The tale of his long and fractured road to stardom
Bob Odenkirk has had a long and varied career in comedy and show business, and his near-fatal heart attack last year made fans stop for a moment to consider what an impact he’s had on their lives. In his new memoir, “Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama,” Odenkirk explains how a wisecracking son of the Midwest became an underground comedy god and an unlikely action star, while never losing his soul or sense of humor.
Odenkirk began life as one of seven kids to a family torn apart by his father’s alcoholism, and he recounts the early years to give a sense of how he came to view the world through an anti-authoritarian lens. Comedy was his anchor during his formative years, and he would go on to try and pursue a career in comedy while in college. He eventually wound up in Chicago (adjacent to the legendary Second City). Robert Smigel picked him to come to New York and work for Saturday Night Live in the late 80’s, alongside the likes of future legends like Conan O’Brien and Jack Handey.
But Odenkirk never really fit into the SNL writers’ room, and he eventually set sail for Los Angeles and a stint on the Chris Elliott meta-sitcom ‘Get a Life.’ This would lead to his joining the team behind ‘The Ben Stiller Show’ and, ultimately, forming his comedic partnership with David Cross and giving the world ‘Mr. Show with Bob and David.’
Odenkirk counsels his readers that failure is far more likely in show business than success, and he recounts in detail many of the projects that never found an audience or even got out of development hell. Those failures make the successes all the more fulfilling, in many ways; ‘Mr. Show’ was the perfect marriage of Monty Python and a cruder American sensibility, to Odenkirk’s way of thinking, while the movie made around one of the show’s characters (‘Run, Ronnie, Run!’) was an exercise in compromising the artistic vision that satisfied neither the creators nor the studio backing it.
Sometimes his contributions to the comedic zeitgeist came indirectly, such as when he helped Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim realize their oddball vision in ‘Tom Goes to the Mayor’ and ‘Tim and Eric Great Show, Awesome Job!’ Odenkirk is honest about the projects that he rushed into in a mad dash to stay busy, and how often those efforts suffered as a result. But Bob’s whole reason for working was never to be world-famous; he explains that the whole goal of ‘Mr. Show,’ for instance, was to make only two people laugh (Odenkirk and Cross).
Of course, Odenkirk did find fame eventually, landing the plum role of Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill on ‘Breaking Bad’ and its spinoff, ‘Better Call Saul.’ And with the clout that both projects brought him, he was able to turn that into a starring role in a non-ironic action movie, ‘Nobody,’ which has garnered strong reviews.
Bob Odenkirk has proven time and again to be a talent that people cannot ignore, and that extends to his literary efforts. ‘CCCD’ is a funny, warm, engaging trek through his 40-year career as a comedian, director, character actor and leading man. Bob Odenkirk has written a memoir not about how to be a successful Hollywood figure so much as how to be a successful human being, and to love what you do even when you’re not seeing your name in lights on marquees around the world. ‘Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama’ mixes in plenty of the title phrases, but it’s a great read no matter how you discovered Odenkirk’s work.
Random House (March 1, 2022)