Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An interview with the Saul Goodman of "Breaking Bad," and some remembrance of the OTHER (the "real"?) Saul Goodman


Sorry about the original title reference to "Mad Men"! Talk about stupid! -- Ken

Better Call Saul! In the AMC interview, Bob Odenkirk tells us that no, the decor of his own office is nothing like that of super-sleaze lawyer Saul Goodman -- whom he describes, by the way, as "nothing but layers of greed and ego."

"I think everything's a negotiation with Saul. A naïve way of looking at the world is that there are these rules in place and we have to follow them, but the truth is that everyone is constantly negotiating what they're doing and why and how much they're getting paid for it."
-- Bob Odenkirk, in the interview

by Ken

As I've mentioned a number of times, AMC's online crew pumps out some really neat material in support of its shows, including lots of interviews with the people both in front of and behind the cameras of its smash hits Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Now they've gotten to someone who is one of the favorites of most everyone I know, the amazing Bob Odenkirk, one of the wildest (and funniest) writers and comic actors in present-day showbiz -- otherwise known as Breaking Bad's super-sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman.

Bob O makes it clear in the interview that, beyond trying to stay on the writing team's good side, he wouldn't even try to influence the writing of Breaking Bad. And the writers have certainly given him lots of wonderful material to play with -- and he in turn has made that material shine. In the interview, I was also delighted that the interviewer brought up a point that stuck in my mind from the blog's recent interview with RJ Mitte, who plays Walter Jr.

Q & A - Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman)

Bob Odenkirk plays Walt's shady attorney Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad. In an exclusive interview with AMCtv.com, the actor/comedian talks about his love of infomercials, his favorite Saul line of the season, and his fear of the Breaking Bad writers.

Q: You've done a lot of fake infomercials in the past, including for Breaking Bad. Are you a connoisseur?

A: I am not a connoisseur of crappy late-night infomercials, but I do love them. I feel like they're ripe for comedy because they're full of pathetic human behavior and con-jobs. I like the modern ones, the gadgets and things that are fixing problems that you don't actually have. "Are you sick and tired of something easy to do?" [Laughs] "Well, we have a slightly easier way . . ."

Q: [Laughs] Do you have a favorite infomercial?

A: There was a guy in Chicago where I grew up called Harry Schmerler, the singing Ford man. He'd sing a little snippet of a golden oldie song, and then he'd tell you about his used cars that were for sale and photographed in not the most attractive light. That popped right into my head when you asked me that. The favorite late-night infomercial that I've done was on Mr. Show. it was a guy who was just advertising to come over to your house and hang out. You think he's a lawyer -- "I'm not a lawyer!" His name is Don Pratt. It's just a fun, great idea. The guy, what is he offering? What is for sale there?

Q: What's your favorite Saul Goodman line from Season 4?

A: I watched Episode 4 last night, the one where Walter White says, "My brother-in-law is going to come after me," and I go, "Come after you in what, his Little Rascal?" [At the time, Walter's brother-in-law Hank was still totally unable to walk as a result of his near-fatal vehicular mauling. -- Ed.] That was a great one. It's so mean and unnecessary, but Saul can't help himself. I like how unrelenting Saul can be. He doesn't take no for an answer, at least the first four times.

Q: Do you think the average citizen has anything to learn from Saul?

A: I think everything's a negotiation with Saul. A naïve way of looking at the world is that there are these rules in place and we have to follow them, but the truth is that everyone is constantly negotiating what they're doing and why and how much they're getting paid for it. I think that's something you can learn from him.

Q: I really like Saul's office, particularly the Constitution-themed wallpaper. What's your own office like?

A: It's pretty barren because I'm sick of writing in my office. It's just kind of piles of stuff. I've got a picture of me and Chris Farley backstage at Second City. I've got a picture of me and Del Close backstage at Second City. I've got a picture of me and Fred Armisen. And then blank walls. It's just a writer's hovel.

Q: You've done a fair amount of writing and directing for various television shows, including SNL. Have you ever given the Breaking Bad writers any input?

A: You know, I go to the writer's room every year and hang out and I do not attempt to tell them how to do their job. Because what they do -- even though I've done a lot of writing -- is a mystery to me, and a mystery I'm a little bit afraid of. I go in their room and the walls are covered in little cryptic notes about the whole season and what characters are going to do. So much thinking has gone into it, and I have so much respect and fear of it. The cool thing about this role is that it is another level of writing. I do what they write for me, and I don't improvise -- I don't need to. I'd sure like to take credit for some of it, but I can't.

Q: RJ Mitte was asked in an interview if there was a character from the show that he would like to have a scene with. He said Saul Goodman.

A: Oh my god, that is like putting a scorpion in a cage with a baby chicken. That is so sad. [Laughs]

Q: [Laughs] Maybe RJ doesn't think Walt Jr. is a baby chicken?

A: Oh man. He's such an innocent. He's so naïve, he's so earnest, his heart's on his sleeve the whole time, and then you put him in a room with Saul Goodman, who is nothing but layers of greed and ego. [Laughs] I think I know who wins in that cage match. I think I know who climbs out: Saul.

What RJ said, by the way, was . . . well, here's that particular Q&A, which as I said for some reason really stuck with me too:
Q: Which of the actors on the show would you like to have a scene with that you really haven't had that much time on camera with?

A: I really want to have a scene with Saul. I love Bob, he's a great guy and he is amazing at his trade. I see him almost everyday on TV doing another character.


This Margaret Bourke-White photo was taken in 1938, 12 years into Saul Goodman's illustrious 46-year career as principal timpanist of the New York Philharmonic.

I assume that the reference isn't intentional, because I can't see what it could signify if it were intentional, but to me the name Saul Goodman inescapably refers to the other Saul Goodman, I'm tempted to say "the real Saul Goodman" (1907-1996), who was principal timpanist of the New York Philharmonic for the staggering period 1926-72, and taught a staggering number of timpanists who became principals all over the world.

Goodman succeeded Alfred Friese, with whom he had studied, and who was hired in 1909 by the Philharmonic's then-music director, Gustav Mahler, and Goodman was succeeded in 1972 by a onetime student of his, Roland Kohloff (seen at left in 1993).

Considering how well I remember the major event of Saul G's retirement and the Philharmonic accession of Roland K, I'm thrown a little to realize that in 2004 the latter retired following an illustrious 32-year Philharmonic tenure of his own, and in March 2006, at age 71, died of cancer.

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At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saul Goodman from Mad Men?
I think you meant Saul Goodman from BREAKING BAD. Idiot.

At 6:24 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Yes, of course, Anon. I was just logging on to correct that. So stupid!


At 2:57 AM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

No one writing on this sight is stupid and certainly no one is an idiot. Our overdeveloped parents are quick to cast aspersions. "I'm OK your OK", remember that one?

At 6:07 AM, Anonymous Lee said...


I just started watching. I hope AMC
streams episodes of BB on Netflix They are doing so with Mad Men Cable TV is becoming more and more expensive with less and less to watch. AMC is one of the few channels I watch

At 3:50 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Robert, you're kind, but there's no way that typing "Mad Men" for "Breaking Bad" in the TITLE qualifies as smart. (As it happens, the way the blog software works, titles are about the hardest thing for us to see until posts are posted, but jeez, they're still ferchrissakes TITLES -- ya gotta LOOK at these darned things. I was relieved to see that I did type "Breaking Bad" throughout the text, which counts for something.)

And Lee, I think you can actually pick up BREAKING BAD at any point and with some patience start to make sense of it. Of course you'll want to catch up on all you've missed, but somehow I don't think those shows are going to disappear into the ether. I'll be curious to see how you make out. (I came in late too, but I think I only had about a season and a half to catch up on at that point.)


At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saul's mug is now for sale. I think it was just a matter of time: http://www.zazzle.com/worlds_greatest_lawyer_mug-168774942623612931

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Adam Zanzie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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