SXSW: A Conversation with Bob Odenkirk & Fred Armisen

Fred Armisen and Bob Odenkirk walk out on stage together smiling and waving to members of the audience, before getting down to business. The very serious business of not being serious. Armisen starts out by letting us all know that it was Bob who helped him get his start.

“I was just doing stand up and you (Odenkirk) cast me on your new show Next.”

Odenkirk responded while laughing at himself,

“Yeah so after Mr. Show ended I wanted to do a series for network TV that was like Mr. Show, but without all of the angry beans in it. We did the pilot and sent it to a focus group and pretty much everyone hated it. It didn’t survive but we loved it.”

I will have to say that as excited as I was to sit and listen to Bob Odenkirk, I was equally excited to have Fred Armisen there. The banter back and forth between these two friends was hilarious and great to watch.

Armisen: You probably don’t remember this but we went to go see a move together once. It was Lord of the Rings. I remember sitting there thinking to myself what in the hell is going on in this movie. I really didn’t get it. And right then you turned to me and said, “What in the hell is going on in this movie? Do you want to get out of here?” And so we left. I knew right then we were going to be good friends.”

Odenkirk and Armisen look to all of us to help explain LOTR before finally just giving up.

Bob Odenkirk’s scope of work is huge. From being a stand up comedian, to a writer on SNL to Mr. Show. But it may be safe to say that ultimately his legacy will be in the character and his work as Saul Goodman. Introduced to us in the legendary drama Breaking Bad and now immortalized in the hit spin off Better Call Saul. Odenkirk said before that he didn’t think that he was going to be right for this part because he was a comedian. But personally I can’t see Saul Goodman being anyone other than him. He is absolutely brilliant and I think aside from writing is why Better Call Saul can stand alone as a series and not just a spin off.

Armisen asks if he has ever been in anything bad.

Odenkirk: Oh god yeah. We could fill up five hours of just that. I basically just fill up my days thinking about ideas that make me laugh. Some are terrible ideas but they make me laugh and that is important to me.

Odenkirk very humbly talked about taking on the role of Saul Goodman.

“I try to read every word that is given to me. I don’t improvise at all. I don’t want to do anything to mess up the writing and I rehearse a lot. This new season is really the first time that I have given any input about the character because I have been doing it long enough that I felt like maybe I could give some insight. But it’s not much.”

We got a look at serious clip from season one of Better Call Saul. Once it was over Fred Armisen looked at Odenkirk and said in all seriousness, “Wow… I mean you are so good.” Then he sits up and says, “Ok Now I an going to try and re enact that scene as you.” Just take my word it. It was hilarious. Odenkirk eventually tells him to stop before he puts him out of a job.

Like I mentioned before I think Better Call Saul could stand alone by itself. I f you have seen Breaking Bad you will definitely get excited about certain things but I don’t think it’s necessary. Odenkirk disagrees,

“I am so grateful for the fans. I mean we would not be anything without Breaking Bad and the love everyone has for that show. I was nervous about doing a spin off. I was afraid people would be like, “How dare you!” But I think that everyone could have had 3 more seasons of Breaking Bad so we were kind of able to ride that high. The acceptance of Better Call Saul has been amazing.”

“I don’t know if you would get it though if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad. I mean I have people come up to me sometimes and say, “Hey! I haven’t seen Breaking Bad but I have seen Better Call Saul and it’s great!” And I just think that is really weird.” 

Armisen suggests that Breaking Bad kind of had a funny undertone to it.

Odenkirk: You know what I find amazing about Breaking Bad? Is that I could watch one scene and be completely turn apart and feel terrible. And then watch the same scene on a different day and think it is hilarious just because of how I was feeling that day.”

In the end an audience member asked Odenkirk what he was most proud of in his career.

“Saul. Yeah, I am most proud of that character. It has been a lot of hard work for me to do since it isn’t what I do. I feel so lucky to be a part of the breaking bad world. So yeah, I would have to say Saul.”

I would have to agree. Bob Odenkirk is brilliant in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. If you haven’t seen them. You have some really amazing homework ahead of you! Start binging them both tonight!

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