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John Larroquette, 75, costarred in Bill Murray’s 1981 Stripes, created the excellent addiction-themed comedy The John Larroquette Show (1993-96, with David Crosby as a guest actor), won his fifth Emmy on The Practice (1997), earned a 2011 Tony Award for Broadway’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and narrated four Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies — for the historic first one, he was paid with a matchbox of marijuana. Now he’s reviving his most famous role, Dan Fielding on Night Court (1984-92, and new on NBC, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET). It’s produced by The Big Bang Theory star Melissa Rauch, who plays Judge Abby Stone — the daughter of the original Judge Harry Stone (played by the late Harry Anderson).
Larroquette talks to AARP about what it’s like to fit himself into his old attorney’s suit.
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What’s new with Night Court’s most eloquently sarcastic attorney?
He’s 35 years older. He still thinks he's the smartest person in the room. But his heart has grown cold over the years, and Abby [Rauch] has the ability to put a small campfire under it and warm him up somewhat. And because she is Harry Stone’s daughter, he feels obligated to try and help her navigate the shoals of being at work at 2 in the morning in the middle of Manhattan.
Is Dan Fielding still hilariously arrogant?
He is older, not quite as insecure, not as much a misanthrope. He thinks most of humanity is a small waste of space, as opposed to a huge waste of space. And wants to help the ones who aren't.
He used to leer at women — very ’80s, less acceptable nowadays.
To have a character as libidinous as he was back then just wouldn’t work. Society has changed, what we think is funny has changed. You have to present a different kind of comedy today.
So Night Court’s high-IQ caveman isn’t such a bad guy anymore?
Even back then he was sometimes very, very bad, and sometimes very, very good, like getting Judge Stone to come back when he was going to quit, or delivering babies in an elevator. I don’t think he was ever bad. He was needy and wanted people to love him, and was not very adept at showing his own emotions.
The new Night Court received 80 percent positive reviews from critics. Do fans still remember you from the old show?
At the dry cleaning counter, the person who’s 60 goes, ‘Oh, nice to see you!’ and the one in his or her 20s says, ‘Who’s that old man?’ There are five phases to an active career. The first phase is ‘John who?’ The second is ‘Get me John Larroquette.’ The third is ‘Get me a John Larroquette type.’ The fourth is ‘Get me a young John Larroquette.’ And the fifth phase is ‘John who?’ It seems like I haven't quite reached the fifth phase yet, but thanks to Melissa Rauch, I'm between four and five.