Bob Odenkirk's Memoir Review

Being Resilient Against your Setbacks

By: Brock Hickman

Bob Odenkirk is arguably best known for playing the endearing but morally reprehensible lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, in what is considered by many to be one of the greatest television series of all time (and, in my opinion, the even better spin-off series Better Call Saul). 

On March 1st 2022, Bob Odenkirk’s Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama a Memoir was published just in time for Better Call Saul’s final season. Over 304 pages, the memoir explores the ups and downs of Bob’s career in show business and his determination and resilience despite consistent rejection, setbacks and outright failure. 

Before landing the role of Saul, Bob Odenkirk had a career spanning decades. He was a comedy writer, performer, actor, and director before shifting to more serious and dramatic roles, including the 2021 action film Nobody. You might also recognize him from supporting roles in Seinfeld, Curb your Enthusiasm, How I Met Your Mother, and The Larry Sanders Show, as well as recent dramatic turns in Steven Spielberg’s The Post, the television series Fargo and voice acting in Pixar’s The Incredibles 2. The list of projects Bob has been attached to becomes increasingly impressive as you read on; however, he explains that it wasn’t always like this. 

In the introduction, he writes, “How about starting with a warning? You hold failure in your hands… The “bad breaks,” if you will. Don’t look away! I want your eyes to behold my floundering, and I invite you to laugh at it; go ahead, mock me! Because the sheer amount of failure is worth a sneering chortle.” (Odenkirk xiv). 

Throughout the book, Bob focuses on more of his failures than successes. He runs through all the pilots, outlines, acting roles, auditions and scripts that went nowhere and the essential lessons he learned through these failures. He hopes to help the reader succeed by showing how he worked just as hard on his failures as on the projects that worked. 

The influence of his early work as a comedy writer is evident: Bob’s writing style is deeply hilarious, brutally honest, and captivatingly vulnerable. Fans of one of Bob’s early successes with frequent collaborator David Cross, the sketch comedy cult classic Mr. Show with Bob and David, might be slightly disappointed by the somewhat conventional formatting and the book’s writing style (as opposed to that show’s innovative and surrealist format). While Bob’s writing is undoubtedly very humorous, I think a book with the same sensibilities as Mr. Show would deter mainstream audiences and readers. 

Instead the way it is written makes it more approachable for the masses to enjoy and become inspired by Bob’s unwavering determination to remain open-minded and optimistic in the face of failure. Odenkirk explains, “I have had the privilege to believe it’s possible to make something happen. I’ve certainly shared my doubts, my skepticism, but taking into account that I have never wanted to conquer the world, it’s clear that I’ve always believed good things might happen if I just hung in there and showed up with my best effort.” (Odenkirk 268).

I was primarily interested in reading this book because I wanted to learn more about Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and the experiences of making those shows. I had no idea about Odenkirk’s early comedy writing and successes, including writing for SNL and the beloved Motivational Speaker Matt Foley sketch for Chris Farley. 

The book is ultimately a love letter to sending out the energy you wish to receive back from the world, reminding you to be optimistic and good to people. Bob continuously talks about accepting and admitting failure; being ready, and adapting to move on to the next thing. If you dwell on the failures, the world will perceive you as one, whereas if you are open and honest about your losses but ready to try again, more opportunities will present themselves to you. 

It’s essential to admit your faults and failures, while not having them define you. Free from that baggage, you can move unencumbered into the future. After equal parts success and failure in the comedy world as a writer and performer, Odenkirk talks about his experience as a dramatic actor. The opportunities that arrived as a result of his often scene-stealing character on Breaking Bad are incredibly inspiring. 

Odenkirk adapted when one door closed; he looked for another that opened and ventured into the unknown. He accepted and embraced new opportunities. As he explains, “Overall, I’ve had more gains than losses, and this is possibly due to the fact that I’ve had good peripheral vision, an ability to spot some light breaking through off to the side, not always where I’ve been looking for it” (Odenkirk 266).

I think readers will come away from this memoir inspired with a newfound appreciation for the lessons in failure. They will witness how to remain a positive and good person in the face of rejection and failure and how to remain resilient against your setbacks.

Odenkirk’s humble writing style is effortless to follow and his humorous meditations on life and his career make for a delightful read. This is evident as this is not a book of ego gloating about individual career successes: he spends more time writing about his career failures and the projects no one has heard of or seen.

Another enjoyable part of the book is how often Odenkirk gives equal credit to his peers and talks positively of others (as they often do of him). His lack of ego is refreshing. As a lifelong Spielberg fan, it was also incredibly nice to read that Steven Spielberg is as lovely and supportive as I’ve always thought and hoped he would be. 

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. You don’t need to be a fan of Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul to enjoy it, and you will come away with an extensive list of projects to check out for yourself.

Works Cited

Odenkirk, B. (2022). Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama: A Memoir. United States: Random House Publishing Group.