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Bob Odenkirk Recalls His First Emmy Win

Variety logo Variety 5/31/2017 Geoff Berkshire
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These days Bob Odenkirk is best known for his Emmy nominated work as the star of the acclaimed “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul.” But Odenkirk’s first brush with Emmy came thanks to his career in comedy writing. In his second season on staff at “Saturday Night Live,” Odenkirk was part of a crew including Conan O’Brien, Mike Myers and Al Franken who went home with Emmy gold.

What do you remember about your first Emmy experience?

We were all so young. I rented a tuxedo because I didn’t own one. I didn’t see why I would ever need to own a tuxedo in my life. Now I have four. I don’t think I need four, but whatever I have them. It was comical to all of us. It was a weird mix of an honor, and a joke. We just felt like such interlopers in the actual business. We’re just guys who wanted to write comedy and got a real job doing it. And here’s this thing that has this community aspect to it that you can feel, it’s palpable. Old friends are greeting each other. It’s like, “I am not a part of this world. I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of it.”

And then you won on your first nomination.

We went crazy. We didn’t expect to win. I’ve only been in the business for essentially a year and a half and I’m getting this award that looks like it’s made of gold? We went up on stage, and then there’s the wonderful thing of going through the press lines which is also a completely unique experience. Since there are so many writers it’s not like you’re highlighted in any way, nor do you want to be. Usually the older writers — I guess Al Franken spoke and [head writer] James Downey, that would be about it. Everybody else felt like they were not comfortable with the mic.

What did you do after the press room?

You’re waiting till the next commercial break to go back into the auditorium. I used the payphone to call my mom — yes, this is a world before cell phones, imagine! — and tell her we won. She thought that was interesting, she didn’t really care. I ran into Jim Henson, he had received some kind of honorary Emmy that evening. He also did Kermit, if I’m not mistaken, from the podium. I said hi to him, talked to him for a few seconds. That was intimidating, but the best thing about the night. I got to say hi to Jim Henson. And the second best thing was at the Governors Ball — Peter Falk was there and I said hello to him. He was a real hero of mine as a performer as a kid, I loved “Columbo” so much.

You won again for “The Ben Stiller Show” and were nominated three more times for “Mr. Show.” Did you go every time?

I go every time I’m invited to the Emmys. Now I go for different reasons, I go to see my friends and see people you don’t see very often. I go to spend the evening with my wife, who’s a manager and very often has clients up for Emmys. There were one or two years I went when I wasn’t up for an Emmy, she had a client up. Sometimes I’ve gone to be with her. I will always go, cause it’s a great event. I love seeing people and having a laugh. The writers from all the shows in New York are out. Wandering around the Governors Ball is one of the great things in your year here in LA.

Several years later you were part of the cast when “Breaking Bad” won back-to-back Emmys for drama series.

We were riding such a wave of attention and excitement. It was yet another high in two years of incredible focus and attention and celebration for that show. I feel like I was a hanger on — holding onto the coattails on that show and enjoying the ride the whole way. I think it was a bigger feeling of achievement for the core cast of that show than for me.

How does going to the Emmys as a nominated actor compare to your first time as a writer?

It’s gonna be hard to ever beat the excitement of the first time of being a part of the Emmy awards because it was such a different world. Now that I’ve been there many times, it’s not as unique a moment. I’m of course wildly honored to be included. More than anybody, the old adage is true for me that just being nominated is a win. I don’t come from the world of dramatic acting. For once I’m feeling like an interloper, and I really am.

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