The Bob Saget Interview

Published On April 30, 2012 | By Isaac Kozell | Interviews
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Photo c/o Stephen Seebeck

My cell phone rings. Private number. “Hello,” I answer.
“Isaac?”
“Yeah.”
“Hey. This is Bob Saget. How you doing, man?”

Saget immediately starts by reassuring me that this isn’t going to be “one of those pretentious L.A. interviews.” As it turns out, it’s a murky day in L.A. He just brought his garbage cans in from the curb. Some guys are coming over to install outdoor lighting. He’s doing what he describes as “normal life things.”

During the thirty-two minutes of our interview, Saget, who is appearing at the Pittsburgh Improv on May 4th and 5th, covers a vast range of subjects: From his early days in comedy opening for strippers – to his success as a network television nice guy – to hitting the road again in preparation for his upcoming one-hour special. Listening to Bob Saget talk is like listening to jazz. He tends to wander and riff, but once you find the rhythm, you realize you’re hearing something uniquely entertaining.

Isaac Kozell: So, in addition to “normal life things,” what is else happening with you right now?
Bob Saget: I’m doing stand-up for the next couple of months, getting myself ready for this special. I’m doing more clubs than I’ve done in a long time. Colleges and casinos too. Coming to a place like The Pittsburgh Improv really helps me do what I do. I get more one-on-one contact with people, which is advantageous.

IK: The special you have coming up, is it another one-hour deal?
BS: Yeah. It’s an hour special.

IK: How do you feel about the model that Louis C.K. rolled out recently, an online format that is released directly to the fans?
BS: Well, I think it’s great. He’s brilliant. One of the best people doing stand-up now and a friend of mine. But I’m not going to do the direct online streaming model. My last special was four years ago. I had an HBO special, which was great because they do all of that wonderful promotion. It’s a big, cool place to do it. There are many other places you can go to now. What I want to do and what Louis has been an example of, is that you want to be able to own your special. It’s your hour. You created it. You wrote it. You performed it. It takes a few years to come up with a new hour, so you might as well be able to own it if you can. I also want it to be seen by the fans the right way. I’m just concentrating on making it as fun as I can.

IK: You’ve been doing standup for over thirty years. Do you feel that where you are right now as a comedian is 100% you?
BS: I don’t think that ever happens. I love what I’m doing right now because I never know what’s going to happen on stage. I’m pushing boundaries. But I always wish that I was a great philosopher with an immense amount of knowledge that I could take and put a comedic spin on. That’s one of the hardest things to do. My performances aren’t, “What are we all doing here?” My performances are more like, “This is going to be fun. This is going to be silly.” It’s really about the exchange with the audience.
I have a built-in audience of people that know me. They know that when I was on a sitcom twenty-five years ago, that was a character. Hosting a bloopers show, that was a job that I did to the best of my ability. Then, there are all of these other strange things that I’ve done and continue to do, that when meshed together, create a funny situation. There’s a schizophrenia to my comedy.

IK: There are things you’ve done recently that have a strong improv vibe. Do you walk into a show with an idea of four or five specific things you want to talk about, or do you just go with it and see how the audience reacts?
BS: I have at least a thousand things I want to remember to put in there somewhere. It’s not as “improvy” as it seems. I could show you all of the notes on my iPhone and you would say, “Holy crap! It’s all in there!” Things you wouldn’t want to read, or hear, or even know. And I can’t help but say them. There are a few stories that have a beginning, middle and end. There is a huge amount of jokes that have to be done in a certain way and I want to do them right.

IK: Give me a memorable story from the road.
BS: The worst road story, the most torturous, was when I played a strip club in Alaska that a lot of us road comics would go to. Jay Leno worked it. Everybody worked it. I actually went with Kevin Nealon. We weren’t there to meet girls. We were like, “Let’s do our comedy and get the hell out of here.” The show was one of the hardest situations you could have. The audience was stoned. Pot and guns were legal. Which is a lovely combination. So, the stripper goes on stage and she has these little pads on her chest and over her groin. She lit them on fire with matches and danced around for a while before blowing herself out. Then, through a haze of sulfur and smoke, they announce, “Now the comedy of a new, young guy, Bob Saget!” It was a nightmare.

IK: You have people that identify with you as the family-friendly guy that they used to watch on Friday nights and Sunday evenings. Then there’s The Aristocrats and Entourage Bob Saget. In your comedy, you seem to play off of both of these personas, while not fully committing to either one. You’re dodgy, which keeps the audience guessing. Is that strategic?
BS: It’s part of boredom. It’s part of what a lot of artists want to do which is, you want to change. I don’t want to become pegged as just one thing.

IK: What would you say is the state of comedy right now?
BS: It’s pretty great because there are a lot of new styles that are coming out and becoming part of our society. That Largo kind of comedy, almost anti-comedy, has given us some of the biggest stars. People that talk in a more esoteric way are now driving the train. That’s invigorating. A lot of the comedy you see now on TV, like The Office and Parks and Recreation, has that great dryness, cleverness and character.
It’s not how it was when I started. In the 80’s it was all rock ‘n roll comedy. It was huge. Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Leno, Letterman. It was always like a rock concert. Today, in some ways, it’s better than it’s ever been because there are so many levels.

(At this point, I’m thinking deeply about what Saget had just said, therefore, creating a terribly long moment of silence.)

BS: You didn’t hang yourself while I was talking, did you?
IK: Sorry. Full disclosure, Bob, I’m into a little bit of autoerotic asphyxiation, which I do during all of my interviews. I thought your agent told you about that. It was in my notes.
BS: Oh, yeah. I actually asked for that specifically.

IK: Do you still keep up with your old cast mates?
BS: A lot of them, yeah. All of the people from Full House I talk to a lot. I talk to John Stamos much too much.

IK: As a child, the first thing I saw of yours that surprised me was the R-rated comedy Critical Condition with Richard Pryor. That was my first exposure to you being somebody that my parents might not want to have over for dinner.
BS: That’s funny because the producers of that movie saw my part and thought I would be great for the role in Full House.

IK: Do you have any relation to Pittsburgh?
BS: One of the times I played Pittsburgh, I opened for Rupert Holmes, the guy that sang the “Pina Colada Song.” I opened for him at the Holland Inn House, which I don’t even know if it exists anymore.
Another time I worked with a comedian in Pittsburgh who wanted to impress me. Kind of in “Jackass” fashion, he drank cologne. British Sterling or something. He was really proud of himself. But that’s not my kind of comedy. Before you drink a gallon of something that’s poison, you should ask me, “Is this going to bring you any pleasure?”
This [The Improv] I hear is a really great club. I think George Lopez is there a week before me and I’ve had a ton of friends that have played there and said, “You’re gonna love that club.”
IK: It’s not so small that it feels like a dive and it’s not so big that you lose intimacy.
BS: That’s kind of how I like my women. I like when they’ve been with less than 200 people. If they’ve been with more than 600, forget that!
IK: Is there a resume that a woman has to turn into you that documents their sexual history and any special interests they have?
BS: Yeah. Horseback riding, swimming. I like to know what they’re into. Actually, the truth of it is, I wouldn’t say I’m a single man. I’ve been in a relationship for a couple of years that’s pretty great. This riffing will add nothing but viral pain when she googles my name and sees this article. You gotta be careful. You can’t even talk to your pal in Pittsburgh anymore without it going online. Which is great because no matter where you write, you can get read. People in Turkey are going to want to come to the show because of this interview.

IK: So May 4th and 5th at the Pittsburgh Improv, two shows a night…
BS: Two shows a night. All new stuff that people haven’t seen.
I’m looking forward to coming back. I’ll go to Primanti Bros. because I remember how great it is. I’m actually going on a juice cleanse today to reconstruct what happened to me while I was on vacation the last two weeks. I’ll be cleansed by the time I get to you so I can destroy some Primanti Bros.

Saget is performing two shows each night at the Pittsburgh Improv this Friday and Saturdy. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased here.

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