In a humorous sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this week, actor Bob Odenkirk and the late night talk show host appeared to be poking fun at the silly games that are often common in competing shows. And while neither his name nor show was ever uttered, it seemed this was a jab straight at Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show.
While most of us know Odenkirk as greasy lawyer Saul Goodman (a.k.a. Jimmy McGill), first from Breaking Bad and now as the star of Better Call Saul, the actor actually has an extensive and successful career in comedy spanning several decades. Among his most notable credits is as a writer on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, as well as one-half of the Mr. Show sketch comedy duo alongside David Cross. (The pair, in fact, will be resurrecting that program under a new name With Bob and David, for Netflix.)
But Odenkirk reminded us all of his comedic prowess in this bit on Kimmel where the talk show host asks him to play a little game with him at the end of the interview. Called Heatherball, it works similarly to tetherball, except the ball has an image of actress Heather Graham’s face on it. The game couldn’t be any more pointless and silly. But what’s most hilarious is how Odenkirk replies, stone-faced, that he had alerted his publicist that he did not want to play any games, and asks if they can just sit there and talk. Isn’t that, after all, what talk show interviews are supposed to be about?
Kimmel continues to insist he play as Odenkirk gets up and angrily calls his publicist, ranting about the idiocy of having to partake in this game on national television when he’s there for an interview.
It was clearly meant to make a mockery of other late night games. And it’s no secret that the host with the longest list of silly late night games is, of course, that other Jimmy – Fallon. Fallon has been killing it in the ratings since taking over as Tonight Show host for Jay Leno, and it seems Kimmel isn’t too happy about what he’s done to the show’s format. Fallon’s late night games range from asking celebrities to select eggs from a carton — not knowing if it’s raw or hard boiled, and crack them on their heads — to water gun fights with playing cards. Getting A-list celebs to essentially make a fool of themselves certainly works for ratings. But how do the celebs themselves feel about it becoming an integral part of promoting their latest projects?
If the sketch from Kimmel and Odenkirk is an indication of truth, chances are many of them despise having to partake in such juvenile behavior. Chances are, unlike the situation that Odenkirk portrays here, every celeb partaking in a silly game on The Tonight Show (or any other show, for that matter) is fully aware of it before hitting the stage. But do they agree that it’s a needed element in the late night talk show format? Or do they simply do it because they should? Given Kimmel’s long list of A-list celebrity friends, perhaps he’s trying to send a message for them.
Despite the uncomfortableness of the sketch, it’s pretty hilarious. Odenkirk does such a stellar job that you almost believe he’s being serious, and Kimmel acts so over-excited (remind you of any rival host?) at the prospect of playing this game, going so far as to play on his own when Odenkirk objects.
It looks like those late night wars did not end with Leno and Letterman’s retirement.