THERE'S DANNY TANNER cradling the baby Olsen Twins, playing the straight man to Dave Coulier and not touching "the hair." And the years as America's chief purveyor of nut shots, flat oneliners, and fat chicks falling down.
Then suddenly, when he stood up in Half Baked and said, "I used to suck dick for coke," everything changed.
Spotless as Danny Tanner, Saget played for shock and got it. His torrent of dirty fuck jokes continued in The Aristocrats, Entourage, and an HBO standup special. But between these two poles, who is the real Bob Saget? And so, on an otherwise gray afternoon the phone rang.
"Bob Saget here," came over the line. "How are you?" He was driving, but promised to pull over if things got serious.
My comedian friends had prepared me for the worst. "Oh Jesus," they said. "Get ready for sad attempts to convince you he's blue" (the term for a filthy comic). But they were wrong. Saget, as it turns out, was doing blue material long before donning the sweater vest.
"I've been doing it for 35 years," he says. "I started when I was 17." Referring to LA's golden age of standup, as described in the new book I'm Dying up Here, Saget says, "I was there." And it's true, he was, although he is mentioned in the book just once, in passing. Saget is happy to fill in the details.
"It was a weird life," he says. "I went to the Comedy Store and I emceed the room for, like, eight years, working for almost nothing." He goes on to tell some of his earliest jokes. "My act goes: I have no life, I have no friends, and I live in a moped." It's awkward, but he tells another. "I have the brain of a German Shepherd and the body of an 18-year-old boy. They're both in my trunk and I don't want you to see them." Saget seems halfway to acknowledging the jokes are odd and stupid. "It's all about weird, inappropriate stuff," he says.
When he got both the Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos jobs, Saget didn't think they'd last (each ran for nearly a decade). And though he says he's "guilty as charged" of writing the jokes on America's Funniest Home Videos, he's thankful. "I've come to embrace them—I wouldn't have the audience that I get to have now," he says. "I literally feel like I'm just starting my career."
So is Saget worried about being pigeonholed as a dirty comic in this new career? "I was pigeonholed [as being a] G-rated talent," he says. "Pigeonholing sounds like a terrible thing to do to an animal. The term pigeonholing sounds like you're animal abusing." Uh huh. "This is how badly I'm trying to make people laugh at the stupidest, dumbest, sex-with-animals material," he admits, but continues to riff. The joke is going nowhere. "Allow me to be more clear: Pigeonholing sounds like you're doing something to an animal."
"I get it, Bob."
"I'm just trying to kid. I know you got it"—but he continues relentlessly. "I want to read the term 'pigeonholing' 12 times in your paper." He's not done: "It's illegal in four states." And thus, I discovered the crux of Bob Saget's comedy: cloying. The man, however, is pretty genuine, caring, and optimistic for a guy who knows he's often the butt of the joke. Even if that joke is often funnier than the ones he's telling.