“Ruh-duh duh duh-dooh.”
Relax, everyone. That’s not a chainsaw. It’s just Andy Bernard dropping his signature catchphrase on The Office for the very first time.
Helms spoke on everything from his hilarious (and extremely improvised) sound effects to Andy’s “Rockin’ Robin” ringtone. And, of course, he dished on all the pressures of having to punch a hole in the wall in front of the entire bullpen.
“The Return” is the Nard dog’s biggest episode of the series yet, and it holds a special place in Helms’ heart.
“It was still early enough for me — I mean, every table read is a joy. Right? It’s just so much discovery for the cast. The writers have been kind of in the trenches for a couple of weeks or months at that point with every episode. But for us, it’s like this fresh, exciting thing,” Helms told Fischer and Kinsey. “And I do, I do remember feeling, you know, as I got more sort of meat on the bone in some of those later episodes, it just really felt like an affirmation that Andy was a valuable part of this cast overall, and of the show.”
To recap, in “The Return,” both Dwight and Oscar return to the office after some time away, and Jim teams up with Pam to prank Andy. The two hide Andy’s cell phone in the ceiling, but the prank winds up emotionally breaking the recent Stamford transfer to the point where he punches a hole in the wall and has to attend anger management classes.
Andy’s rockin’ ringtone
One of the most underrated stars of the episode is Andy’s “Rockin’ Robin” ringtone, which features a four-part barbershop quartet of Helms singing all the harmonies. For those curious, Helms sang and recorded the irritating masterpiece himself using his home computer.
“I don’t think they wanted it to be very good, but I was like, too into it to make it anything less. And I thought Andy would make it as good as possible. Right?” Helms explained. “I spent a long time on that in Garage Band kind of figuring out how to do multiple tracks… Super fun. And then I played it for Greg and he was like, ‘Great, we’ll use it.'”
The famous catchphrase
“The Return” is also the first (though definitely not the last) time that Andy whips out a “ruh-duh duh duh-dooh” sound for the office. Turns out, Helms improvised the famous catchphrase and it was inspired by some kids he knew in middle school.
“Since we’re talking about famous Andy Bernard things, I need to ask you about ‘rit-dit dit do-do.'” Fischer said. “I have the script and I have not once ever seen it written in the script for Andy Bernard. You had to have invented this.”
“I improvised a ton in my early episodes, because I again, I was eager to prove myself. And I also was trying to find Andy Bernard as a character, and that particular thing, which I — I think this was the first episode where it appeared for Andy. Right?” Helms said.
“And so it just was this thing that these guys I went just to middle school with would say. They would just inject into — it was kind of like a, ‘There you go. Gotcha.’ You know, if they got off like a good zinger at your expense, they’d tag it with ‘re-di di do-do,'” he continued. “…They weren’t exactly bullies, but I just remember this little clump of guys that were sort of like wise crackers in my middle school, and I don’t know where it came from before that [but I] picked it up and always thought it was kind of a funny, obnoxious expression. It has no meaning. And it just kind of fits in wherever you want.”
Punching a hole in the wall
Helms’ performance in “The Return” really culminates when Andy succumbs to Jim’s phone-in-the-ceiling prank and punches a hole in an office wall. It was Helms’ first time doing “anything that qualified as a stunt,” and it required quite a bit of prep.
“So like there was a whole little meeting about how they were going to score the back of the sheet rock so that my hand went through easier. And then they…fixed a pad onto the inner wall so that when my hand went through, I wouldn’t hit, you know, wood or aluminum or anything. And also, they had multiple planks that they could stick up just so we could do multiple takes,” Helms said.
He also explained that having to hold court in front of the whole bullpen was especially “daunting.”
“I really didn’t want to screw up the punch. I didn’t want to get it wrong — there were a lot of kind of wind ups to practice. Practice swings, if you will. And then I think we only did two takes or so, and I skinned up my knuckles,” Helms said. “So, yeah. That was pretty intense.”
Because there were only four stunt walls prepared for the scene, the cast really had to focus on not breaking and ruining takes.
“I also remember feeling, as a person who was in the bullpen watching, how I could not break. Because I knew the pressure you were under. And I also knew we didn’t have that many of the walls,” Fischer said. “So we couldn’t crack up when you punched the wall. We had to hold ourselves together.”
The Office ended, but the group text hasn’t
Before wrapping up his time on the podcast, Helms was sure to express his love for the show.
“I really can’t overstate, you know, just my gratitude to all of you guys for when we started in Stamford. Just that feeling of welcome,” he said. “We never felt like there was anything personal we had to overcome to prove ourselves to you guys. It just felt like you guys were happy to have us. And that’s the most incredible, the most incredible environment to be creative in.”
“It’s something I cherish so much. Having been a part of that. And, and the the friendships that have endured. I mean, I can’t believe we’re all still on a text chain,” Helms said. This is not a drill people, an Office group text does exist today. How glorious.
Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode for more behind-the-scenes stories from Ed Helms about playing Andy, filming “The Return,” and what is perhaps the only good group text in the world.