In an unbridled side-by-side Q&A, Andy Barker, P.I. star Andy Richter and series cocreator Conan O'Brien riff on their new NBC sitcom (premiering tonight at 9:30 pm/ET), Britney Spears jokes and the future of Late Night.
TV Guide: In Andy Barker, P.I., Andy plays an accountant who accidentally becomes a detective. As your company developed it with NBC, Conan, how did you keep it so funny?
Conan O'Brien: We really like it, which is usually a bad sign. One of the things that was nice about this project is that I've always thought it's such a crapshoot to make a good television show. So many of us had the experience of flipping around the dial and thinking, "Gee, why isn't there more good stuff?" So we always thought with this process, every step of the way, let's just constantly make sure that we still love it.
TV Guide: The cast, which includes Arrested Development's Tony Hale and Ellen's Clea Lewis, is offbeat. Like The Office and The Knights of Prosperity, did you set out to cast people who are funny instead of just good-looking?
Andy Richter: It turns out there are no more good-looking people left. Every good-looking person is now on TV.
Conan: They've all been tagged, identified and catalogued.
TV Guide: You've known each other for a long time, going back to when Andy was Conan's sidekick on Late Night. How have you changed over the years?
Andy: Conan is calmer now. I met him when he became the successor to David Letterman. That was about as much pressure as someone could possibly be under. He's grown used to it, and being married and having kids has made him more in possession of the talent that got him to where he is now.
Conan: It's nice. All I did was obsessively talk about Late Night and how to keep it alive in the early days. But now when Andy comes to New York and we go out to dinner, we don't talk about that stuff. We hang out and talk about our kids and Andy's struggle with addiction. He cries. I force him to look in the mirror.
Andy: Now I know how Chad Lowe feels.
TV Guide: What do you think about the stand taken by your Late Late Show competitor, Craig Ferguson, that he won't make jokes about Britney Spears going into rehab?
Conan: Everybody's going to make their own judgment about it. Actually, I always feel like the audience lets you know. When someone starts misbehaving, you do some jokes about it, but if the story is taking a turn, they let you know, and then you don't do it.
Andy: But if you're not going to make Britney Spears jokes, why not just not make them? Why make a pronouncement about it?
TV Guide: Conan, are the rumors true that SNL veteran Jimmy Fallon is going to succeed you on Late Night after you go on to host The Tonight Show?
Conan: I've wisely stayed out of who will succeed me at 12:30. It's still two years out, and NBC doesn't really know what they're doing. They announced there is this holding deal [with Fallon], and this is one of the possibilities. But you're speaking to the best example of how these late-night succession things could go any which way. No one saw me coming down the pike. It could still go any way.
TV Guide: And will there be a role on The Tonight Show for Andy?
Conan: That would be up to Andy. He's also my manager and my accountant. And he's a pretty important adult-film star now. That would be cutting into his revenue stream.
Watch a video preview of NBC's Andy Barker, P.I.
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