For every dozen or two performers that make their way through the Saturday Night Live system, there’s one person who had a shit time of it for one reason or another. And despite being a writer on the show for several years, Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk was one of those exceptions, never quite happy with his tenure there. As it turns out, Odenkirk can now admit that it was mostly his own fault.
When Odenkirk got into sketch writing on a professional level, joining Saturday Night Live in 1987 when he was a brash 25-year-old, he didn’t quite have a grasp on what he was getting into. Speaking with Michael Ian Black for the interview series How to be Amazing on Audible, Odenkirk shares how he approached his Saturday Night Live gig.
When I got there, I treated Lorne like a boss, like the boss of some dumb job I had. Only after I left did I go: the guy's a creative guy. And he created that show and he oversees the creative side of it, and he does overall a pretty goddamn good job, if not an awesome job...But I was like, 'Who the fuck is this guy to tell me who's funny? Fuck him.' I was a dick.
There have been a lot of people who have badmouthed Lorne Michaels over the years, and Odenkirk’s words aren’t even the worst example possible. But rather than keeping his opinions concrete all this time, the Mr. Show star now realizes that it was his own intimidation and issues that fed into his angst during that time.
A big part of the challenge I had at Saturday Night Live was my own immaturity. I brought a lot of challenge to the show. Just because I was a person who was confrontational and suspicious of the establishment.
To be fair, he was working with comedic geniuses like Robert Smigel and Conan O’Brien, so it’s understandable that hard-lined maturity wouldn’t be the easiest thing to come by in that era. And still, even as he worried that he wasn’t fitting in, Odenkirk was responsible for creating one of the most beloved SNL characters of all time, motivational speaker Matt Foley, and was a part of the fantastic “Bad Idea Jeans” sketch, which should make a comeback.
Perhaps it’s selfish, but I’m kind of glad that Odenkirk’s time at Saturday Night Live was as brief as it was, for he might not have been able to join the excellent The Ben Stiller Show, Mr. Show and The Larry Sanders Show. And I refuse to think of an alternate universe where Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill doesn’t exist.