12 Ways to Make a Mr. Show Fan's Dream Come True with AMC's Better Call Saul Spin-Off
Hol(l)y crap, can you believe this Sunday’s episode of Breaking Bad?! It’s like the showrunners know exactly what they’re doing in the endgame and are enjoying twisting the stainless steel kitchen knife in our collective ribcages. Like everything else about the show, the most recent plot developments are exactly what you’d expect and yet completely unpredictable. So, it’s no wonder that Bad creator, Vince Gilligan, and series writer Peter Gould are apparently working on a new AMC pilot that spins off their dual creation, criminal lawyer Saul Goodman, into his own show. This summer, there were rumors that Better Call Saul would become a thing (was Breaking Good, Man too on the nose?), leaving the question of its status in the Heisenbergian timeline too spoilery to be revealed. Last week, those rumors were confirmed , including that the new story would be a prequel in the nebulous years before Walter White burst into Goodman’s office wearing a ski mask; though that fact is purportedly not a spoiler for Bad’s two final episodes. I don’t know why we’re all worried, anyway. The attorneys like Saul in my hometown seem to live forever, if their ads on daytime TV are any indication.
Comedians like Bill Burr (Kuby) and Lavell Crawford (Huell) are an absolute must for recurring or regular roles, and it would be a shame not to include both Jonathan Banks (Mike) and Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring) in the proceedings in some capacity. But because this prequel spin-off is actually happening, starring the good man himself, legendary alternative comic Bob Odenkirk, and since (as Joanna noted in her post) that Breaking Bad’s casting director Sharon Bialy has a history working in comedies, there are a number of comedic performers the upcoming hour-long dramedy could use to great effect. Specifically, that number is twelve. And, specifically, we’re talking about Odenkirk’s old friends and colleagues on his HBO sketch series Mr. Show with Bob and David. One of the more distinctive aspects of the comedy on that series was, no matter how ridiculous the scenes or characters got, the performers all committed as if they were real people, really doing these ridiculous things. That sensibility, something SNL has always lacked, works wonders on Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul, if that is its real name, doesn’t need to be as determined to be funny as Mr. Show, but it could be wickedly dark and wickedly funny if that cast were to reunite.
Here are the 12 Comedians that the Breaking Bad Spin-Off Should Hire Immediately:
This could probably go without saying, because who wouldn’t be down for watching the continued professional relationship of Mr. Show’s titular Bob and David? They worked brilliantly together on HBO, not to mention a brief reunion on pre-Netflix Arrested Development, and that chemistry is still apparently present on their current comedy tour, so getting Cross on Better Call Saul is a no-brainer. It doesn’t matter what part he plays, or often he plays it. Get Odenkirk and Cross in a room together with cameras rolling and the magic will happen.
Recently seen on Community, which is no stranger to Breaking Bad cameos, Minor was a utility player in the first couple seasons of Mr. Show and has been a mostly underused comedian since. He could be connected to Huell in some way, or, depending on when this is set, he could be Huell before some tragic accident. Or he could just play a gay cop, which he did so memorably alongside fellow Mr. Show alum Jay Johnston, on Arrested Development.
No, not those gay cops.
These gay cops. Speaking of…
Johnston was a regular writer and cast member on Mr. Show, and perhaps one of the more under appreciated during his tenure since he’s mostly played humorless police officers since. Not only Arrested Development, but Community (seen above) and The Sarah Silverman Programcast him as by-the-book cops, too. Pigeonholing as it could be, a cop on the make would be a great role for him on Saul, too.
Just so long as he also gets to use his patented physical comedy, which can be seen at its best in the Story of Everest sketch.
Paul F. Tompkins
Tompkins was also a longtime, hilarious regular, though it’s safe to say that he didn’t quite find his voice or his style — comedically or haberdasherly — until well after. He was always doing something different, but now he’s really doing something with his returning “characters” on Comedy Bang Bang (podcast and IFC show), like Lord Andrew Lloyd Weber, Garry Marshall, and Werner Herzog. His wits just happen to be one of the quickest in all Hollywood, too.
All of that could be utilized in the service of some sort of good old fashioned attorney rivalry against Saul. Perhaps a lawyer who’s a bit less smarmy, more pretentious, and equally successful? It wouldn’t have to be a guest spot every week, but I’d allow it.
Jill Talley and Tom Kenny
Now known to multiple generations as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants and the wife of the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, Kenny and Talley were MVPs during the bulk of Mr. Show’s run and likely played nearly as many characters, in as many scenes, as Bob and David did. They’re perfectly capable of bringing the funny all on their own, but they really soar when they’re on screen together. It isn’t at all surprising they remain married and co-workers.
Like David Cross, it doesn’t matter what they could do on Saul, they just need a place. Though, playing Saul’s ultra-square neighbors or in-laws, similarly to what they did in Sky High, could be a hell of a lot of fun.
Mary Lynn Rajskub
Before she was the acerbic Chloe on 24 or the creepy Gail the Snail on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (above), but not long before she replaced Janeane Garofalo on The Larry Sanders Show, Rajskub was one of many standout female comedians on Mr. Show. She pretty much perfected the “WTF are you talking about” reaction face here.
But her range has grown over time, as has the depth of her characterizations, so it would be nice to see her given a role she really has to tackle. We never saw Mike Ehrmentraut’s children on Bad, but Rajskub could be perfect as his troubled daughter and the mother of his only grandchild.
Even if you aren’t a fan of Silverman’s stand-up or her persona, there’s very little of her work in Mr. Show that could rile you up. Like Jerry Minor, she was more of a utility castmember, but when given the chance to shine — as in playing the real “David Cross” above — she was fantastic. Comparing her work on her own Comedy Central program, the aforementioned The Sarah Silverman Program, to her role in Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, it’s clear she has the chops for whatever Vince Gilligan could throw at her.
While I’m sure Silverman has probably had her fill of “girlfriend” or “girlfriend of best friend” roles, she’d be absolutely delightful as Saul’s ball-busting, take-no-prisoners ex-paramour and the inspiration for Mr. McGill’s Jewishified last name.
Stamatopoulos probably only had a few lines, max, on Mr. Show, but his presence in the writing was mostly likely always felt. His imaginative sensibilities have expanded to include absurd claymation novelties like Moral Orel on Adult Swim and his collaboration with Dan Harmon and Charlie Kaufmann on Frankenhole. It was on Harmon’s Community where he really proved his mettle, making Starburns one of the most beloved bit parts on a show filled with beloved bit parts.
Of course, his dislike of being on camera and on set all day is eventually what led to Starburns’ supposed death by exploding meth lab. That connection alone warrants at least a cameo on a Breaking Bad spin-off, and what better cameo would there be than as Saul’s vacuum cleaning repair guy? If Gilligan and crew don’t reveal this character’s true identity in the next episode, then the Man Who Was Starburns is the perfect choice for a brilliant, camera shy criminal.
Like Jay Johnston, Ennis played some memorable, endelible characters on the sketch show, though he remains mostly unknown to anyone but the most die hard comedy fans. This needs to be rectified post-haste, because he is one funny man with a wide range of characters from Bewildered Authority Figure to Bewildered Everyman. If that sounds damning, then you don’t know how well be plays bewildered.
Taking those skills to the next level, Ennis would make an excellent political figure or local newsman, somebody the public trusts but shouldn’t, in Saul’s quirky take on Albequerque.
As great as Aukerman’s been since his Mr. Show days, perhaps his greatest comedic legacy will be his starring role in the fourth season sketch “It’s Insane, This Guy’s Taint”. Playing Mark Wahlberg to David Cross’s Burt Reynolds, Aukerman in “This Guy’s Taint” leaves an impression that is impossible to forget. Even with years and years of alcohol and substance abuse, that image above will haunt us and Aukerman until our dying days.
Of course, the host of the also aforementioned podcast and IFC show Comedy Bang Bang, Hot Saucerman is obviously more than just a body part — or a small patch of skin between the human butt and the human genitals. He’d make for a fantastic ABQ TV personality, like a game or talk show host, who needs Saul’s help far more often than the newspapers report. No wonder they’re a dying industry.
Posehn is probably one of the most recognizable former Mr. Show castmates, though he’s remembered best from popular (re: unfunny) sitcoms like Just Shoot Me. He has a very distinct voice and look that’s most often used for “slackers” or “nerds” or “metal heads,” and that shouldn’t change here. A character that would be the possible future outcome of dudes like Badger and Skinny Pete, or maybe even a body guard pre-Huell, would be killer. Speaking of, he’s proven with the new Deadpool comic that his talent for writing scripts is perhaps even better than his talent for writing jokes, so getting Posehn in the writer’s room (instead of, or on top of, on camera) might be the biggest coup of all.
Rob Payne also writes the web comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He would have included Jack Black and Jon Stewart, but he couldn’t think of any cameos that their fame wouldn’t overwhelm.