or that’s one of those things where there is a big set and a big set and then the tiny, tiny, tiny subset. It might just be this one person but we are onto something. We may open up a whole career field for people. There maybe department or universities of CPA P.I."

On the show, the CPA PI is played by Andy Richter, dealing with criminals and bad guys the way an accountant deals with paperwork. "The other thing about Andy Barker is that he never really changes. He’s the same guy. Both areas, accounting and private investigation, appeal to him because he’s applying his sort of common sense and his decency. One way I think of talking about the character is his superpower is his normalcy and his decency. He can’t melt a toaster, but he can scold somebody for being impolite when they fire a gun at him. He’s as mad at somebody for being rude as he has for the danger they’ve caused him."



With only 22 minutes of show to complete their stories, they have the task of hour-long mysteries in half the time. "It was hard. A couple of things, one is you do kind of have a good starting place with the conventions of the PI genre you have them as a shorthand even with the audience. I think that let’s you get into things kind of quickly which is good. Yes, a widow shows up and suspects that her husband didn’t die of natural causes. He was murdered or I think my stepmother is cheating on my father, that kind of stuff. You can get in quickly but then yes, giving a satisfying little run through the story with enough of a twist that people aren’t too ahead of it. I mean, I’m not saying we are telling intricate genius David Mamet like mystery con game type stories at all. But I think we do try to be satisfying and be respectful and not take a quick shorthand or make it too outlandishly unbelievable. We like to sometimes also dovetail like a personal story of Andy’s. He’s got to find his child’s favorite toy that she won’t sleep without and it ends up dovetailing with the mystery that he’s trying to solve in that episode."

The fact that the character is named Andy is no coincidence. "I came over the name Barker just because I wanted one of those sort of affirmative or a very kind of regular name. I have to say that’s kind of plain sounding name, but also one with a little bit of action to it. And then Andy, that was a discussion between Conan and me. About five minutes into talking about this idea, we sort of said, 'You know who would be perfect to play this character?' And we said Leonardo DiCaprio, but then we still said, 'Andy Richter would be so great.' And then Conan almost instantly said, 'And we should have call the guy Andy, not just because of the convenience of Andy Richter, Andy Barker which is I think one of the reasons people have done as in the past but it is such a great kind of name that seems like a nice guy, regular guy kind of name. It feel good saying the name Andy. I’ve almost never met any Andy’s I didn’t like."

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

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Fred Topel
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