Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Breaking Bob

Saul GoodmanBob Odenkirk went from writing comedy lines for Chris Farley on SNL to a bit part on Breaking Bad to starring in his own TV series, Better Call Saul.

Apparently it takes a comedian to play a smarmy, self-absorbed, over-the-top, two-bit underworld attorney. In fact, Better Call Saul was originally conceived as a 30-minute comedy before it morphed into an hour-long drama.

Now Odenkirk has a hard time walking down the street without someone shouting, “Hey, Saul!” That’s the kind of recognition only a comedian would relish.

Odenkirk seems like an unsuspecting star. He looks like an average, maybe even below-average guy. When he sees a red carpet, he probably thinks it leads to the popcorn stand at a movie theater.

There was nothing in his genes or upbringing in Naperville, Illinois to suggest comedic or dramatic talent, certainly as a funny bad guy. His inspiration was Monty Python. His “training” was working with a local radio traffic guy on comedy bits that aired on a college radio station.

Chris FarleyHis gateway to stardom began at Chicago’s Second City, where he befriended Farley. Odenkirk and Farley made it to SNL, with Farley on air and Odenkirk on deadline in the writers’ room. Odenkirk wrote the script for Farley’s famously hilarious, pants-tugging motivational speech guy, with his trademark warning about winding up living in a van down by the river. That’s a warning you can live by.

After SNL, Odenkirk picked up writing assignments and acting parts. For example, he worked as both writer and actor on the Ben Stiller Show. He wrote the sketch that earned an Emmy for the show.

Then in 2009, Odenkirk appeared in Breaking Bad in what was supposed to be a 3-episode gig as Saul Goodman during the show’s second season. He was so good the show’s producers kept writing him into the storyline. One observer said Saul connected with the show’s loyal audience because he was the least hypocritical character in the cast. Of course, he was a comic playing an egomaniac.

saulLast year, the producers of Breaking Bad tapped Odenkirk for a 10-episode spinout, Better Call Saul, which transforms a recurring character into the main guy. With critical acclaim, Better Call Saul debuts its second season February 15 on AMC.

One critic called Odenkirk’s character “darkly comic.” And the show embraces two genres – crime drama and black comedy.

It appears Odenkirk has found his niche as a funny bad guy. In 2014, he appeared as a podiatrist who specializes in cutting off toes. A couple of  years earlier, he portrayed a “two-bit movie mogul.” He directed a movie called Let’s Go to Prison. He has had parts in movies such as Ass Backwards and Dealin’ with Idiots. He attracts a cult following at San Diego Comic Con.

You could honestly say Odenkirk is Breaking Bob.

If you don’t agree, you better call Saul.



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