Interview: Andy Richter

He's no fuddy-duddy
By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  November 25, 2009
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We have a chub for Andy Barker, P.I. (just released out on DVD), because we have a major chub for the show’s star, Andy Richter. Richter plays an accountant who is mistaken for a detective-for-hire and decides to just roll with it. Richter himself often just rolls with it -- probably a product of his improv training. He’s an actor, a writer, a Jeopardy! champion, (cue Trebek!) and, perhaps most recognizably, the yin to Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show yang.

We were lucky enough to snag an interview with Richter during some Tonight Show downtime, and got him to dish on the show, the biz, and Trebek. Plus, he used the word “fuddy-duddy” with no irony whatsoever, which further cemented him in his position of awesomeness.

What was your favorite part about playing Andy Barker, and how much of the character Andy Barker is [really] Andy Richter?
My favorite part was working with Jonathan Groff and Conan O’Brien. Especially Jonathan. He was the head writer on Late Night when I left, and I loved getting to work with him and writing staff on that show. As always, the optimal situation with any job is to work with friends. Having worked long enough in this business now, I know what a rare treat that is. One of the things that’s nice about working for friends is that you know and trust them, and they know and trust you. So, they’ll let you do whatever you want, within reason.

With the Andy Barker character — granted it was written a certain way — I always had a say, because I’m the one that had to play him. So there is a certain amount of me in that the character is a co-creation of mine. The character was much more of a fuddy-duddy than I am, and probably more of an idealist, and probably braver. There’s a lot of situations he got into in which, in real life, I would have said, ‘fuck this!’  and gone home. But that doesn’t make for a good TV-show.

How does it feel to be back on late-night television? 
It's great. It really is. It’s so nice to go some place and make a TV-show, and put it on air that day, and then go home. I work with the people who think of the show, and those who execute the show, and that’s it.  I don’t have to talk to too many people, don’t have to justify what I’m doing, the jokes I’m making. That’s one of the things I shoot for when I work;  just to be left alone!  I love it.  I don’t want to be nickel and dimed on every point. I’m a good worker, and I like it when people let me work.

Is that “nickel and diming” something that you’ve come across often? What have you learned from those experiences?
I left a steady job that I had for years on Late Night and I came to Los Angeles to try my hand at the much more speculative world of primetime sitcom television. I did some movies and other things in there too, but there was nothing that was really steady and when you have a family and kids, your work becomes paycheck-focused. You’re always thinking, ‘Oh shit, I’ve gotta make some money,’ to keep ahead of that rolling ball of money-eating-machine that’s always rolling right behind you. Not that I was going for a paycheck or looking for the highest bidder, but I felt fairly consumed by money issues. But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve cared less about money and more about having idiots shut up,  just leaving me alone so I can work!

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    We have a chub for Andy Barker, P.I. (just released out on DVD), because we have a major chub for the show’s star, Andy Richter. Richter plays an accountant who is mistaken for a detective-for-hire and decides to just roll with it. 
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