“I just couldn’t stop,” says Bob Saget. He’s speaking over the phone about his most recent run of stand-up performances, in preparation for a new hourlong taped special, which saw him exceeding —sometimes even doubling — his allotted 60 minutes of stage time.
After a conversation with Saget, that isn’t hard to believe. He’s prone to riffs and tangents, sometimes mid-thought; his response to the question “How are you?” encompasses his history with Birmingham (“I’ve been there before. I don’t remember when”); the plot of the movie he’ll be directing and starring in this summer (“It’s a low-budget, independent movie about a kid that is supposedly on crystal meth, and a family intervention is called on Facebook”); and the role his mother’s death plays in his new material (“I’m making light of stuff that’s incredibly serious”).
But it isn’t quite a monologue; it’s conversational and friendly. Saget seems happy to riff on whatever topic is thrown at him, always ending in a different place than where he began. It’s not hard to imagine him onstage, checking his watch and realizing just how far he’s strayed from his planned material.
Saget became a household name with the ABC sitcom Full House, which originally ran from 1987 to 1995. He starred on that show as Danny Tanner, a widower struggling to raise his three children with the help of his live-in best friends. (Saget now occasionally appears on the Netflix-produced sequel series, Fuller House, which he calls “a gift” because he “get[s] to play with the people I’ve loved forever,” including stars John Stamos and Dave Coulier.)
Saget’s amiable, family-friendly persona on-screen led to a job as the first host of the long-running series America’s Funniest Home Videos, a role he held for eight years. His presentation of that show’s broadly humorous pratfalls often betrayed hints of a more subversive comedian; he’d find a way to include bizarre, abstract innuendo — though still mild enough for television audiences — into, for example, bits about how much he loved his car.
But even with those hints of mischievousness, there’s still a cognitive dissonance that comes from comparing Saget’s television work to his stand-up material, which is gleefully profane. It’s something Saget seems to be aware of; his memoir, released in 2014, is titled Dirty Daddy: Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian. In his 2007 HBO special, That Ain’t Right, he gives advice to a young man in the audience with the same kind of gently paternalistic tone he brought to his Full House role — except, in this case, the advice goes into detail about why the student should not have sex with a variety of animals.
But while Full House has naturally cast a shadow over Saget’s later career, he believes he’s been doing stand-up long enough that the novelty has worn off. “People have seen enough of my specials,” he says. “It’s not like, ‘Let’s go see Danny Tanner curse,’ [though] they do get to see that.
“Some people don’t know Danny Tanner was a character, and that’s kind of sad,” he continues, talking about the shocked reaction his stand-up can elicit. “They think that’s me, but that’s not possible. It doesn’t even make any sense, because people don’t talk like they do on Full and Fuller House, because if people talked like that, we’d be living in the movie Pleasantville with Tobey Maguire. We’d be robots. It’s two-dimensional, that show.”
But Saget, 60, isn’t just working to differentiate himself from that early, family-friendly persona. He doesn’t feel as much of a connection with his stand-up from 10 years ago, either, which he says was “dirtier” than his current material.
“That’s not the guy that I am today,” he says, about That Ain’t Right, a special which he says saw him “using F-bombs as rim shots.”
“That was 2007, and I’m different than that guy now,” he says. “I think it’s because of life experience and therapy. I’ve just evolved a bit.” There are still staples of his old act that he brings along — bawdy songs like “Danny Tanner Was Not Gay,” for example — but his new material addresses a broader range of topics including death, relationships, and becoming a father. “It’s probably my most mature, immature [material],” he says. “The world is so painful, and comedians always observe that because it’s their job… There’s a philosopher in everybody, no matter how silly your act might be.”
There’s a clarity of purpose that Saget is bringing to his tour — something that he repeatedly calls an “obligation.”
“It’s funny — a lot of comedians, a lot of actors, a lot of us just feel more of a need, in the way the world is right now, to get out there and entertain people,” he says. “It’s crazy. I just feel like I’ve got to perform. Even if I wasn’t preparing for a special, I’ve got a feeling.”
But he’s not aiming for escapism, he says. He cites a conversation he had with his friend Norman Lear, who created sitcoms like All in the Family and Sanford and Son, and who he describes as “like f—ing Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
“He was like, ‘No, you’re not taking people out of [reality],’” Saget says. “‘The beautiful thing about what you’re doing is, you’re bringing people immediately into their life. But you’re bringing them into it with you, and you’re spending that hour or two with them. And everybody is in it together. They’re in their life. They’re not escaping it… It is the best thing you can do. It’s everybody from every walk of life that comes to your show, and they’re all sharing the same thing at the same time. That’s the miracle of live performing, and that’s the miracle of theater and great stand-up.”
Saget sees that as his way of addressing growing divisions in the world, rather than addressing current events head-on. “I do say I’d rather talk about everything below my belt more than the news, because even if it’s not more interesting, talking about my weiner is healing,” he says. “The whole point is the silliness… I kind of do a tiny bit [of political material] because I can’t take it any more. [But] I’d rather do songs.
“I’ve always done a lot of music in my stand-up shows, and I’ve got a bunch of new songs. I’m closing with one which is kind of my version of “We Are the World,” you know, except — It’s about being kind to each other, but it’s also about, ‘Don’t mess around with each other’s private parts.’ You know, stuff like that.”
Bob Saget will perform at the Stardome in Hoover on Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8. His Friday show begins at 7:30 p.m.; on Saturday, he’ll perform at 7 p.m. and again at 9:15 p.m. Mike Young will open. For more information, visit stardome.com.