The Most Fun Bob Odenkirk Had in Show Business Was Doing ‘Matt Foley’ at Second City with Chris Farley
Chicago’s comedy mecca Second City has helped to start a great many rich and famous comedians’ careers – however, for every one Second City alumnus who makes it to the stage on Saturday Night Live, another sketch veteran is living in a van down by the river.
This morning, the celebrity tastebud torture show Hot Ones released their interview with Bob Odenkirk, and the comedy legend reminisced on some of the early years of his storied career that remain some of the most creatively fulfilling comedy endeavors of his life. Specifically, Odenkirk recalled the moment he realized that future SNL superstar Chris Farley was going to go down as one of all-time greats – Odenkirk says that he foresaw Farley’s inevitable success “When I got within a hundred feet of him (for the first time.)”
Odenkirk also revealed that, for a brief period of time in the 1980s, Windy City theater-goers could pop into the “Temple of Satire” any night of the week and see him and Farley perform what would eventually become one of the most beloved SNL sketches of the show’s entire existence. During that time, Odenkirk and Farley performed “Matt Foley” seven nights per week – and that was the best time of Odenkirk’s life.
“I love it when people go, ‘That guy’s got something!’” Odenkirk joked about Farley’s obvious potential, “I’m like, ‘Yeah, really? You think? Who fucking can’t tell that he’s the shit?’”
Odenkirk recalled the origins of the “Matt Foley” sketch, telling the story of how it started as an improv scene that featured a group of teachers at an anti-drug assembly as they all gave motivational speeches. Farley’s Matt Foley character was originally a coach who didn’t yet live in a van down by the river, but the energy and the comedy of the scene that would later become a hit on SNL were all present in Farley’s powerhouse performance.
“It stuck in my head, as it would anyone,” Odenkirk said of Farley’s Foley character, “And I went home that night, and I wrote that sketch.” Odenkirk and Farley then performed the sketch at Second City countless times before Odenkirk left Chicago to join the SNL writing staff in 1987. When Farley was invited to join the cast in 1990, Odenkirk dusted off an old classic from their Chicago days. “I wrote it exactly the way it’s done (at Second City), although Robert Smigel added the breaking the table,” Odenkirk said of the SNL iteration, “But everything else is exactly the way I wrote it that night in my little apartment in Chicago. I brought it in to Chris, I said, ‘Here’s a sketch, you can do that character you did.’”
“My Daughter once asked me, ‘What's the most fun you’ve had in showbiz?’” Odenkirk reminisced between bites, “And I said, ‘I did this sketch with Chris Farley, I played the dad in the sketch, we did it seven times a week at Second City, and every time I did that was the most fun I had in showbusiness.’”