For fans of the late, great HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show with Bob and David – not to mention Arrested Development, Breaking Bad, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family (I could go on) – this promises to be an epic event: David Cross and Bob Odenkirk weaving together some comedy gold at the Bob & David Gala, which closes out this year’s Vancouver ComedyFest. It’s not an official Mr. Show reunion, but with hand-picked guests including John Ennis, Chelsea Peretti and Marc Maron – who will tape one of his WTF podcasts with the guys at a live show the previous evening – the event promises to be anything but sketchy.
You guys have a great history together. How did you first meet?
Odenbirk: We met a few months before The Ben Stiller Show premiered. I was sitting in my house and Janeane Garofalo, who was a mutual friend of ours, brought David – who was visiting L.A. from Boston – to my house to play basketball. And I didn’t want to play. I was sitting in the house and the door was open and David and Janeane were standing outside the screen door and I looked over at them and she goes: ‘My friend’s here. Do you want to play?’ And I go: ‘No.’ And that was the first grand meeting.
How did you go from that to developing Mr. Show?
Cross: I came in the middle of The Stiller Show. The show was already up and running, and even airing. And Bob and I didn’t really kind of connect either as friends or even people who were going to be working together until at least a year later.
Odenkirk: There was a club in L.A. that a friend of ours got access to and a bunch of us were doing different shows there. I did a show, David did a show, and we just started doing shows together, because we very quickly sort of agreed on what would make a very cool new sketch show, and that became Mr. Show.
Cross: I remember going over to your old place on Sierra Boneta and writing and it was a very shockingly effortless process. We were really coming up with some great stuff and we didn’t really know each other that well. We did those bits on Bob’s night and they just had a different level to them; they just sort of excelled. And then a similar thing happened a couple weeks later. So we decided to just put a show together. Initially it was called The Three Goofballs and it would be Bob and I and another comic, a different third goofball every time, and then it would be revealed that that third goofball wasn’t there. One time he had died, one time he was at home getting high, and then those shows eventually became Mr. Show.
Odenkirk: That’s the key to it: It was a great partnership. David would improve my stuff and I would improve his stuff. A lot of times when you’re in a writing partnership you feel like you have to compromise. But that’s not really ever how it felt in regards to us working together. It always felt like the piece got better.
What’s the status of a new season of Arrested Development [on which Cross played Tobias Funke]on Netflix? Are you guys in production yet?
Cross: I only know what you know. I get all my information from the same place, which is the Internet. I’m not trying to be funny at all. Everything that you’ve learned, I’ve learned it the same way, which is on the Internet. I’m not joking.
How do you feel about the reunion?
Cross: It’s great; I look forward to it, if it really happens. I’ve been hearing about it for five years now.
So you’re not 100 per cent confident that it’s going to happen?
Cross: No. But I’d say I’m 85 per cent, which is more than 10 per cent, which is what it was until the fall.
Bob, some people who aren’t comedy aficionados only know you from Breaking Bad [he plays Saul Goodman] How did you wind up on a major dramatic series?
Odenkirk: Well, I don’t know. I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, though. Vince Gilligan, who writes Breaking Bad and who is the mastermind there, is a Mr. Show fan, really. I think that’s where he saw me; he did say that. He gave me a call and asked me to do this part. I’d never seen the show. They were shooting their second season and I understood the part was tonally very different from anything I’d done, but that sounded cool. And he just gave me the part. I didn’t audition or read for it or anything. And then, as it got closer to shooting, that’s when I really started to realize how very different it was from anything I’d done. But it’s been really very rewarding, and fun to be a part of. But it came out of the clear blue. And I think they maybe got the wrong guy, but I’m not gonna tell them.
David, you took some heat for the Jewish stereotype comment you made on Conan about Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. [He called an unnamed producer “the personification of what people think about when they think negatively about Jews.”]Do you regret that?
Cross: I do not regret it. I only wish I had the time to give the full context of what the problem was. There’s more to it than just oh somebody was mean to me. There’s a lot more to it. But nobody really cares, nor should they, about everything that prefaced that comment. The only thing I’d say is I didn’t call a press conference and say this thing. I was asked a question and answered it truthfully. But I don’t care. It’ll all be forgotten. It’s already forgotten.
WTF with Marc Maron will be taped live at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver on Friday at 7 p.m. The Bob & David Gala is on Saturday at 7 p.m. at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts ( comedyfest.com).
This interview has been condensed and edited.