Up Close With Bob Saget
The irreverent comic plays to full houses.June 5, 2009
Jewish News of Greater Phoenix
There’s the Bob Saget of “Full House” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” And then there’s the other one.
One was the king of family-friendly television comedy in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. The other is the one that’s a stand-up comic and, when you attend a performance, you’ll definitely want to leave the kiddies at home.
“I guess I’m in a very extreme phase of my artistic process,” Mr. Saget said over a phone from the back of a limo in New York City.
Extreme is a good word for it. In the 10 years since he ended his stint at “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” Mr. Saget has made his mark in a number of edgy projects, including a cult-classic cameo as a cocaine addict in the stoner comedy “Half-Baked” and as the filthiest raconteur of the legendary joke in the documentary “The Aristocrats.”
His HBO comedy special, “That Ain’t Right,” included adults-only observations about animals, life after “Full House” and raising children (Mr. Saget has three daughters with his ex-wife).
Mr. Saget was born in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1956 and raised in a Conservative home in Norfolk, Va.
“My bar mitzvah was in Philadelphia, because we had no family in Norfolk, so I didn’t have any friends at my bar mitzvah, which kind of bummed me out,” he said.
Today, he is a member of a Reconstructionist synagogue in California.
“My rabbi and cantor have been incredibly supportive,” said Mr. Saget. “I’m part of the community there and proud of it.”
Legends of Jewish comedy figure prominently in Mr. Saget’s home life. He and his daughters keep Mel Brooks and Woody Allen movies “on a loop at home,” he said.
“It’s ‘Annie Hall,’ it’s ‘Young Frankenstein,’ it’s ‘Airplane!,’ which was directed by my friend Jerry Zucker.
“My 14-year-old has very adult, smart taste, and it’s interesting when they finally see the stuff that we’ve always loved. Once, she came up to me and said, ‘Oh my God, Dad, I just saw ‘Manhattan.’ That’s the best movie I’ve ever seen,’” Mr. Saget related.
Other comedians Mr. Saget enjoys include Lewis Black, Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Dane Cook.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of comedy they do, whether it’s clean or dirty,” he said. “If they’re funny and they’re really, really good at it, I respect them.”
Mr. Saget’s penchant for offbeat comedy comes partially from his late father, Benjamin. “My dad was a very wonderful guy who had a crazy sense of humor. He lost four brothers and I lost a sister (Gay, who died of scleroderma), and all that stuff just made me a little more carefree about irreverence,” he said.
“It’s the same with my dad. His humor was so wicked, and it just made us laugh during times that were really, really difficult.”
Mr. Saget’s irreverence is now packing in audiences at his stand-up gigs, and most people seem comfortable with his transition from family television star to edgy standup comic.
“Three years ago, I wasn’t selling thousands of seats in a single show, so the audience has kind of told me how they feel about it,” he said. “Now, nobody’s ever really offended. A couple years ago they were. Once in a blue moon, someone would walk out.”
Still, Mr. Saget loves doing stand-up. “I love live performing more than I ever thought I would. It’s been an incredible fix for me. It’s like training to be an athlete - when you get on stage, you’ve really got to know what you want to do, and then let it all go and let it rip.”
Besides his live shows, Mr. Saget is busy with several other projects, including taping new episodes for an NBC game show and creating a television show to pitch. “Sort of like ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ or ‘Seinfeld,’” he said.
He would also like to do more directing, his “favorite thing” to do.
“I want to do what I think is funny,” he said. “I just want to entertain people.”
Jennifer Goldberg is special sections editor at Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.