Back in the reality TV-free 1990s, a broad-grinned comedian named Bob Saget was a major prime-time player. His boyish looks and safe-as-milk demeanor endeared him to the millions of viewers who regularly watched the family-friendly sitcom "Full House." On it, Saget played Danny Tanner, a widower raising three young girls with the help of his rockin' brother-in-law and goofy comedian buddy. But Saget's broadcast reign didn't stop there: As host of "America's Funniest Home Videos," he served as ringleader to countless amateur camera jockeys. The show was incredibly popular in those dark days before YouTube.
Eventually, Saget became a victim of his own broad appeal. Critics slammed him for his squeaky-clean persona and lame one-liners. He often seemed bored out of his skull as he served up heaping helpings of American cheese.
Once upon a time, though, Saget wasn't so sappy. He cut his comedic teeth at legendary venues such as The Improv and the Comedy Store. Suffice it to say, the crowds were tougher than any studio audience. Unlike the milquetoast characters he'd later portray, Saget's early act consisted of absurdist monologues and pornographic asides.
Saget's first TV gig was providing comedic filler for CBS' "The Morning Show." Although it gave him the opportunity to direct and produce his own segments, he proved an awkward fit and was dismissed within a year. It was a blessing in disguise: Soon thereafter he was offered a role in "Full House."
Following a decade of service to ABC, Saget commandeered the director's chair for the 1998 Norm MacDonald vehicle Dirty Work. That same year, he stunned moviegoers with a cameo appearance in Half Baked, in which he played a recovering user in Narcotics Anonymous. In a hilariously confrontational scene with Dave Chapelle, Saget utters the lines: "Marijuana is not a drug. I used to suck dick for coke. Now that's an addiction. You ever suck some dick for marijuana?"
In 2005, Saget popped up in The Aristocrats, telling an ultra-raunchy version of the titular comedian in-joke. Currently, he's back on stage, performing for audiences composed largely of college students who grew up watching him on TV. He's also got a new game show, "1 vs. 100," which airs this fall on NBC. Then there's the Jamie Kennedy music video, "Rollin With Bob Saget," which features the comedian playing a thugged-out version of himself. Go ahead, Google it.
Kitsch factor or no, Saget's career is definitely on the upswing. In advance of his appearance at UVM's Patrick Gymnasium this week, Seven Days recently spoke with him on the phone at his West Coast abode.
SEVEN DAYS: I have to tell you; it was weird to pick up the phone and hear a familiar voice say, "This is Bob Saget."
BOB SAGET: I called for my carpeting to be cleaned yesterday, and the guy goes, "I've heard this voice before - why do I know you?" I said, "I'm your father."
SD: You'd have to be under a rock to not know, right?
BS: I know some people under rocks.
SD: You successfully made the switch from stand-up to sitcom. Did you ever feel like you were betraying your club roots?
BS: Not really. I had this job on CBS' morning program, which was my big thing. I was picked out of 50 other comedians on some audition tape. I was also in a Richard Pryor movie. I thought, "My God, I've made it." When you're that young and you get a part, you can't believe it.
SD: Did you try to score more film roles?
BS: Yes. And it didn't happen. I was in shock. One of the reasons it didn't was that I was fired from CBS after five months, and then offered "Full House." That character was a sweet guy who gave hugs to everybody. I wanted him to be like Felix Ungar; I wanted to be funny. I mean, I love my kids; I had a newborn baby at the time. So I was like, sure, let me hug everybody. My own daughter asked me if my character on "Full House" was supposed to be gay. I said, "No, honey - that's what we call butch."
SD: Who was captain of the ship?
BS: Jeff Franklin was the executive producer. He was a writer-producer on "Bosom Buddies," and I used to do the warm-up for that.
SD: By warm-up, do you mean the guy who gets the crowd loose before taping, like a comedy fluffer?
BS: I was the crowd fluffer. And I was good at it, too. Most of them, even the women, left with erections.
SD: After your big success, did you sense any resentment from your peers?
BS: No, because I was 30 when I got "Full House," and I'd been working for eight years. I hosted the Comedy Store, worked at The Improv, and hit the road. I was always trying to get gigs. They call it paying your dues, but it's actually learning stand-up comedy.
SD: How does today's routine compare to the ones back then?
BS: When I started, I did more riffs than actual jokes. I'd say weird shit like, "I've got the brain of a German Shepard and the body of a 16-year-old boy, and they're both in the car and I want you to see them." It's somewhat similar to what I do now. I had sick stuff, like, "My mother never let me go to camp when I was a little kid, because she thought I'd be scared to get undressed in front of little boys. Well, I've changed a lot, 'cause I kind of like it now. That's not true. I like it a lot. That's not true. I'm not a senator." I was 18 when I wrote that.
SD: At one point, you had two hit shows on TV. Were you living large?
BS: My head got so big that I had to move it outside of L.A. Honestly, I was very excited. I had a new family, and I felt that everything I wanted monetarily had arrived.
SD: Did you make enough to retire?
BS: I don't philosophically know what that means. What is enough? I have a couple of friends who fly private jets. If they retire, they'll probably have to cut that out. Also, I got divorced, so there went half of it. I made a lot of money, more than I ever thought I'd make. It was great at first, but then I got angry at it. Because I didn't feel like I was being funny.
SD: So what about this new game show?
BS: It's called "1 vs. 100." It'll be on in a couple of weeks. I've turned down every game show I've been asked to host, and I've been asked to do most of them. Before they even gave me a figure, they told me there was no script and I was allowed to say crap, ass or weiners. I was like, "What? I'm in heaven!"
SD: Those are like the primary colors of potty-mouth.
BS: I can't create without 'em. They also make a good chili.
SD: Any movies on deck?
BS: Actually, yes. I've got a mock-documentary coming called Farce of the Penguins. I took 200 hours of footage and spent nine months cutting it together. Then I got Samuel L. Jackson to narrate it.
SD: I smell a hit.
BS: We hope so.
SD: I was in my twenties when "Full House" and "America's Funniest" originally aired, and I had nothing but disdain for them. Now, they've actually grown on me. Why do you think that is?
BS: Well, look at "The Brady Bunch." I think that "Full House" is like eating meatloaf; it's a comfort food.
SD: What did you think about ["Full House" child stars] the Olsen twins' wild phase?
BS: Well, I feel bad that I was sometimes out with them when that was going on! They're friends of mine, and I would meet up with them in the bullshit silliness of the L.A. scene. You go to these places and Mary-Kate [Olsen] is there. Then again, so is Fran Drescher. I want for the Olsens the same things I want for my own daughters, which is to be healthy and happy.
SD: Who's the real Bob Saget?
BS: He's a very thoughtful pervert. I had four old ladies come to my show once, and I said, "What are you doing here?" and they said, "Oh, we know that you're dirty, Bob. But you're also a nice young man."
SD: Is that how you want to be remembered?
BS: It should be on my gravestone.