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Andy Richter Talks Animation Domination and Jon Benjamin’s Van

Veteran late-night comedian and voice actor, host of new ‘Anidom Beyond Show’ Animation Domination-related live recap show, brings his dry wit and love of animation to audiences in real-time.

As a long-time voice over actor for animated film and TV, as well as a writer and perpetual professional “sidekick” and punching bag on all three Conan O’Brien late-night comedy talk shows, Emmy Award nominee Andy Richter is the perfect choice to host a five-episode run of FOX Entertainment and Caffeine’s new real-time series, Anidom Beyond Show. Dedicated to FOX’s Sunday evening Animation Domination adult comedy block, the show features episode re-caps and interviews with guests, including creators, producers, writers and casts of The SimpsonsFamily GuyBob’s BurgersBless the Harts and Duncanville; for real-time interaction with fans, Richter and his guests make use of Caffeine’s user interface platform. Premiering last Sunday on Caffeine at caf.tv/AnimationOnFox, the hour-long show will run through the end of the broadcast season.  

In describing the show, Richter states, “Well, it's a recap show of the Animation Domination block, called Anidom Beyond Show. I didn't pick that name. To me, ‘Anidom’ sounds like an evil corporation from a Paul Verhoeven movie. And it's live, with no lag, ideally. We’ll recap that night's shows; we have interviews lined up with some of the people involved, which will be different each week.”

Making use of Caffeine’s digital platform to stream in real-time gives the show an improvisational, ad hoc feel that is right up Richter’s alley, having spent several decades performing live, every night, with O’Brien. “We're not sure exactly what the show’s going to be every week,” he says. “We’ll try and figure it out as we go. We’ll talk, I’ll do recap interview questions, all from the couch I’m sitting on right now. We’ll see. It's not like I got a lot of other stuff going on. And I'm happy to not even have to drive anywhere.”

He does plan to dig into how FOX’s block of hit animated series are made, and what the experience of working on these shows is like for the artists he interviews. “I want to know what's the process,” he explains. “What's your process? What's your day like? How'd you come up with this character? What is this show trying to say? But mostly, it'll be kind of the nuts and bolts about what it's like to do what they do. What about the production of your fictional world? Especially as a recap, people have just seen the fictional world. Now let's talk basic behind the scenes.”

Though he jokes about his work on the show and his career in general, he’s quite serious about his passion for animation. “There is something magical about animation,” he says. “And I've talked to people about this before, in that I care more about the Simpsons as a family, as individuals, than I do any people on TV in a live-action show. Take Bob's Burgers. What an amazingly human show that is, and what a wonderful family of weirdos that love each other and nurture each other's weirdness and oddness. I really want Tina to be happy, way more than I do anyone on any other show with actual humans in it.”

“And I don't fully know why that is,” he continues. “There's just something about the magic of seeing a human being that's drawn, or characters that are written in such a way that they're... all a little extreme. Gene is an extreme character. All those kids are extreme characters. And if you saw a real kid doing what they do, you might not buy it. It might be too much. And they’ve got grownups doing the voices.”

Richter concedes that part of the appeal is that these characters get away with behavior that humans could never appropriately exhibit. “Take Dan Castellaneta doing the voice of Homer,” he notes. “If Homer Simpson were a live-action person strangling his own son when he gets mad, that wouldn't be very funny. I mean arguably, they sort of have gotten away from the whole father strangling son bit. But Homer Simpson in live-action would just be a moron, and not a lovable one. But as a cartoon, he's lovable. These shows are hyper-realistic, pushing absurdity; you get to enjoy heightened levels of comedy and drama and human foibles.”

In addition to writing for and appearing on close to 700 O’Brien late night episodes going back to 1993, Richter starred in the Emmy-nominated FOX series, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Andy Barker, P.I. for NBC.  He also boasts an extensive body of voice work for animated film and TV. He’s most widely known for providing the voice of Mort in DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar film, TV, and short film franchise. But he’s also voiced characters on shows like Big Hero 6: The Series, American Dad!, and Bob’s Burgers. “I’ve done a number of shows, but for Madagascar, I did all three movies and both of the television shows,” he says. “I didn't necessarily set out to do cartoon voices, but I'm so thrilled to do them. And it's one of the things that constantly rekindles a childlike excitement that I get to do what I get to do. Doing a guest spot on a network comedy, that's great and fun, but it's not as much fun as doing cartoon voices.”

“I like to do the more cartoony voices,” he shares. “It's just fun to do silly voices. It's fun to see the animatic, and then they show you some sort of scratch tracks and later, some of the basic animation. It's as close as I get to doing something magical.”

Richter laughs when asked about seeing himself in an animated show. “It's awesome! It's really, really great. I played a lemur for all those years. And a few times I've played little boys. I got to be a villain in a DC show. I actually got to say, ‘I'll get you Batman.’ Like, who the fuck gets to say, ‘I'll get you Batman,’ and get paid for it?”

No discussion about Richter’s career would be complete without mentioning one particular gem: Jon Benjamin Has a Van. Benjamin of course voices some of animation’s most amusing characters, including Sterling Archer from FXX’s Archer, and Bob from FOX’s Bob’s Burgers. “Well, Jon and I have been pretty good friends for a million years,” he says. “I did that show because he's my friend. It also gives me something to bitch about. The whole joke of it was, it was celebrity parkour. And it was me and one of the guys from Insync whose name escapes me, and Charlene Tilton. We’re not exactly hot stars doing this. We’re sort of lame people in celebrity terms. So already it's sort of like, thanks a lot pal, for saying that I'm one of the hind pieces of show business.”

“And then we shot this fucking thing for hours and hours and hours in this factory doing like bullshit parkour,” he adds. “Diving and jumping and running. Then the show comes out and I'm in it for literally a blink of an eye! You get used to that when it's a major motion picture. I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Alabama for Talladega Nights. I was there for probably two months and I'm on screen for maybe two minutes. You get used to that because it's a big movie and there's lots of stuff. But for Jon and his van? I should have been on screen for more than like the title sequence.”

Continuing his recollections about working with Benjamin, Richter recalls a meal they shared years ago with their kids. “My daughter loves Bob's Burgers,” he reveals. “She's crazy about it and I think she knew that Jon and I were friends. But a few years ago, because we'd done the Conan show from Comic-Con for a number of years, she was there in San Diego with me. We went down to eat, and Jon was having breakfast with his son. They invited us to sit down. So, we're sitting and talking for about 10 minutes, when my daughter went, ‘Oh my God, I just realized you're the voice of Bob on Bob's Burgers.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ And she started crying. She was like, ‘I don't know why I'm crying!’ She was so mad at herself.”

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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