Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Old SNL pals Conan and Bob Odenkirk talk Chris Farley, drinking pee, and flipping cars

Conan O’Brien, Bob Odenkirk
Conan O’Brien, Bob Odenkirk
Screenshot: Conan

It’s conceivable that some viewers only know Bob Odenkirk as Bob Odenkirk: Emmy-nominated dramatic actor at this point. After all, Better Call Saul continues to show off Odenkirk’s ability to play one of the most slippery-sympathetic protagonists in TV history, even if last night’s typically stellar Season 5 finale made the case that it’s Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler who’s the Breaking Bad prequel’s actual main character and, as Odenkirk put it on Monday’s home-edition Conan, “true mystery.” Still, Odenkirk is unquestionably killing it, tracing the doomed, ever-downward arc of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman with the aplomb of a born-to-drama thespian. Even if he told Conan that, despite his willingness to go Method most of the time (“It’s okay as long as I’m not bleeding too much.”), he refused creator Vince Gilligan’s onetime suggestion that he actually drink his own whiz.

“I didn’t think I needed to do that,” is how Bob politely put it about that scene in the desert-stranded, Gilligan directed eighth episode, although the clip he shared with O’Brien did show the actor seemingly standing way too close to a truly amazing and dangerous-looking car stunt. (Odenkirk, ever the mensch, went out of his way to praise stunt driver Corey Eubanks, who actually flipped that thing.) Still and all, for those understandably entranced by Odenkirk’s dramatic work, he and Conan spent their 12-minute interview/catch-up session helpfully reminiscing about what Conan termed the “pure idiocy, pure foolishness” of their time together as fledgeling comedy writers on Saturday Night Live.

Odenkirk didn’t stick at SNL as long as Conan did, instead deciding that he could make a better sketch show elsewhere (Spoiler: he did), but the two spent some time laughing about how Odenkirk helped the late Chris Farley transition his Matt Foley character from the Second City stage (where Bob wrote the original sketch), to TV. (Where, Odenkirk revelaed, other neophyte comedy legend in the making Robert Smigel came up the Foley’s destructive, sketch-ending falls.) “I’ve never seen anything hit so hard,” Odenkirk said of Farley’s Second City performances as the van-living motivational speaker, adding in fond admiration, “Pure awesomeness.”

Less awesome was Odenkirk’s revelation that his 21-year-old son Nate is one of the many thousands of Americans who’ve been stricken by the coronavirus. Although Nate has largely recovered from his very scary two-week ordeal, Odenkirk shared the wisdom (which should be taken to heart by Donald Trump and the Fox News/GOP death cult intent on calamitously and preemptively ending preventative social distancing) that this is not just the flu. “It’s not that—it’s much worse,” said the guardedly relieved Odenkirk of his son’s frightening affliction, his solemnity quickly segueing into a bit about him hopefully prodding Nate about his gradually improving condition. “How many feet you have?,” Bob goaded an imaginary son eagerly, “I’m seein’ two feet!” Comedy out of calamity—that’s the Odenkirk brand.


Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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