Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk didn’t envision a future as a SAG-nominated actor. “The way I approached acting at first with Better Call Saul—which is where I had a really big acting part and it needed a lot of attention and I had to grow a lot in that endeavor—was as a writer, which is to say that I break down the script. I’m sort of reverse engineering the script to figure out who the person is,” the actor explains on this week’s episode of The A.V. Club’s podcast Push The Envelope. “Acting is strange. It’s like running a race. You run the race and then I don’t know that I even ran that race. It doesn’t exist anywhere. I mean, it exists on tape, but you know what I mean. It’s an activity you partake in and not a thing that you make.”
That said, Odenkirk’s acting has a lot to show for it: namely four Golden Globe nominations; four Emmy nominations; and eight SAG nominations, plus one win. But acting accolades aside, Odenkirk has spent most of his career contributing to entertainment as a writer. During his time writing for Saturday Night Live, Odenkirk was noticed by Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey. The comedians asked him to get involved in Wayne’s World 2, which led to Odenkirk working on the short-lived The Dana Carvey Show.
While most of our lengthy interview with Odenkirk revolves around returning to set for season five of Better Call Saul, The A.V. Club’s Marah Eakin couldn’t help but ask about her favorite Wayne’s World 2 scene, which led to Odenkirk to discussing four past projects that never took off that he wishes he could get a second chance at writing.
Listen to the full conversation on this week’s Push The Envelope—which also includes a staff discussion about the 2021 Oscar nominations snubs and surprises—or read some of Odenkirk’s answers below.
The A.V. Club: We’re running out of time, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your role in one of my favorite scenes in all of comedy. I speak, of course, of the backstage scene in Wayne’s World 2. In that scene, you and Robert Smigel play dorks from the Chicago suburbs who corner Wayne and Garth backstage at the Aerosmith show. Let me say, having lived in Chicago, and having worked in music, it all rings very true, and even 20-odd years later, it’s still very, very funny.
How did that role come to be? Was it just from working with those guys at SNL?
Bob Odenkirk: Mike Myers just liked me as a performer. He was encouraging to me. You know, we’re about the same age, but I was years behind him in stage time. Still, he came to see my one man show in New York when I was a writer onSaturday Night Live and I did the West Bank Cafe. I did a show there for a weekend, and Mike came down, which was really nice of him and very supportive.
Of course, everybody loves Smigel because he’s the best writer that ever worked at Saturday Night Live, so they gave us those parts to be a part of the movie.
I don’t know how much I helped Dana [Carvey] with his work in Wayne’s World, but he claims I helped him. I listened to him tell me his ideas and probably told them they were great, but he gave me a Martin guitar as a thank you. I don’t know why he did. It was way more than I deserve for basically cheering him on. That’s all I needed to do.
AVC: Like any working actor, you’ve been involved with some projects that failed, or that just never got off the ground, including the Dana Carvey Show. Is there one that has really stuck with you and that you’d like a second shot at?
BO: There are many that have stuck with me and that I wish I could have a second shot at.
First of all, I wish I could reshoot The Brothers Solomon as an indie movie done on location, no sets, and played as real as possible. Just don’t give it any artifice in its presentation. I wonder what that would look like. I’m not sure it would be hugely winning, but I think it might be really interesting and could be great.
There’s a show I did for HBO called The Near Future, which was really good, only I was just unsteady because I was working in sci-fi and it just threw me as far as my confidence goes. But it was fucking good and it was Breckin Meyer and Katharine Towne and it was solid. There’s no way that wasn’t good. It’s just I couldn’t come through for it as a creator and fight for it the way I should have because I was really in unknown territory. I wish I’d gotten a pro to work with me and help me know I was on solid ground, because I think I was on solid ground.
There was also a show called Highway To Oblivion for Comedy Central that was so fucking funny but that had a fatal flaw in it. Everything about it was great. It was written with Howard Kremer and Chip Pope, who did Austin Stories, and Howard was the star. But the real fatal flaw was that we wrote the worst female protagonist you’ve ever read.
It was utterly shameful what we wrote and asked this wonderful actress to do. She could have done a wonderful job with a well-rounded character, and by all rights, that character should have been a voice of reason. Why we wrote this stupid, horrible, dumb character... It’s just shitty and not funny.
Everything else about that show was genius. You remember the E! True Hollywood Story? It was a TV comedy that was made like that, with documents, artifacts, and found footage telling the story of this idiot who came to Hollywood to leech off of celebrities and be ingratiating. It’s a kind of pushy guy that’s played by Howard so well, and he wants to get in their lives and creates all kinds of mayhem. It was very silly and it was great until we met the female protagonist.
Wait, I got one more for you. Let’s Do This!I played a movie studio magnate who lives and works in North Hollywood and makes a really shitty rip-offs of movies for the foreign market. Fortune Feimster was in it. Lauren Lapkus was in it, and it was really funny. The first film he made for the African market was called Harry Podder And the Lost LeBaron, and “Podder” was spelled with two Ds.