Bob Saget puts the X in Gen X.


sagetHere’s a disclaimer: I’ve never seen Full House. I am aware of the characters and where the house is located in San Francisco, but the daily tribulations of the Tanner family escaped me. And yet, I feel like I grew up with Bob Saget. I saw him on Johnny Carson and the other talk shows of the day. I saw him as the host on AFV. To me he was, in some ways, the archetypal comic. A guy who could clean it up onscreen and throw it down live onstage. And when I look at his vast multi-faceted career as director/actor/writer what stands out is that he started with stand-up comedy and now, decades later, is still finding the most joy in performing live. Saget is doing 6 shows at the San Jose Improv March 23rd-25th. Tickets here:

Here’s another disclaimer. Saget is disarmingly curious and this interview begins like he is interviewing me.

SAGET: Saget here, how are you?

DNA: Thanks for calling.

My pleasure. How did you get the name DNA? How did you choose that?

I entered this comedy competition in Chico at Chico State in 1990. I didn’t have any material. I was on LSD backstage and I realized my initials were DNA, so I went with that. In 1990 it was really easy to change your name legally. So, I blame drugs.

It’s three syllables, which is smart.

And, I’m your genes!

You could have been IUD.

I could have been DOA, which is good for punk rock, not comedy.

You could have been a Jewish fraternity like ADA and not gotten laid.

That’s a given. I’m a comedian.

Where do you do most of your comedy?

I’m a Northern California guy. I won that competition in 1990 and didn’t do comedy again until 2008.  Will Durst was the host of that event. And now, decades later, I work with Will on Comedy Day in Robin Williams Meadow.

I did Comedy Day one year and they said it was a million people in the park. Others said, no way was it a million. As far as I could tell, yes it was. It was people as far as the eye could see and it kept going.

Back when it was at Crissy Field.

Yep. I was there. I used to come up all the time. I love playing up north. To me, it’s the best.

Right. Well Comedy Day has been in recent years in Sharon Meadow and last year, Debi Durst and the BOD had the name officially changed to Robin Williams Meadow. It’s every September and you should come this year.

My year is booked crazy, which is great, but I would love that. I’ve always loved Will, he’s a good guy. As you know, as well as I know and everybody knows, Robin shouldn’t be gone. It’s a sin against fucking nature, against comedy and against life. He was a muse. I knew him since I was 21 years old. It’s a crazy world, we used to play the Holy City Zoo (SF). Jeremy Kramer was the host, Robin was always on. You didn’t want to be onstage with Robin, he would find a way to upstage you whether he was going downstage or upstage, you were screwed.

You moved from the East Coast to LA in 1978 and worked the Comedy Store?

Yeah, exactly. I would come up North all the time. I would play the Punchline, but I didn’t love it as much as the other clubs. The Other, I opened Cobb’s, I closed Cobb’s, I played Cobb’s on Chestnut, I opened and closed Cobb’s in the Marina, I opened Cobbs’s in Wolfgangs and then it was no looking back. I would play wherever seemed good.

Did you do comedy in Philadelphia before you moved to LA?

Yeah, I did. It was weird. I was 17 and I entered a radio contest for WMMR which is like Alice out here. I won the contest singing a song, trying to be like Martin Mull who I looked up to. I wrote a song about bondage. I was 17. If a 17 year old kid sings a song about bondage, you’re going to win a radio comedy competition. I kept doing it and went to film school where I studied acting and then moved to LA. I suffered at the Comedy Store for eight years, trying to get a show. I worked my ass off. But I would always travel North to do shows. Love San Francisco, but I always loved San Jose too. When they opened the San Jose Improv, I fell in love with it. It’s the perfect size theatre. I’m trying to build a new hour. You might do a whole weekend and get a new five minutes that works. And Holy Shit, 20 more weekends and I’ll have maybe a half hour that works.

When you were grinding in LA, starting in ’78 that was the same time period as the Showtime show I’m Dyin’ Up Here?

The show is based on a guy I knew, Steve Lubetkin. He was a friend from New York. He had mental problems and he couldn’t handle it and he jumped off the Hyatt and hit the ramp, right next to the Comedy Store. It was an extreme situation that happens when you are desperate and you let it all get to you. When your whole life is getting spots at a comedy club, rather than realizing that if the club doesn’t put you up, go where they will put you up. It doesn’t matter where it is or who produces it, just go there. That was the same time I met Robin (Williams) and (David) Letterman was one of my first MCs. I met Richard (Pryor) and that spot was the holy grail of that time. I got there right after Freddy Prinze died, so I never got to meet him. But then I literally met everybody. Billy Crystal was really kind to me. He’s about to have his 70th birthday and I’m like Holy Shit. . .I’m 61 for gods sake, it’s bizarre. How old are you now?

I’m 55.

That’s a good age. Funny thing about comedians, they don’t sound their age, unless you’re Lewis Black. You sound years younger than you are, you sound about 35 years old.

I’m the world’s oldest millennial.

I’m Gen X.

Good era, computers and cyberpunks.

When you were hanging out at The Comedy Store watching legends, did you know how far they would go?

I kind of did. When I saw Michael Keaton do his stand-up he had this bit. Back then everybody stole each other’s bits. People that were lesser, that weren’t a Michael Keaton would take their bits. But, he would do this bit about his arms falling asleep and it was physical and he would flail his arms, he couldn’t wake them up. He would read the Bazooka Joe fortune on the bubble gum and would just keep twirling his arms around and reading the fortune for two minutes. It was self-indulgent comedy that was like Andy Kaufman, Monty Python and that was what I liked. It was off kilter. Steve Martin went commercial with it by being silly and brilliant. I knew from seeing Michael Keaton that he was going to be the biggest thing that ever existed. You knew watching Letterman. He only had a few jokes. Like about the toothpaste in the sink that gets hard makes a lovely after-dinner mint. That’s the only joke he had!!! It’s about who the person is. Robin was an anomaly. He could have done zero stand-up comedy and only done Mrs. Doubtfire and Good Will Hunting and The Birdcage and you still would have thought he was one of the most talented person on the earth.

To return to something you said. I recently talked with Carlos Mencia. He also said it was customary for lesser comics to steal the bigger comics material and do it onstage, like a homage.

Yes. But I never did. I never would. People would take my jokes and my attitude and use them onstage. There were guys that had my attitude and I thought why the fuck would you want my attitude? My attitude is to survive. I’m who I am onstage just to stay alive. One of my jokes is in two movies. I won’t say who, because they were great and I wish they were alive today and I would write them five new jokes just to see them for a minute. The joke is: No man is an island, but every man has a peninsula. It’s a stupid little joke, it’s fun, it’s a dick joke. We all come up with similar premises.

True. Comics material do sometimes bump into each other. 

There are things that happen in the world that everyone writes about. If somebody hasn’t come up with the same Trump joke as you, it would be strange. The joke that happens in the news lately, is something you could just read out of the newspaper onstage and it will be funny. If you think a Late Night host has stolen your joke, they have 12 writers locked in a room, they don’t have time to talk to anybody or with each other, it just happens. I did an interview where I said something in poor taste. It was for Entertainment Weekly. I have a lot of irreverent material I do and I have offended people over the years. When Full House was #1 and the video show was #7, I was onstage being dirty. But I have my kind of comedy that I find funny. Onstage I’m playing a character. I know what it’s like to entertain on a Sunday night. You don’t come out and do all wiener jokes. I’ve tried, but they wouldn’t laugh.

What was the joke in poor taste?

I had this joke about going on It’s A Small World in Disneyland. Again, something a lot of comics talk about. But I said it should be a shooting gallery. “It’s a world of ….BANG…’s a world of…….BANG” Some bitter comedian said I took that joke from him at the Ice House in Pasadena. I didn’t even know who he was and Entertainment Weekly printed his accusation in their letters to the editor. I wondered what was the best way to handle it, what do you do when you get falsely accused. I happened to come up with the same joke, why are they bashing me? That stuck in my craw. I’ve never stolen anything and if I hear something that is similar to somebody else, I cut it. In my special Zero to 60, I did a Cosby reference. He was one of my idols. I decided to check around and see if anyone else had written something similar. I looked at what Hannibal (Buress) was doing, what’s Chris (Rock) doing, what’s Dave (Chapelle) doing and I knew they weren’t doing the same bits.

So take the time to research your jokes.

That’s why comedians get so self-involved. You can write about yourself, a lot of that is just narcissistic. Or they do what Jerry does so brilliantly, which is talk about minutia. And, it’s the funniest fucking thing in the world. He lives in the moment. He has a new bit about postage stamps that makes me want to shit myself. Dave, who is at the top of the food chain, speaks the truth and does two hour sets. I did two hours once. My stuff is more silly and irreverent. That’s how I categorize it. Before I did Zero to Sixty in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, before I stepped onstage, I said to the producer, “This is going to be my cleanest special, ever”. After I got offstage, he looked at me and said, “That was your cleanest special ever?” Well, if you think about That Ain’t Right, I said “fuck” like it was drinking game. That one was filmed at NYU, so it was 20 year olds. I’ll never figure it out. All I know is, I’m changing and growing and trying to put more heart into what I’m doing. You interview a lot of comics, right?


It seems like there is more of a reason to do comedy now then there has been since the 60s. Everybody did comedy in the early 80s because they wanted to get a TV show. They wanted to be a star. It was an explosion of talent and like 50 great comedians rose to the top at the time. And a bunch of people that should have been accountants came out of it. Now it seems like the 60s where comics stood up and said, “No, this is wrong, this is an injustice.” The song I sing at the end of Zero to 60, “We’ve Got to be Kind to Each Other,” seems on point. Drop all the bullshit. Why don’t we look at all people as humanity? It’s not easy to be a comedian and address all that. At that point you are on a soapbox.

You look at Lenny Bruce when he got caught up in his lawsuits. Or even Tommy Smothers, who was a brilliant activist, said that the entirety of the war made him lose his sense of humor.

Funny, Norm McDonald, who is obviously a good friend of mine, and I were talking about Tommy Smothers the other day. Tommy Smothers was a huge influence over Steve Martin. Tommy had an innocence and was a good actor as well. Incredibly talented, Dick was too, but Tommy, for me was this sweet comic young man. I mean, I’m 61 but onstage I’m 9 years old. Maybe, 15. . . but in general, a lot of comedians have a youthfulness. They see things with their eyes open. Comics are supposed to be the outsiders, but in order to be an outsider and succeed onstage you learn to be likeable. It’s a trick. Sometimes its sincere and sometimes it’s just not. And now if he, or she, but usually he, is a comic that is likeable, but does something nasty and everyone finds out about it. . .and the next day, he’s at an orphanage.

Yep. Your actual friends are being taken down, which must suck. But it brings me back to what you said about this moment in time. It’s like the 60s, audiences want to know where you stand, which side are you on, are you a good person, can we trust you?

I just want to make people feel a little better. I’ll name drop, but Norman Lear is one of my idols. I don’t know anyone any smarter. He’s 96. He’s doing the Latino version of One Day at a Time. He’s doing a new show called Guess Who Died? About old people. That’s so funny and relevant. He’s amazing. He made all these amazing TV shows, stepped away and started Concord Music that owns a lot of major recordings. Ray Charles, Credence and he loves to further talent.

What makes stand-up different than anything else you do?

When I perform, I get to take people out of their lives. And the show becomes communal and we get to have an experience. Norman Lear told me, “No. You’re not taking people out of their lives, you are putting them into their lives. You’re putting them back into their lives.”

You’re also a director.

I just did this movie Benjamin that comes out later this year. The cast had a lot of people I like that are really strong. It was $500,000 and 15 days of shooting to make this movie. Rob Corddry, Kevin Pollack, Dave Foley, Clara Mamet, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Max Burkholder. I’m real proud of it.

Me and some of comedy friends are huge Dirty Work fans.

Thank you. It was a year of work. Written by Norm McDonald and Fred Wolf and Frank Sebastiano. It was a hard film to make. It was (Chris) Farley’s last movie. And that was sad as hell. I got to work with Don Rickels who I love like a dad and lost in the last year. And Norm and I are looking at maybe doing a sequel……oh, don’t tell nobody….oh, what the hell. But he’s got his Netflix special and I’m doing Fuller House. My fans probably have no idea what to expect, now they are scared of me.

No way man. You’re a human with lots of layers. I don’t know what I’m talking about but, I bet when Full(er) House fans come to see you, they are so happy to be there in the same room as you, you could say anything and not lose them.

You know what happens, DNA. I like calling you that, is they figure me out. Nobody thinks, “Oh my god, he’s not Danny Tanner, my childhood is ruined.” They have an IQ. I try to make everyone in on the joke. Some people call what I do “crowd work”, I call it “talking to people who show up.”

No Netflix for you?

No. They passed. But it’s doing real well on Amazon Prime. A joke you will enjoy, actually probably not now that I set it up like that, is, “Because it’s on Amazon Prime, with two clicks you can buy the special and the lotion.” I’m inferring people masturbate to my work. I mean, I do. I don’t to other people, just myself. I take care of myself.

Let’s not shake hands when we meet.

I’m going to chest bump wearing a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle shield.







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