Andy Richter plays an accountant turned Private Investigator on this hilarious show

When he left Late Night with Conan O'Brien, many wondered where Conan's sidekick would end up. Well, after doing a slew of TV shows and movies it appears that Andy Richter has done quite well for himself. We recently got a chance to catch up with him via a conference call for his new TV show Andy Barker P.I.. On the call with him was the show's executive producer/co-creator Jonathan Groff.

On Andy Barker P.I., Richter plays the title role of an accountant who moves into a new office formerly rented by a Private Investigator. As clients begin to show up wondering where the old P.I. is, Andy Barker decides to make some extra money by taking on their cases.

If a client came into Andy Barker's office and wanted to tail a tax cheat would that be a conflict of interest?

Andy Richter: Tailing a tax cheat? No, I think it would be very much in his interest. You could kill two birds with one stone. You could bill him twice.

How do you think your CPA will look at this show? Did you watch him for research?

Andy Richter: They haven't really said much about it. I haven't really talked about it because I don't want to get them riled up. I don't want them to expect to see a whole orgy of CPA activity. The show's more about an excuse to hang jokes on something.

Andy there's a long history of comedians playing characters on tv with the same first name but a different last name. Can you talk about that and how you came up with the name Barker?

Andy Richter: I'm gonna have to pass that over to Jonathan because I didn't have anything to do with it.

Jonathan Groff: I came up with the name Barker just because I wanted one of those regular names. Kind of plain sounding but also one with a little bit of action to it. Also, the Blue Archer, the P.I., was in my mind or Mike Hammer. This has been used and that would have been bad... they also felt a little too strong. This one just felt regular. Kind of bland almost. That was a discussion between Conan and me. About five minutes into talking about this idea we said, "You know who would be perfect to play this character?" We said Leonardo DiCaprio... then we said, "Andy Richter would be so great." And Conan said we should call the guy Andy, partly because... it's just a great kind of name that goes with it. It just seems like a regular guy kind of name.

Where do you see Andy Barker going as a character?

Jonathan Groff: We don't really write towards that. We don't say "That's what this episode is going to be about" or "Lets work toward that." Sometimes we do end up... getting into some conventional-type action sequences, but then having our comedic take on them like a car chase where Andy is giving out accounting advice during the car chase. Or, Andy has a gun drawn on him and tries to bargain his way out of a situation by agreeing to sign a waver of liability or nondisclosure agreement. It's more like little snippets of things. The show is not intended to be a straight ahead spoof or parody. I don't think that that would wear very well.

What are you expectations for the show?

Andy Richter: I don't visualize the future very much. The most I hope... it doesn't need to be the new Heroes or the new sensation or anything. I would like a medium success that chugs along for 4 or 5 years and makes people happy.

Do you prefer to work with the single camera or the multicamera set up on a show?

Andy Richter: I definitely prefer the single camera better. For me it's the simple fact that I enjoy working in front of an audience, but when you're trying to create a suspension of disbelief it's much harder to do in front of audience because they become a partner. Moreso than that, they become in charge of the timing. From the simple, mechanical fact that you have to hold for their laughter. The actual timing of the scene is in the hands of the audience. As a control freak, I don't enjoy that as much as the ability to be able to control it in an edit room.

Can you talk at all about the minimall area where the show is set?

Jonathan Groff: There's an interesting story to that. Where Conan and I originally wrote the very first version of Andy Barker P.I. was set in Connecticut, because Conan and I both knew of this... mall that both of us were thinking of when we started talking about this. It has this New England feel to it. I originally set the show there and Andy's adventures were in Brooklyn and the docks and places like that. You then get into the conversation of, "Are we all going to relocate?" The producibility of it... we decided, Los Angeles feels like just as much of an opportunity certainly in the detective tradition as New York.

For some reason, Conan and I had it in our heads that Andy should be on the second floor. Partly because it didn't feel like he was a complete storefront, there was an element of extra respectability that maybe came from being in the office level of a mini-mall as opposed to these sort of storefront level. That was really hard to find.

What's the challenge of writing for the detective genre and getting everything in in 22 minutes, while still having the comedy?

Jonathan Groff: You do kind of have a good starting place with the conventions of the P.I. genre, there's a shorthand even with the audience, I think, that lets you get into things kind of quickly. Then satisfying the story with enough of a twist so that people aren't too ahead of it. I'm not saying we're telling intricate, genius, David Mamet-like mystery, con game type stories at all. I think we do try and be satisfying and respectful and not make it too outlandishly unbelievable. We love to dovetail a personal story of Andy's... with a mystery that he's trying to solve in that episode.

Andy Barker P.I. premieres on March 15 at 9:30pm E.T. on NBC.

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Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs