Lucky us: Comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Fargo, Mr. Show with Bob and David) is touring the U.S. with his first solo book, A Load of Hooey, a Woody Allen Without Feathers–style compilation of sketches and poems and generally funny stuff. Some cities (cough, Portland) get a bookstore reading (which we’re sure is just amazing), while this Saturday (October 25), Seattle gets a full-on performance of hilarity with guest actors and exclusive non-Hooey content, followed by a book signing.
The godfather of alternative sketch comedy (he’s worked with legends like Ben Stiller and supported newer faces like Tim and Eric) and star of Better Call Saul (which debuts February) talked with Seattle Met about Hooey and plans for a 20th-anniversary Mr. Show reunion on HBO.
A Load of Hooey is your first solo book credit, right?
David Cross and I put out some screenplays that we wrote that did not get made, as well as a few sketches, last year. It was called Hollywood Said No! It doesn’t entirely qualify as writing. But then this [pause] book, A Load of Hooey, also doesn’t qualify as writing [chuckles] because these are pieces that I’d written that were just stacked up on my desk and I’d submitted quite a few of them to magazines; The New Yorker was kind enough to publish two of ’em. Some of them are sketches. They’re not even literary comedy.
How did the collection make its way to McSweeney’s?
A friend named Mike Sacks who writes books and magazine articles gave it to [McSweeney's cofounder] Dave Eggers. I always wanted to put out a compilation of pieces that I wrote that hadn’t found a home or were written, magazine-type pieces, and I always wanted them to be on McSweeney’s, so I was thrilled when Dave Eggers read it and called me and said, “I’d like to put it out.” A lot of people in show business want the largest audience you can get. But, I have a challenge with chasing people down. So I like playing to my audience. I don’t feel bad about that. I’m happy to do what I do for them, and I don’t really need to try to, like, convert everyone. What I liked about McSweeney’s is they’re a publisher that I think my audience is familiar with and can find and will discover.
So this is your first book tour?
Yeah, I’m getting ready to sign stuff and I’m getting ready to, you know, try to maintain my dignity on stage. No clothes are coming off. As opposed to every other tour I’ve done. [chuckle]
What are these readings like?
It’s a lot like stand up. In fact! When alternative comedy was having its genesis, we did bookstores all the time. The Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica. There was a place here in LA where me and David Cross and Janeane Garofalo, Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, Kathy Griffin, we used to play bookstores all the time. That was the only venue. There weren’t alternative showcase clubs yet. There was no [Upright Citizen’s Brigade] yet.
Are other actors coming along to do any of the scenes with you?
In Seattle we’re going to have Brandon Wardell opening for me. He’s on my comedy album that comes out November 25. He’s a young standup. I’m gonna have Tom Johnson and people from the Brody Theater in Portland joining me on stage to do some sketches from the book as well as sketches that aren’t in the book. We’re going to do a show for you folks.
What do you have planned for audiences next?
Well, after the book tour, my plan is to leave the audience alone. I’m going to stop badgering you with comedy and everything. I’m gonna leave you in peace until February. At which point you will then be rousted out of your peaceful slumber with a TV show called Better Call Saul.
Is Better Call Saul more of a collaboration than Breaking Bad?
No. I do not write any of it. I do not direct any of it. I am an actor in it. And, I have my hands full with a really, really rich amazing piece of writing and a great role. A role of a lifetime for anyone and I’m so lucky to have it. And, I can’t wait for people to see what we’ve made. We worked real hard.
What’s it like getting back into those cheesy suits?
Well now hold on a second. Because it’s different time periods. It’s always fun to wear the kinds of clothes that you would never wear and when you’re acting. It’s part of the fun of being someone else. So I’ve gotten to do that a lot in the last few months, and I enjoy it.
What do you think of Toys R Us pulling Breaking Bad action figures from shelves?
You can’t have an action figure with someone who sells meth and have little crystals of blue meth in it like as an extra packet. You can’t have that in a store. If only because you don’t want to have to explain to a kid what the hell that is. What do you think? I mean kids ask questions: “What is that blue stuff? Why does he have it?” I mean I guess you could lie to ’em. I feel like it probably doesn’t belong in Toys R Us.
What can you tell us about the Mr. Show reunion?
We are working on it, me and David [Cross] right now. Talking to HBO, and we would like to see it happen next year with all new sketches and all your favorite pals from that show as well as some new people and some guests.
What’s it like working with David Cross after all these years?
It’s wonderful [riiiiip]—sorry about the sound of tape: I’m putting a box together; my wife and I are moving.
David and I write together really well. We always have. We enjoy working together and it’s just the only reason we haven’t done more is ’cause we live in different cities, you know. He loves New York and who can blame him, and I live here an I have kids and traveling hasn’t been easy. So it’s getting easier. The kids are getting older.
Oct 25 at 8, Fremont Abbey Arts Center, $20; $40 includes a copy of the book