From “SNL” To “Breaking Bad”: 26 Surprising Facts About “Better Call Saul” Star Bob Odenkirk

Comedian. Writer. Director. Actor. The multi-hyphenate star is having quite a moment as he nears the end of his long run as ~criminal~ criminal lawyer Saul Goodman.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Over the course of both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, he will have played the titular character for 10 seasons. Not to mention a number of mini-sodes and faux commercials promoting the shows.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

Sony Pictures Television / Via

He also just released a hilarious memoir, Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama, detailing the ups and downs of his career and personal life.

Penguin Random House

The man is funny, the stories are loony, and his brushes with greatness are uncanny. Lots of interesting tidbits can be found inside his book — let’s have a look at some of the highlights.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

CBS / Via

1. Bob almost died from a heart attack while working on Better Call Saul.

Amanda Edwards / WireImage

Bob went into cardiac arrest in between shooting scenes for his hit AMC series. Thankfully, his costars Rhea Seehorn and Patrick Fabian were nearby to call for help. Thanks to their quick actions and the help of a set medic and their COVID-compliance officer, Bob was revived and made it to the hospital for treatment.

2. In fact, he had to be shocked with a defibrillator…THREE TIMES!

Sony Pictures Television

As costar Jonathan Banks bluntly put it at the recent PaleyFest Q&A for Better Call Saul, “Bobby was dead.” After 12 minutes of CPR, an AED (automated external defibrillator) was used to try to “shock” Bob back to life.

As Bob himself stated in a February Howard Stern interview: “When the defibrillator doesn’t work once, that’s not good. When it doesn’t work the second time, that’s kinda like forget it. But then they jacked it up a third time, and it got me back to a rhythm.”

3. Bob attributes surviving his heart incident to the training he did for the action film Nobody.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

Universal Pictures / Via

Even though his heart was blocked enough to slow blood flow during his cardiac arrest, his recent training and workout regimen for the action film got Bob in good physical shape — enough so that the other veins around the heart had enlarged, allowing more blood to flow during CPR.

Thankfully, Bob pursued work on an action movie; otherwise, we might be missing him right about now.

4. He did not love working on SNL.

NBC / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

SNL and I just weren’t meant for each other.”

One of Bob’s earliest paying jobs was as a comedy writer on the juggernaut Saturday Night Live. This is a dream job for many, including Bob, but he did not enjoy much of his tenure, finding the environment stressful, feeling out of place, and rarely being satisfied with the work he was bringing to the table. By his own admission, he did not seem to get along well with producer Lorne Michaels, to whom Bob was not shy about conveying his feelings that the show had not been funny in years.

However, there was a silver lining for Bob…

5. He wrote alongside future comedy greats Conan O’Brien, Greg Daniels, and Robert Smigel.

Gary Gershoff / WireImage, Noam Galai / WireImage, Steve Granitz / WireImage

All four writers were young and eager when they joined SNL in the late ’80s. They would often share ideas and write sketches together. Tom Hanks remembers hosting the show in those days and referring to the group of young creatives as “the Boiler Room Boys.”

Greg would go on to create the hit Parks and Recreation and adapt a little show called The Office for US television.

Robert created some memorable animated shorts for SNL with his “TV Funhouse” segments and is best known as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

Conan went on to become…well, Conan O’Brien.

6. Bob started out at the legendary Second City improv troupe, working alongside Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, and Jeff Garland.

NBC / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Before (and during) work at SNL, Bob sharpened his funny bone performing at Chicago’s legendary improv theater the Second City. He worked for years with his good friend Jeff, long before he would cement his place on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Newcomers Tim and Chris shared the stage with Bob before they were invited to star on SNL in 1990 and ’91, respectively.

When asked by his daughter, “What’s the best time you ever had doing your job?” Bob answered, “Doing a scene with Chris Farley seven times a week at Second City.”

Chris’s sweaty swagger and exuberance inspired Bob to go home and create a character for his friend to play, breathing life into, arguably, one of the most iconic sketches in TV history…

7. He created the classic SNL character Matt Foley (and his van down by the river).

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

NBCUniversal Television Distribution / Via

Although the sketch would not appear on television until 1993, it was performed nightly on the Second City stage as early as 1990. Bob wrote the sketch and Chris portrayed it word for word, but always adding the extra flourish that only he could — the energy, the sweat, the constant adjusting of his belt and glasses.

“I can’t see real good, is that Bill Shakespeare over there?!”

Ironically, by the time the sketch first aired on SNL in ’93, Bob had long been gone from the show. He is still credited with the creation of the motivational speaker and the writing of the sketch, although he was not on the show to receive the accolades. Still, Bob is in good spirits about it: “I watched it slaughter from my sunny LA home, a great feeling.”

8. He wrote for cult hit The Ben Stiller Show.

Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Although it only lasted for 13 episodes in 1990–91, MTV’s sketch comedy program The Ben Stiller Show left an indelible mark and has gained a rabid cult following over the years. It was canceled, then won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program; go figure. 

Though people may not remember the show itself, surely they have enjoyed the talent that rose from its ashes. In addition to its namesake, comedy great Ben Stiller, the show also paved the way for actors Andy Dick and Janeane Garofalo, and writers like Judd Apatow and David Cross.

Speaking of David…

9. Bob met David, his longtime Mr. Show collaborator, through their mutual friend Janeane — twice.

George Pimentel / WireImage

Jeneane introduced Bob to her friend David one day at his apartment. Dave was new in town, and she suggested the two meet and play a game of one-on-one basketball to break the ice. Bob politely declined because he had just made a great-looking sandwich.

Years later, the duo would meet again and hit it off right away, sharing similar comedic sentimentality and loving humor that lives outside the norm. Their relationship and writing efforts would one day bloom into HBO’s sketch comedy show Mr. Show With Bob and David.

10. Early episodes of Mr. Show were shot in…a barn?

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

Warner Bros. Television / Via

Producer Troy Miller saved money in the early days of the sketch comedy by finding a failing “restaurant/nightclub/cavern” for Bob and David to shoot their new show in.

“It was essentially a goddamn barn from the early 1900s,” Bob explained. “It was rumored to have once been part of an old-time film studio…it most definitely began life housing livestock.”

11. Bob also wrote for the short-lived classic The Dana Carvey Show.

Sony Pictures Television

Much like The Ben Stiller Show before it, The Dana Carvey Show burned bright and fast, airing only seven of its eight episodes in 1996. With humor that was a combination of too dumb and too smart for its own good, the show failed to find an audience. But nevertheless, its inhabitants would soon find their place in the world:

Costar Stephen Colbert would eventually take over for David Letterman on The Late Show.

And another newcomer named Steve Carell would go on to star in that little show called The Office. Speaking of which…

12. Bob almost got the lead role on The Office.

NBCUniversal Television Distribution

While casting was commencing for the US version of The Office,  Bob was told by a good source, “It’s between you and Steve Carell.”

Bob is a genius and would have worked great as the self-absorbed Michael Scott, but it is hard all these years later to imagine anyone besides Steve as the boss who can’t keep his foot out of his mouth.

13. He decided not to write for The Simpsons.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

Fox Television / Via

When the future hit show was in its infancy, Bob had the chance to be a writer on the new cartoon.

“Animation seemed like a lot of work — no time to focus on my own material,” Bob explained in his book. “I wouldn’t have survived the focus the show demanded, but I was in awe of what they were creating.”

14. He’s actually directed quite a bit of TV and feature films.

Sony Pictures Releasing

In addition to writing and performing, Mr. Odenkirk has spent a fair amount of his career in the director’s chair, both for television and the big screen. lists 21 different titles that Bob has had a hand in directing, some of the projects multiple times — everything from Mr. Show segments to feature film comedies like The Brothers Solomon with Will Arnett and Will Forte. He even won some awards with his indie darling Melvin Goes to Dinner.

15. His wife, Naomi, is also his manager.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

She has also produced many movies, including Bob’s first feature film, Melvin Goes to Dinner. The couple acknowledges that being married and working together has its challenges, but Bob seems to appreciate that Naomi doesn’t pull any punches and gives her uncensored opinion about a project, even if it goes against how he feels about it.

16. He helped breathe life into rock duo Tenacious D’s career.

Hal Horowitz / WireImage

After spotting them at a club, Tenacious D (Jack Black and Kyle Gass) were invited by David Cross to play one of the earliest Mr. Show test shows, and of course they killed it. 

After the duo gained steam out in the “alternative” club scene, the industry was starting to show interest. Bob and David coproduced a series of short films with “the D.” The shorts were cobbled together into half-hour episodes for HBO in 1997, though they only ended up airing the first episode.

Nevertheless, the universe had bigger plans for J.B. and K.G.

17. He is (kinda) to thank for exposing the world to Tim & Eric.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution

Back in 2004, an unknown duo named Tim & Eric sent an unsolicited envelope to Bob, one of their comedy heroes. Inside was a T-shirt, a DVD, and an invoice…yes, an invoice for the unrequested goods. This tactic got the attention of old Bob, so he gave them a call. 

In order to help them try to get their particular brand of comedy out there, Bob contacted Adult Swim, and miraculously…they passed. But coincidentally, unbeknownst to Bob, Tim & Eric had also sent their DVD to a different contact at Adult Swim, and miraculously…they were interested!

So, even though Bob’s efforts to get them a deal did not land, their success still owes a great deal to him. He was their first champion, helped the boys flesh out their content, acted and voiced characters in sketches, and ended up being a creative consultant (*cough* executive producer) on their program Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! The boys may have eventually made it on their own, but it seems worth mentioning that things would not have gone the same without Bob in their corner.

18. He had never actually seen Breaking Bad when he began acting as Saul Goodman on the show.

Sony Pictures Television

Bob had heard of the new AMC show when he was offered a guest arc as the lawyer in Season 2 but had never actually seen any episodes. He knew the gist and had seen the ads showing Bryan Cranston in his underwear, but he had no idea of the future pop cultural phenomenon he would be stepping into. It took the excited coaxing and high praise of a good friend to convince him to take the job.

Even after he was added as a regular to the show by Season 3, he had still not seen any of it. He recalls a time reviewing script pages with Bryan: 

“So Gus is…your friend, right?” Bob had no idea that Bryan’s Walter White and Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus Fring were, in fact, nemeses. 

Bryan confirmed, “You’ve never seen this show, have you?”

Soon after, Bob caught up on all the episodes.

19. He actually turned down Better Call Saul.

Sony Pictures Television

It may see like a foregone conclusion that of course Bob would reprise his role from Breaking Bad on the spinoff show Better Call Saul. He initially told executive producers Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould that he was on board in the early stages of the project. But when it came to locking in the offer that would transplant Bob to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for five months out of the year, that was a deal breaker, and he had to decline the job of a lifetime. 

It seems that Bob was not interested in leaving his wife and his teenage children going through their formative years for that long a stretch. When his kids got wind of this, they had a good heart-to-heart with their dad and convinced him that, in fact, he would be letting down a lot of people by not taking the job — some of those people being their own friends. It took his family to convince him that they would get along without him for those long stretches and that he should absolutely take the job. The world is indebted to Bob’s family.

20. He lost his voice while shooting the first season of Better Call Saul.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

Sony Pictures Television / Via

Bob says that he had never been given so much dialogue to perform in such small amounts of time. Long monologues and pages of dialogue, compounded with the stress of headlining the show, caused Bob to lose his voice. With the help of his costars and some vocal exercises, he was able to work around it until he recovered.

21. Bob left high school a year early.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

NBCUniversal / Via

His mother enrolled him in school a year early, so he had a year’s head start on life when he graduated. Bob says he used college as a space to try out his tomfoolery, eventually attending four different colleges in all.

22. He had roles in both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Columbia Pictures Television / HBO

Larry David must like Bob.

In Season 8 of Seinfeld, Bob played medical student Ben whom Elaine dated in order to fulfill her dream of “dating a doctor.”

As Curb‘s “Porno Gil,” he was tasked by producer Larry with improvising the raunchiest story of “working on set” he could come up with.  Bob concocted a very NSFW story involving Tabasco sauce and his ass.

23. He wrote for yet another short-lived cult classic, Get a Life, with Chris Elliott.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

Fox Television / Via

Are you sick of hearing about all these short-lived comedy series that no one remembers? That’s okay, I think Bob would understand. From reading his biography, you get the sense that he seems content with the idea of bouncing from job to job, and will continue to do so until the end of time.

At the time, Get a Life was one of his favorite shows (and a hilarious one, at that — using a lock of Michael J. Fox’s hair to power a homemade time machine? I mean, come on!). One day after watching an episode on Fox, he turned to his friend and proclaimed, “I’m going to write for that show!” And miraculously, within the month, Bob was offered a job on the show. He called, and the universe answered.

Unfortunately, his time on the wacky sitcom would be be short-lived, but it was yet another feather in his comedic cap.

24. Bob is in Halloween Kills… sort of.

Universal Pictures

When the producers of the 2021 film could not clear an image of the original 1978 actor who played Michael Myers victim Bob Simms, they were forced to improvise.

As told by Blood Disgusting, director David Gordon Green explains:  “Somehow we couldn’t clear an image of Bob for our television news broadcast. And so I was frustrated by that because I wanted to acknowledge Bob’s death, but we couldn’t get footage of Bob. So I googled ‘Bob 1970s high school,’ and a photo of Bob Odenkirk popped up that looked just like Bob! So I thought, He’s probably easier to find; let’s go get him!

Coincidentally, young Bob O. was wearing glasses in the pic, which was a big selling point to pawn him off as bespectacled character Bob Simms.

Bob signed off on the photo, and a horror film Easter egg was hatched.

25. One thing you know for sure after reading his book: Bob Odenkirk’s life and career have been unique, full of success and Forrest Gump–style brushes with greatness. He has touched a lot of lives and spread his comedy gospel throughout the land.

Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images

26. If you’re interested in more tales from Bob’s life, check out his book — or, to hear it straight from the actor’s mouth, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

Sony Pictures Television / Via

And if you’re like most of the world, you’re anxious to watch Bob’s complete transformation from Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman on the final season of Better Call Saul. In case it needs mentioning, the season premiere is April 18 on AMC.

Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF

Sony Pictures Television / Via