Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk came to drama late in his career. He spent the first few decades in comedy, where he was best known for his work on Mr. Show, as well as writing on The Ben Stiller Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Saturday Night Live, where he wrote alongside Conan O’Brien (in fact, Odenkirk was with O’Brien when the latter came up with what would be Tom Hanks’ best ever SNL sketch).
Indeed, despite a long and storied career, which has seen Odenkirk nominated for 5 Emmys for his role in Saul, Emmy nominations for writing on Mr. Show with Bob and David, and even an Emmy win for writing on The Ben Stiller Show, Odenkirk still thinks that the pinnacle of his career came with one particular SNL skit he wrote in the early 1990s.
“My daughter once asked me, ‘What’s the best thing you ever did?’” Odenkirk said to Michael Rosenbaum on an episode of his Inside of You podcast. “And I said, ‘writing [Chris Farley’s “Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker”] and performing it eight times a week at ‘Second City’ … it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever been a part of … there was nothing greater than to see Chris be funny and act.”
Odenkirk got to see it first hand because in the original Matt Foley sketch at “Second City” (before they took it to SNL), Odenkirk played the role of the father, who would be recast as Phil Hartman on SNL. “I am really proud of it,” Odenkirk added, “because I did write it pretty much the way he performed it, and I wrote it alone in my apartment in Chicago … It’s such a performance heavy thing, but I’ll share credit on inventing the thing.”
Odenkirk also shared a lot of wistful memories of Farley, saying that he writes about him a lot in his upcoming memoir:
“Some of it’s kind of sad,” Odenkirk says. “The hardest party [with Farley] is just how inevitable it all felt. Everything in Chris’ story, the way it played out. People talked about it for years, that this would happen, and then that. And it all played out exactly as they predicted. I hated it. It made me so mad. The one thing you don’t want your life to be is a cliche … I don’t want to live some f**king, boring overtold story that’s just a hackneyed cliche. And his f*cking story just played out like somebody could’ve written it when he was 25. He could’ve written it. He kind of did.”
Odenkirk added that he ever only saw Farley once when he wasn’t intoxicated. “He was at party in Hollywood. With [David] Spade. At somebody’s f*cking apartment. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Chris, you’re not drinking,’ and he was like, ‘Nope.’ And he meant it. And he was strong. And he looked great. And I was like, ‘Holy sh*t. This is f*cking great. He’s going to f*cking make it. He’d been to rehab something like 7 times by then, and it finally clicked.”
Unfortunately, Odenkirk never saw that Farley again. It was the only time I ever saw the look in his eye. “But at least I saw it once and it gave me hope. But other than that, you either got him f*cked up, or him in that other mode, him like, ‘I’m a f*cking idiot. I f*cked up again. I’m so sorry I messed up.”
Odenkirk said that, when Farley was drunk, he performed for everyone, like they were an audience instead of human beings. “It was gross. And that’s all you got. And it was sad as f**k because he was such a good person, and his goodness came out in everything he did.”
Look for more stories like these in Odenkirk’s memoir, when it eventually arrives. In the meantime, Saul will probably begin shooting again in the spring ahead of its final season.
(Via Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast)