Comedy

Bob Saget on Cuddling with John Stamos and Why He Isn't as Filthy as You Think

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On That's What I'm Talking About there's a moment where you mention that you're almost obsessed with doing jokes that are focused on below-the-belt -- literally -- because you say it's easier than religion or politics. Which leads into a great joke about ballsacks. Does that really strike true for you? Is that how you feel about your own material? You tend to do a lot of jokes. And you're fairly fast with them. Not a lot of monologues or stories. Is it easier? I do some stories but not a lot, you're right. I was raised by Rodney Dangerfield, you know: Ten jokes quick and get the hell out. And do the steps in the jokes fast, too, don't even make them long steps. I think I tell more stories that I'm weaving now. I do believe that when you sit with an audience and you tell them, "This is how I feel about the world and look at how screwed up this is" -- and I worship people that do that for us. I watch Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. I'd love to be as intelligent and put those pieces together, like they do, but I also have this thing where I want people to be entertained -- which is this crazy old showbiz ethic. Everyone is having such a crappy time in life -- not everybody, but more people than not -- and I want them to leave feeling like they just came from some silly town meeting or something.

Your dad's presence and influence was also pretty apparent on the special. You tell a couple of jokes that he told you when you were a kid. What was the best joke he ever told you growing up and what was the best advice he ever gave you? The best advice he gave me was never comedic. It was to be kind. He's a guy whose humor came from being bored or being sad. The best joke, I mean, I can't even think of the best joke because they were so strange. We'd be at a restaurant and he'd just take a little piece of food and he'd put it on your hand. He'd rub some, like, creamed spinach on your hand and go, "Here, Bob. This is for you. This is all you get." And those are the things that I found even funnier because they were basically like a character in a movie. He wasn't a joke guy. He was just a guy who was funny and had a delightful sense of humor. It was all through managing all the death [in his family].

With you, though, you're known for being very filthy and very blue. But I'm not very filthy!

Well, that's how they market you. "He's not the guy you saw on Full House. He's going to say 'dick.'" And they should do that. You can't bring a 9-year-old to my show. I've had people come up to me and go, "Tell the Aristocrats!" and I don't even talk like that. I've done it twice with audiences, I've told that joke. The movie had just come out and people were rowdy and weird. I don't know. I like inappropriate jokes. I'm always drawn by somebody telling me, "Don't say that!" But if someone says, "Say that," then I don't want to. I don't think it's because I'm getting older, I think it's because I'm learning a little more about comedy.

I think that in reaction to The Aristocrats film in 2005, that was probably one of the first times a wide range of people got to see you in that way. Obviously you'd been a comedian and doing those type of routines for years, but people were comfortable and used to the Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos versions of you. Do you think your presence in the film helped your stand-up? Actually, right after I finished the video show and Full House, I ended up directing a lot. For five years, all I did was direct. [But] I missed stand-up, and I said I'd come back, and I think I came back even harder. It was a badge of honor. "Oh, I can be dirtier than anybody else!" It wasn't even shock value. It was just where I was at in my life. The gladiator that goes out and instead of slaying a lion, yells, "Fuck!" An absolute meaningless talent.

Was it hard for you to reconcile those two images of your public life? You have this squeaky-clean, "America's dad" and this vulgar, ballsack-obsessed comedian. Did it take a lot of effort to reassure viewers that this was the same person? While I was doing the squeaky-clean comedy, that's just an actor playing a part. If you do it for eight years that's more than an actor playing a part -- they think that's who you are. If an actor like Robin Williams stars in Mrs. Doubtfire and the does One Hour Photo, people aren't going to think he's one or the other of those guys. With a sitcom actor, I guess [the audience] didn't think I had any range.

It's a weird thing that happened. I ended up on a show that the world will probably never see a family like that again. The love that that show gets and the popularity of it is exponential. My stand-up was an answer to it at the time, but people didn't really go, "I want to go see Bob. He's the dad on this show."

When I did the show, all the kids knew that's what I was like off-stage. I didn't go around cursing, but I definitely wasn't a normal human being. I was hyper and always looking for a joke and trying to escape. If you put a person that's a funny person or neurotic and put them in a format that's a strong format you'll watch them morphing out of their minds. In the end, I'm so proud of the show.

Do you guys still keep in touch? More than people should, more than people should. Because I had a long day yesterday, I couldn't go over to John's [Stamos], but we were gonna cook dinner at his house.

And cuddle, I'm sure. Yeah. And Dave [Coulier], well, he couldn't make it, but we love spending time together. I'm friends with every person on the show. I'm very, very fortunate.

As a viewer, you always wonder if that is a setup. Pictures of you and John Stamos on each other's Instagram feeds -- you never know if that's staged or not. It's really quite great. Dave's been doing stand-up, too, in a more consequential way. He's playing the same kind of rooms I'm playing. As clean-cut a version as he puts on-stage, off-stage he's the silliest, funniest, and sometimes most disgusting person you could ever see in a room -- but he doesn't want to share that with the world. He does it for us.

He has a gas problem. Dave can do impressions of any person's flatulence. These are not the people from the sitcom that was meant for 12-year-old girls. We're all down a different creative path, too. We love each other. Everybody's survived pretty well and is moving forward in their lives, if you will. I met Dave when I was 22 and he was 17 . . . all through doing stand-up.

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Janessa is a native Phoenician. She joined New Times as a contributor in 2013. You can connect with her on social media at @janessahilliard, and she promises you'll find no pictures of cats on her Instagram — but plenty of cocktails.
Contact: Janessa Hilliard