Mr. Show Talks Show Biz - A Q&A with Bob Odenkirk

Posted by Amanda York on July 18, 2010 1:24 PM


He's one of those guys who's more of a household face than a household name, having appeared in popular shows like Weeds, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, How I Met Your Mother and so on all the way back to Seinfeld in 1990. For more astute comedy fans he's well known as a writer/performer on Saturday Night Live (1987-95), as the creator and star of HBO's Mr. Show, alongside David Cross, as a featured cast member of Adult Swim's Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! - actually, you know what, just check his IMDB profile. It'll blow your mind.

Right now he's playing crooked lawyer Saul Goodman on the AMC hit Breaking Bad (about a high school chemistry teacher who becomes a meth cook) and producing and performing a comedy show for kids called "The Not Inappropriate Show". We caught up with him in Montreal at this year's Just For Laughs Festival before one of his family-friendly performances to get his take on the state of the entertainment industry. 

Q: What TV shows are you watching now?
Even though I'm in it, I'm actually watching Breaking Bad. I actually haven't seen it all. I'm on second season and it's really amazing. The interesting thing about Breaking Bad is that it's like a movie... the main character has a personality arc, unlike most shows where the character personality is fixed from week to week. This character is gradually changing... mutating.

My favorite TV show, which I got to see on DVD is a British show called The Royle Family. It's awesome. That's where The Office came from. I also like 30 Rock, Hoarders, Intervention. I watch FOX News just to get mad.

Q: So what are your thoughts on the current state of the television industry?
Bob: I don't really care for the industry. But I do notice there are all these new channels. In one way it's exciting and in the other way it's very daunting. All of these people tend to be hungry for the big bucks. So you want the small outlets to do something cool. I remember HBO telling David Cross and I, "whatever you create for us, just make sure it's something different". Nowadays, even most of these small outlets are hungry for money. They just want to be in the mainstream. But I do think the Adult Swim channel is doing it right with comedy and AMC with drama.

Q: What's your take on comedy on the web?
Bob: I think it's cool... I love that there's an outlet for people. The only disadvantage is that you have to grow as an artist and you have to develop your sensibility and the web doesn't encourage that because what it wants you to do is just get peoples' attention today

Mr. Show would have died on We weren't doing things that were flashy and in the moment, or ridiculing pop culture of the moment - which gets a lot of attention - or doing extremely crude things. Those are the videos that are getting the big hits but they don't necessarily lead you into getting a show. Ultimately, to get picked up, somebody has to take a chance on your vision.

Q: Is that what happened for you?
Bob: Yes, and I myself as an artist in television need somebody to take a chance on me because I'll never write a middle of the road show. I can't do it. Although, I really liked King of Queens... and Everybody loves Raymond. I thought that show was masterful.

Q: Will there always be a future for sketch on television then, rather than online?
Bob: Sketch shows don't do that well on TV in America. They're just not that popular. It's the kind of comedy that draws a younger audience so older people don't really care about it. So that would hold it back. I mean the last sketch show that worked on prime time was The Carol Burnett Show.

Q: If you had your own TV network, what would you do?
Bob: There is this whole crop of young comic actors that I'm seeing right now that I would love to see get a chance. I know eventually most of them will be on screen but what I'm seeing right now is not just a bunch of funny people but more of a movement of a new generation. They're a good ten years younger than most of the people on TV, including SNL, and maybe it might be a matter of time till these people are seen but maybe not. So if you gave me my own network, I would give an outlet for these people who are starting to peak. 

Q: What's actually in the plan for you?
I've got a show in early development right now. I star in it and it's about me and my camera crew working for a network and going out to middle America and doing these life story pieces. This is an idea I had ten years ago and I'd be very excited to do this show. I'm still not sure if it's going to happen but I'm very proud of it.

Here's what the stars of Breaking Bad have to say about Season 4.

And check out this clip from Mr. Show:


Written by: Scott Goodyer  

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