Bob Odenkirk: Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama (Hardcover, 2022) 4 stars

Comedy, Comedy, Comedy, Drama, Farce

4 stars

Farce is a little too strong. This is largely an enjoyable read, especially in the early going, and fans of Odenkirk's work in sketch comedy will especially enjoy the way he discusses things like the beginnings of his career, why he favors sketch over improv, and which of his funny friends wrote their favorite sketches. It's affably written and clearly in Odenkirk's voice, if you're familiar with him outside the world of Breaking Bad.

There are many subtle insults delivered as praise throughout (easily missed, and very midwestern), and though he seems to be trying very hard to appear gracious and to present himself as a lucky fool, he takes greater pains to remind you at every turn how much credit he deserves, how many doomed projects should have been made (and would have been amazing), and how many genuine failures were more a result of compromise or lack of interest than any genuine personal failing.

To that point, he does admit many faults, but fails to learn from them, and several times shows himself to be politically immature, culturally unexamined, and merely paying lip service to social conscience. The most glaring example is his ostenisbly sincere apology for failing to hire women writers on Mr. Show, despite a circle of qualified women in their core group of friends, many of whom were hired as performers. He wishes he had hired women and regrets that he can't do anything to correct that mistake now, and you might easily picture him wringing his hat and kicking sheepishly at the dirt. (He's so dadgummed awful sorry!)

But fast forward to the pseudo-reboot of Mr. Show, Netflix's W/Bob & David, and here was his big chance to correct that earlier wrong, the one he wished so earnestly he had an opportunity to do over again. But he doesn't. Odenkirk gushes about the reunited writing staff, naming the same core list of men from the original run of the show, and he is so proud of it. Putting to lie his earlier regret, he couldn't even attempt to conjure a defense.

He repeatedly assures us throughout the book that he doesn't have any "bro" in him, while repeatedly apologizing for making very "bro-y" decisions. The apologies ring hollow, especially when he praises one woman for being "funny 'like a guy,' which is to say she can be critical."

There are other odd moments, like a passage where he confuses the intent of one of David Cross's sketches, clearly lampooning a fringe conservative movement ("sovereign citizens"), as an indictment of a liberal "SJW," and tries to defend the show's use of black face, as well as a begrudging attempt at the end to acknowledge white privilege (because his wife told him he should) that proves he doesn't know what the phrase means.

In the end he does seem to be more a lucky fool than he actually believes himself to be, and his shortcomings are more myopic than malicious. After reading, I still enjoy his work, and really enjoyed the book, but a lot of the shine is gone, and I wish he had really examined and come to terms with his faults.