Our very own Bronwen Winter Phoenix, AKA ‘Birdy’, had an extremely memorable night with Bob Odenkirk at the Usher Hall recently. Here’s how it went:
Bob Odenkirk recently released an autobiographical book called Comedy, Comedy, Comedy, Drama. I’ll preface this review by saying I’m a huge fan of Bob’s drama (Better call Saul, Breaking Bad, and more recently Nobody).
Did I know about Bob’s comedy until now? Only from the title of his book, which by the way, I had no idea would be waiting for me on my seat when I arrived. (You see, I’d hurriedly got these tixsies as a birthday present for a friend – I didn’t need to read the blurb, I saw ‘an evening with Bob Odenkirk’ and I was SOLD!!!)
So, there I was, with my book, and my excited friend with her bonus birthday book, looking straight ahead at two empty chairs, and a big screen with Bob’s face on it, waiting for this thing to begin. And boy, was it worth the wait.
Act I: Bob immediately wins over his audience
Not that it took much, mind; pretty sure everyone there was a massive Bob fan.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to one of these ‘audiences with’ or ‘evenings with’ things before – maybe you have a better idea of the format than I do – but I had no idea what to expect.
When Bob came out onto the stage, he came out alone; which was a great way to start. And he started by reading out an open letter from America, which was abso-freakin-lutely hilarious! (“Really sorry. We’re so fucked”)
After that, he talked directly to the audience for a bit, which felt really nice. It felt personal… more intimate than if he’d come out with a host and they’d just had a bit of a preamble between the two of them.
“What do you use to kill each other here? Oh, sausage rolls.” Drive-by sausage rolls were also later mentioned, with Bob motioning the act of throwing them like grenades.
Act II: The host… is Frankie Boyle??!!
Jesoos Kristofferson! I know I didn’t bother to read much of the blurb, but I was pretty sure the host was kept a secret up until Bob introduced him, and what a pleasant surprise it was that FRANKIE FREAKIN’ BOYLE would be up there on stage with Bob!
It was as amazing as you’d likely expect. (Apparently it was Charlie Brooker in London, also amazing!)
Frankie asked Bob some really good questions, including when the pivotal moment was for Saul’s character in Better Call Saul (it was when he found out Chuck had deliberately sabotaged his prospects at the firm).
We also got to hear some really eye-opening things about what went on behind the scenes of Breaking Bad. For instance, in Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul was supposed to die in the first season! It was only due to the writers’ strike that they watched back what they had and realised it’d be a HUGE mistake!
The other interesting thing we gleaned was that the character of Saul was supposed to have four story points, and Bob (who had another commitment to film How I Met Your Mother) could only manage three of them, so the character of Mike was introduced.
Can you IMAGINE if the character of Mike wasn’t introduced?! I know he’s not a nice person, and I freakin’ love Mike.
It was also revealed that Frankie Boyle had recently played an old man dying on stage. Bob asked if he got to fool around on that stage, and the answer was absolutely not!
We also got to hear a lot about Bob’s comedy career, writing for SNL, and Mr Show in particular. Afterwards, I went home and watched the Chris Farley Sketch ‘motivational speaker’ which Bob wrote.
Act III: Ask Bob a Question
Break time. During the break, a QR code came up on the screen, and we all got the chance to ask Bob a question via our phones. Did I want to ask Bob a question? Yes. Could I think of one damn thing to ask? Nope.
The first question that was asked was ‘why did Jimmy hate Howard so much?’. Bob’s answer was brilliant, in that Jimmy had basically begun to stop thinking of Howard as a person, and more of an object to hate/take revenge on. And, as he quite rightly pointed out, that’s when things get dangerous.
Some really good questions were asked by the audience, including some more about Bob’s comedy chops. I made a mental note to go back home and read the heck out of his book, as well as to watch a lot of his comedy.
We also learned that for Nobody, Bob trained for the fight scenes with the same dude who’d been involved in John Wick and all the other super impressive fight scenes really (Atomic Blonde, for instance). Can’t for the life of me remember his name right now!
By the way, Nobody was probably Bob’s truest acting performance yet, as his own house has actually been broken into twice now. He himself was asked by a police officer about why he hadn’t done anything, and he’d also had those feelings of wanting retribution. I’m glad they’re currently shooting a sequel!
And, of course, we learned about the emotional toll it took to play Jimmy/Saul for 14 years, sometimes crying for five hours straight, on 12 and 16-hour days, focusing on negative feelings like fear, loathing and vengeance. It sounded like A LOT.
So, of course, it made sense that he’s looking forward to acting in other roles!
Act IV: The questions Bob WISHED we asked
It was at this juncture that Bob threw a curveball, because OF COURSE he had a list of questions that he wanted to answer that he only WISHED we’d asked – and he was damn well going to make sure we asked them.
He got three audience members up on stage, one by one, and got them to read out his questions – each of them with an entertaining preamble. One of them was which scene Bob had had his heart attack – it was in the middle of shooting one of the scenes.
And what was said next was brilliant. You see, that particular scene had to basically be shot months apart, due to Bob’s heart attack.
So, in that scene in episode eight of the final season, where he and Kim sit down with Lalo, you see a man who’s about to die – literally. Then, you see a man who came back to life… And, I loved that.
Which reminds me, Bob also told the audience he’d wished the writers had gone a bit deeper with Kim, and looked into her character’s motivations/backstory more. I thought that was interesting, and couldn’t help but agree with him.
Act V: Macbeth… does Hamlet?
Bob wanted to end the evening with something truly unique, memorable and off-the-wall bonkers. He wanted to perform ‘Macbeth’ – having never actually read/seen it.
In preparation for this, he’d printed out some pages from Wikipedia, admitting it’s usually Hamlet but because we were in Scotland, he wanted to try this for a change.
So, Wikipedia Macbeth commenced! And it was the hilarious, unexpected gift I never knew I needed. An over the top, clumsily-feeling-around-for-the-tone yet enthusiastic performance, which after a while and a few belly laughs, turned into Macbeth playing Hamlet. Because why not?
One of the Wikipedia pages crumpled up and morphed into Poor Yorick, as we watched Bob utter the famous lines – before he ended up on the floor. A combination of powerful overacting and pure comedy genius.
The audience went wild, Frankie was in absolute awe, and that was where our evening came to an end. Love you, Bob.
An Evening with Bob Odenkirk