Throughout the 1990s, Saget had a corner on the family-friendly, "America's Dad" market courtesy of hit shows Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos. When the light-hearted laughter ended, he found himself back on the stand-up circuit, bluer and dirtier than ever, in a way that surprised audiences and garnered legions of new — and even Full House — fans. In filthy, unfiltered sets rife with ballsack jokes, Saget successfully changed public perception. Now, 20 years after its series finale, he finds himself returning to the sound stage that made him a household name.
In late May, he confirmed (via Twitter) that he'd be reprising his role of patriarch Danny Tanner in Fuller House, an Olsen-less Netflix reboot of the show. Saget, John Stamos, Dave Coulier, and Lori Loughlin will all guest star on the series, which focuses on a recently widowed D.J. Tanner-Fuller (Candace Cameron Bure) who is raising three boys. Younger sister Stephanie and her best friend Kimmy — played by Jodie Sweetin and Andrea Barber, respectively — move in to help her raise the boys in true Tanner family fashion. Like father, like daughter. Filming began in July and a 13-episode run will premiere in 2016.
Over the last year and a half since our last interview, things have certainly changed in Saget's life. While Fuller House may be the dominating narrative, the 59-year-old is still very active in the comedy community. The Grammy nomination he discussed with such mastered humility failed to turn into a Grammy win. The memoir he had just turned in when we spoke, Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian, however, has become a considerable success and, naturally, a New York Times bestseller. And, perhaps most personally, his mother passed away. She was 89.
Needless to say, there's a lot to catch up on. The comic called New Times from his home in Los Angeles to talk Dirty Daddy, Fuller House, and stand-up style. He returns to the Valley this week with a four-set stand-up performance on Friday and Saturday nights at Stand Up Live in CityScape.
It's nice to talk to you again. It's been a little more than a year.
I know! I'm coming back [to Phoenix] so it must have gone well. [laughs]
Last time we talked you had literally just finished your book, Dirty Daddy, the night before. Now it's out in hardcover and paperback—
And audio, which is six hours and 45 minutes of me talking.
What was that experience like?
It hadn't been published yet, so you're just reading pages of it. It was also difficult because the book has a lot of humor and a lot about death and how my humor comes from a lot of gallows stuff, and at the time I was finishing the book and doing the audio book my mom was passing away. So I would go see her in the hospital and then I would go record. I had to go back in and add an epitaph for her because she had just passed away.
It was a really interesting experience. You only get two takes, because it's six hours and forty-five minutes. That's thirteen hours of live time, and thirteen hours of recording takes four days. It was the longest phone conversation I've ever had.
It's very conversational, too — the way that you've written it. I think that's why people respond to it. You're not putting anybody on blast or name-dropping too much — aside from comedic effect.
That's a big compliment, so thanks. I'm wanting to do another hour special, I'm shooting a Fuller House episode next week. As soon as I'm done in Phoenix I go right to work on an episode of Fuller House. [laughs] It's pretty hilarious. We did the first one and it's a fun, amazing thing that even exists — and existed.
The stand-up that I'm doing, and why I love coming to Stand Up Live, [is] because then I can try new things that I'm wanting to do. I think the experience of the book is bleeding more into what my stand-up wants to be. Which allows it to go off and riff — have a structure and then not know what's coming next. And then just talk about things that are a little more real to me now: birth, life, relationships, and death.
I'm not as talented as like, a Bill Burr with his anger. I'm a huge fan. I'm like in love with Bill. We're friends. That makes me excited. We have a mutual friend Mike Binder [who directed Burr in 2014's Kevin Costner-led Black or White], and Mike and Bill and I were smoking cigars and it just makes me so damn happy. I get inspired by a lot of people. It makes me want to really take advantage of where I'm at, at 59 years of age. I'm trying to bring something more real into what I'm doing. I think that's what people will see in Phoenix. I haven't been going up [in Los Angeles] a lot. It's like, I don't do one-night-stands. I like actual dates.
It seems like you're able to be more insightful and personal because you don't have to worry about reconciling these two different images anymore. You're not boxed into being "America's Dad" like in the '90s, so that you have to be incredibly blue all the time in response. I mean, that's still there, but maybe you're allowed to be yourself a little bit more?
That's really kind; you know more about me than my shrink does. [laughs] That's very accurate. It takes a career sometimes for people to know you, and now they know me. I don't want to disappoint them. People say to me sometimes, "Oh, you're dirty." If you look at That Ain’t Right, that special — that was an unusual amount of saying the word "fuck." But people now want to listen. And if they do I want to be connected to them. I'm excited to see how it shapes up; I don't want to force a new hour. I'm not as prolific as some of the people that I look at and go, "Holy crap. How do they do it?"
Bill is a person, Louis C.K. is a person. Louie is an unbelievable amount of being in the zone. Amy [Schumer] is doing it now. Some of it happens when someone arrives to a certain place and people want to listen. You love doing it; you love the art of it. I love comedians — some of them — and I love people that do it for the right reasons. It doesn't matter what side of the gamut they come from: Dave Chappelle or Carrot Top. Which you've probably never heard in a sentence before.
I don't think I ever will again.
[laughs] They both want to entertain people in their way and do something that gives something to people. You get a lot out of it. It gives you strength as a person.
I think that goes back to something you say in the book. You mention your decision to get into comedy came from a basic, insecure desire to get people to like you. I think that's true of a lot of comedians. If they're laughing with you instead of at you then it's got to be good, right?
That's very true. Except for maybe some of our "hipster" comedians who are smart and they know it and they want you to know it. [laughs] I wish to God I had that amount of confidence. It's also invaluable in comedy acting, to have that and to be real and focused. I'm an in-between generation. I was getting to the Comedy Store in 1978 watching Richard Pryor, watching Robin Williams, watching the greatest comedians that existed — watching Letterman host before getting his show, and going, "Wow, this is magic." And then there's a new style which, it's an insult to call it "hipster," there's a clarity to what people are trying to say.
I guess forerunners of it are Demetri Martin and people that have a way of talking that hit you at a certain way. Bill Hicks [is] an example of someone that was very deeply feeling things and wanting to get them out and looking at life. That's something that I love about comedians. I didn't have the genetics to be like that.
I wonder if that can also be attributed to the way that comedians get to use Twitter and YouTube to work things out in different ways, instead of going up for a one night set at places like the Comedy Store.
That's exactly right. In L.A., people do three sets in one night but you're right, you can get your comedic nut by going, "Did you see what he posted on Instagram?" or "I'm gonna shoot a viral video right now." In my case, if there's something I really want to get out and you have time, you could make something for Funny or Die. A tweet doesn't apply anywhere else. You could put it in a book, I guess, but a Tweet is a condensed version of someone's [thoughts].
I didn't do [blue comedy] intentionally. There's something about stand-up that is a 9-year-old boy stomping his feet. I guess I liken [Full House] to I'm-not-Spock disease. Not that Danny Tanner is as cool or hip ever — or will ever be — as Spock. [But] there's a thing where you go, "I'm not that guy, I'm not that guy, I'm not that guy …. Well wait a minute: the whole world knows me because of that." So not only can I be that guy, but it's a legacy to protect at this point. That's why, when it was the original people coming in and they did it through Netflix, which was super cool — it's the first time Netflix ever did family comedy — it was [the right] way to do it. It had a reunion feeling to it. But we really never stopped being close with each other. And so, to just go out and play in the rebuild of it, it's like our own Truman Show. It's just bizarre.
It was emotionally very cool as well, for me to not be going out of my mind while I was doing it. When I was doing [Full House] so much was going on. My sister died. I was 30 when I started to the show. I didn't have any wisdom, I just knew I was doing two family shows a week. Working 80 hours, trying to write the video show [America's Funniest Home Videos], trying to raise kids and be a good husband and father. So this is just a whole different …. I'm not even the same person. To come in and be Danny Tanner at this point in my life — I did a script read this morning and I couldn't wait to read the lines.
Does it feel the same for you?
It's completely different, yet it's a character that I played. It took no work to figure out where the character's at today. It's a two- to three-dimensional kid's show which has serious overtones to it, because Candace is raising the kids and her husband's passed away. Which is no different than when I was raising the kids on the show. So there's a sadness to this thing, which is right there. I think if you look at that element of it, the denial that went into making Danny Tanner get through it all — that OCD behavior, which I never analyzed at all until the past few years in therapy — but you play a character like that and he's compensating because he's running away from life. You've got these two people to take his mind off of it. I mean, Dave Coulier living in your house will take your mind off of any problems that you have. [laughs] John Stamos and The Rippers in your home, you're not going to worry as much. So, it's a piece of culture.
I wanted it to come back as some movie. I wanted PG-13. Kind of like The Bradys, except everybody looks good enough [that] you use the original cast. You don't put wigs on anybody.
At this point I'm excited. I think people are going to be very satisfied with it. I'm happy I did it.
Does it feel like the family is missing a piece without the Olsen twins? Is any of the cast still holding out home they'll sign on eventually?
No, no. I respect what people need to do. They've got the work that they're doing and acting's not part of it. For them not to do an appearance on a Netflix sitcom… [laughs]. People might be disappointed, but you don't have to live for people.
I read somewhere, when talk of the show first started circulating in the media, that one of them was going to reach out to you and ask your opinion of it.
I'm close with them. I have a connection with them because I don't take relationships in my life too mildly. I diapered them at nine months old. That was also in the book, some joke where I said I diapered them at nine months — and Ashley just four months ago. [laughs]
I see them when I'm in New York. My daughters know them. I'm very happy that we did a show and not everybody just said, "I don't want to know you anymore." Because, hell, I'm a good guy to know. [laughs] I'm a very good friend to people that I care about a lot. It sounds so gooey! I sound so Danny Tanner. Age is changing me. Losing my mom this year and all that stuff just goes into what I like, which is to be very real with people, maybe pull their heartstrings, and then flip it. Go off-road and be that 9-year-old boy stomping his feet. It's not that Jekyll and Hyde thing. It's being multi-dimensional.
Do you ever think about what your career trajectory would have been if you hadn't landed Full House? If you hadn't had the family-friendly association?
My biggest passion I think is directing. In fact, there's a movie that I'm waiting for investors to drop a check on right now. I think that's what I could have done more of. When the video show ended and Full House ended I just wanted to be a director. So I directed three TV movies and a feature and two TV shows. So that was four years of my life where I did very little stand-up. I sometimes go and disappear for awhile. When I come back to stand-up, like this next journey and into next year, I'll really treasure. I'll work like a mofo.
I want to switch gears for a minute and talk about Bill Cosby, because I can't let you go without asking. It's been a pretty divisive topic in the comedy community.
Here's my pat answer: I really don't like to talk about it. I don't like to talk about anybody that does anything that hurts anybody. Anybody that makes bad choices.
I respect people that do [talk about it]. Like, kudos to Judd Apatow for being so verbal and stuff. There are jokes and I don't do them. It's just too painful. As sometimes immature and misogynistic as my stand-up might seem over the years, I have such high regard for women. My ex-wife, my three daughters, my ex-girlfriends — they seem to be mounting in number [laughs]. I’ve got thousands of ex-girlfriends! No, I've got, I don't know. A gaggle. I've got four or five ex-girlfriends. And I have nothing but respect for women. So I can't talk about it. It's funny, I had trouble talking about religion and politics and inhuman acts, unless it was The Aristocrats. Otherwise my humor and the things I like to talk about are silly or humanly, circumstantially humorous. But that whole thing is just um …. Sad.
I think I answered your question by not answering it.
Well, I don't want to go out on a "sad" note.
I don't know that people can get away with what they got away with for the past 60 years, with video now and Twitter. If there's anything great that's come out of this invasive viral stuff that we're in it's maybe a little bit more of self-policing and our actions and behavior.
And with that I always say, please no video recording or audio recording at my shows. Because I don't want to see a special assembled out of YouTube clips. You've got five camera phones going then you don't really need HBO or Showtime.
Do you ever call people out who are doing that?
In a large venue there's nothing you can do [but] my audiences have been respectful. That's why I really love my audiences. I did a thing at South by Southwest, and it was really wonderful because they didn't videotape. They want to have the human experience.
Bob Saget performs on Friday, September 18, and Saturday, September 19, at Stand Up Live, 50 West Jefferson Street. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Friday; 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $32 each for the 21-and-over event. Two-drink minimum required. For tickets and details, visit www.standuplive.com or call 480-719-6100. For more about the comedian, head to www.bobsaget.com.