Objects in mirror aren’t always what they appear to be. For Bob Saget, being one of TV’s most recognized model father figures wasn’t exactly the way he planned it. In fact, when he started his career in show business, he was quite the opposite. Known for his foul-mouthed, random, unpredictable comedy routine, he was nothing like his 1980s’ Full House persona. But the era of sitcom squeaky-clean acting has passed and his love of comedy and making people laugh lives on.
From a serious documentary filmmaker to raunchy HBO comedian to major film director, Saget has worn many hats. No matter what he has on his plate, doing stand-up comedy has been a normal part of his life for decades, even though his routine is anything but normal. Saget spoke with the Reporter this week about life — then, now and whatever comes next.
VCReporter: Talking to someone with a dirtier mouth than mine has me a little nervous.
Bob Saget: Well, I don’t ever do it over the phone. That’s where people press charges. (Laughs) People say I am R-rated. Well, I am R-rated but when they say X-rated, I think Comedy Central is much dirtier than I am. I do understand, though. People look at me and see me on television and ask how can I talk like that.
I grew up in the ’80s watching you on Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos, and I had no idea about the real Bob Saget. So was it strange to be so squeaky clean there, and then do stand-up being the total opposite?
Well, I blame your parents for that. (Laughs) I did an HBO special, which was very popular when the two shows were in the top 10, and I said the F-bomb the whole time and nobody cared because it was the beginning of HBO before it started to rise. I was on the Young Comedians show with Rodney Dangerfield years before Full House, and I always had separate things, but it’s not like now, where both of those shows are gone and I have my own thing.
Do you think you will ever live down Danny Tanner or do you even want to?
I don’t even think about it. I talk about it during my shows and recall the audience liking it, and I have no negative notions toward it. I was just happy that I got a job . . . I did a movie with Richard Pryor, which was R-rated, and I thought, this is what is going to be my career — I will be a comedy actor. Then I was hired for this funny thing on CBS, then I was fired for being too hot for morning television. [Then] they had me scripted as Danny Tanner: I was basically the Richie Cunningham of the show and that pleased the producers.
When did you realize that you had a passion to make people laugh?
Funny that you asked that, I was just talking about that. I was 4. When I used to live in Virginia, there was a ferry where I would play the juke box, tap dance and sing and tell jokes. Everyone would leave the area. I was a precocious energetic 4-year-old.
Did you want to continue with comedy when you were growing up?
No, I didn’t actually. I wanted to go to med school. I went to Temple University for pre-med for six months. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t tolerate learning about biology and chemistry. I didn’t like any of the electives I took, either, besides documentary [filmmaking].
You took documentary classes?
Yeah, I did. I actually won the student Oscar for the documentary I made about the child with a genetic defect. He was 7 when the surgery happened and it followed his journey.
Do you remember the first dirty joke you ever told?
I do. I think it might be too dirty for print. (Laughs) I actually do the jokes for my show, the ones that my dad told me when I was 12.
Well, I heard your dad was a pretty interesting character. Is he an inspiration to you?
He was. He was a really good dad and a really funny guy. He was very into comedy. He always had a smirk on his face. He lived until he was 89 and had four brothers who all died younger than him. He has seen so many people he loved pass away that the truth and pain in comedy is real. He just smiled through it all.
Sam Kinison was in your life as well. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
I read about Sam, that he was banned from the The Comedy Workshop due to the people not liking his humor. He was a faith healer. He and his brother did shows where they would cure people. He was very old school. He was so upset about being banned from the club, he chained himself, wearing a diaper and crown of thorns, to a telephone pole in front of the club, saying he was being persecuted like Jesus. It was in the Houston Chronicle, so I wanted to meet him.
Did you work with Rodney Dangerfield, too?
Yeah, I did the first Young Comedians special with him. He was in another special on HBO. And then he was on a roast with me roasting him. I’d do anything he wanted me to do because he was such a great guy. He was very humble to young comedians.
Do you consider them your mentors? Who, besides your dad, was your biggest influence?
Most recently is Don Rickles. He has been the most father-type relationship. He is wonderful. In my twenties, Pryor and Dangerfield were my comedy uncles. They talked to me because I worshipped them. As I got older — and I loved them a lot — but now they’re not around anymore so I try to be with those who are alive. I actually met Rickles when he was in my movie Dirty Work, with Norm MacDonald. I am very proud of that movie. That’s the opposite of Full House; Dirty Work was for the 15-year-old boys while Full House was for 15-year-old girls.
Since your routines are pretty dirty, is there anything that offends you?
Yes, actually. Some things I say offend me and then I will go, “Why did I say that?” Some things other comedians say or some movies offend me, too. But I realize it’s made for shock, and I have been accused of that as well, but when there is no comedy to it, there is no finesse to it and it’s just hard.
Are you more sporadic with your routine or do you have something you worked out and then you will go on stage and see how it goes?
Well, I am doing a new HBO special and working things out. Since it is a new special, you need an entirely different hour worth of stuff.
I heard that comedians have a better grasp on life. Have you ever heard anything like that?
Funny, I just did an interview about that. Comedy Central is doing an hour-long special on Greg Giraldo. A lot of comedians are being interviewed, from roasts to people that just respected his work. I think there is a blessing and a curse behind being a comedian. The blessing, to me, is it is the best job that exists on the earth. … I was talking to a friend of Giraldo’s, and he pointed out that they’ve been the outsider since they were kids. There is no trust in comedians. They are survivors. Dangerfield was quoted as saying, “There was a Jewish man standing at the border of Germany, and the guard says, ‘Make me laugh in five minutes and I’ll let you go.’ ” That’s how a lot of people approach comedy. It’s more than the look of grandness; it’s the smoothness of it. It is a job and a craft. You may not be able to see your friends and peers, but at events you see them all. You see all the different styles and see how beautiful they are. I can’t label mine because I don’t know what to call it. Seeing Jerry Seinfeld is like watching someone lasersharp on stage. And seeing Brian Regan, he’s a total wordsman. I try clean material, and people don’t like that.
You are a very random, whatever comes to your head type of comic. I understand your humor.
Thank you, that’s a great compliment. It started recently, now I am 54, and people are waiting for me to go off. And then I go off, and I have a thousand things going on in my head. It’s not like remembering lines for a play.
It’s like bingo.
Exactly. I actually think the last 30 minutes is easier because it’s all music. I think I am going to record my songs but I need to find time.
Any highlights from your routine you want to try here?
Nothing really reads right in print. I’m telling people a story about when we had a live donkey on Full House. I can’t say what it did, and it’s not good. I told the story on Conan once and I got in trouble for it. I have a new song about a relationship not working out with a woman from an old-age home and it’s a little Harold and Maude-ish but nothing is that irreverent. I actually was gonna sing it on Jay Leno’s show and they read the lyrics and said it’s OK since there is no cursing in it. They then read the lyrics again and said we can’t do that!F
Bob Saget will be at the Ventura Theater on Saturday, Feb. 19. The doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $35-$49.50. For more information, go to venturatheater.net.