How Chris Farley Helped Lead To Better Call Saul

Before he broke bad and people thought they had better call him, Bob Odenkirk was known for comedy, until Chris Farley came into the picture.

By Britta DeVore | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

Chris Farley Bob Odenkirk

As we near the end of AMC’s smash hit Breaking Bad prequel series, Better Call Saul, fans are mentally and emotionally preparing themselves to bid adieu to Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of the crooked, but silly, lawyer. After giving his all, in a very literal sense as he suffered a heart attack earlier this year while on set, Odenkirk’s time on the series is now coming to a dramatic climax in what has been a six-season odyssey. While we’re used to seeing him in the Breaking Bad universe, using both drama and comedy to shape the story, drama projects weren’t always what Odenkirk had in mind. In fact, it wasn’t until he worked with legendary comedian Chris Farley that he thought the world of drama might be for him.

Let’s travel back in time to what sounds like a magical age for comedy when Bob Odenkirk and Chris Farley could both be seen on stage performing with the improv group, Second City. During a sit down on Late Night With Seth Meyers, Odenkirk revealed that his time with the late comedian is what inspired him to be part of the dramatic acting community. When you think of Chris Farley, the words “dramatic acting” don’t necessarily come to mind so how did Odenkirk land there? During his interview with the talk show host, Odenkirk admitted to feeling like he didn’t quite have the same charisma and comedic timing that Farley had, leading him to think that maybe doing his comedy in a drama would be a more suitable fit.

Bob Odenkirk and Chris Farley’s paths would cross several more times after their Second City days, most notably on Saturday Night Live when Farley performed one of Odenkirk’s sketches, known as “Van Down by the River.” Ring any bells? Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in a van down by the river), you’ve definitely seen or heard of the character, Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker. Before #vanlife was popular, Farley’s character would attempt to scare kids straight by screaming at them about the mistakes he made in his life that led him to live in a van down by the river. The original idea came from Odenkirk way back when he and Farley were performing at Second City, long before the sketch would make its debut on Saturday Night Live. Even if Odenkirk was feeling a little down and out about his own comedic prowess in the shadow of Farley, the popularity of this sketch and the way it crushed during each Second City performance must have cheered him up.

Since his time with Chris Farley making audiences cry from laughter, Bob Odenkirk hasn’t slowed down one bit. He’s been a writer behind some legendary comedy projects including The Ben Stiller Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He also paired up with fellow comedy icon and pal, David Cross, to bring fans the HBO series, Mr. Show with Bob and David. Of course, as of late, Odenkirk’s name has been synonymous with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

Whether Bob Odenkirk would’ve ended up as a dramatic actor with a flair for comedy without Chris Farley will never be known. On our end, we’re thrilled that it happened this way and that Odenkirk took on those drama roles to bring out the fun in them. Without him, Better Call Saul may have taken on a completely different vibe. And, without Better Call Saul, Odenkirk may have not been nominated for a whopping four Primetime Emmy Awards. Special thanks to Chris Farley on behalf of both us and Bob.