In Advance of His Upcoming Hard Rock Live Concert, Comedian Bob Saget Talks About His Fondness for Cleveland

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click to enlarge In Advance of His Upcoming Hard Rock Live Concert, Comedian Bob Saget Talks About His Fondness for Cleveland
Brian Friedman
Actor, writer, director and stand-up comedian Bob Saget, 61, is perhaps one of the humblest personalities in the business.

He somehow doesn’t consider himself a celebrity despite dominating the ’90s as Danny Tanner in Full House and hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos (which can be argued was like a rough draft of today’s internet with its own viral and cringe-worthy videos).

He also describes his act on stage as “a 9-year old who just learned a bunch of bad words.”

The man proves to be more than both loveable Danny and dirty Bob. He recently directed and is starring in the forthcoming Benjamin, a dark, independent film. Saget’s stand-up career came to fruition when he honed his skills at a Cleveland comedy club many years ago, something he talks about in the following interview. He performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, at Hard Rock Live.

What’s your take on the role of comedians in social commentary these days?

It’s um, interesting. Even when I shot [Zero to Sixty] eight months ago, I would do things differently now… just the way the world changes. Everything just gets teed up a little more carefully and a little more responsibly because so much has happened. So many people have been hurt and so many people have been disrespected, and that’s something that I’m conscious of. I feel more responsible now. Sometimes [in comedy] it feels like there’s an overuse of being politically correct because what does that leave you? Or do you just talk about politics? That offends people that are not necessarily on the side you might be mocking. I think the answer to all of it is just to be as compassionate in general as a human being — no matter what you’re doing.

I recently directed a movie and just literally finished the sound mix the other day. I’m in it and it’s actually right on the cusp of where we’re at. It’s a dark comedy and it’s [about how] the adults are more messed up than the kid. I’m not spoiler alerting. It’s just kind of the obvious thing that would happen in a comedy that’s on a serious subject, a very serious subject. So as far as my stand-up goes, the Zero to Sixty and all of the performing I’m doing – when I’m going to Rocksino, I mean just the name alone – I wanna go to Rocksino. But the point is, I’m loving performing more than ever. I’ve always been a free– I was going to quote Tom Petty…that’s one of our big losses, we’ve had a lot of big losses. There’s been a lot. Just love him so much. But I’ve always let myself go with what the environment, what the audience is, what it feels like. My audience really ranges from 15 to death.

I was going to ask you how you profile a typical Saget fan.

It’s like a 25-year-old because they’re the people who watched the video show when they were little and then they watched Full House, of course.

That makes sense because most of my friends are Saget fans.

The world is completely askew because people think celebrity means something. I find it distasteful to categorize me as a celebrity, you know. I’m a comedian, I’m an actor, I just directed a movie, you know, I’m a writer. Those are the things that come with it. When people are excited to see you. Or when people make public appearances [laughs] and people come to see them do their – whatever the hell they do. Cut the ribbon at the market, or be there at the booth for their corporate event. But otherwise, you’re basically just Instagram-ing yourself. Everything has shifted. Even if I had done this interview six months ago…

I think [with] comedians…their job is to be a comedian. So, if people go ‘comedians have a responsibility’ then yeah, they do. My job is not to hurt people. My job is to have people come there and leave there going ‘Wow that was fun’ Or [even] just to hear them laughing together. I get quiet in my stand-up too now. Talk about life. It kind of grows as you do a special and you record it, you’re done and then you kind of take pieces from that and put that in your show and then new things start folding in as well. You can’t help but talk about death, you can’t help but talk about what happens to us as we go from zero to sixty [laughs].

But there are a lot of comedians who are my favorite people, I just did Hawaii with Bill Maher. You know we got in a little trouble here and there.
People have lost what sarcasm is and they don’t know what satire is. It’s almost a dying form right now. I can’t really complain because also I’m fortunate that people are seeing my shows and they’re liking them a lot – because they’re not leaving. The shows have been longer. I do feel more responsibility but basically, I feel like I just wanna be there more. I just want to perform longer, or the audience wants to be there longer, or they get involved in it. It’s a human experience. It’s the oldest form of whatever the heck it is we do. It’s not just public speaking. Making people laugh…it’s the best.

Is stand-up your first love then or are movies more exciting?

I always loved movies the best, but I love stand-up more than I ever thought I would. So, I’m more engaged in it now than I’ve ever been in my whole life. I did it because I had no choice. I just did it. It just happened. I had a guitar and I would do music parodies – I still do music in my show; they’re comedy songs. Kind of like Martin Mull who was one of my idols. I’d watch him and think he was the best and people don’t know how great he was. Mainly he was this great musical comedian. I do love directing a lot. There’s another project I’m talking about making as soon as we can make deals and all that crap. But I’m real engaged. Whatever I’m doing, I put everything I have into it. So that’s kind of real true about stand-up. When I’m doing it, it’s my favorite. When I come home and finish the movie and I go into the press of the movie – which will be middle of the year, that’ll be a whole different thing. So, I guess I love writing too when I’m writing. I would say it’s neck-and-neck now. I would say [generally] I really love performing.

Recently, on What Watch Happens Live with Andy Cohen, you talked about the continuing headlines regarding the treatment of women in Hollywood and what needs to change. Do you think there will be progress?

Yeah, I do. I mean, you read about things… I read something yesterday where one actor’s salary was 10,000 times the other actresses and it’s like ‘what?’ We’re also looking for stories. We’re looking for anything. The press is looking for as much garbage as they can get on anybody. But I do think this is stopping a lot of predators and a lot of people that have taken advantage. I’ve known nothing but people that have, over the years, gone ‘I’m gonna produce this movie and I like her; let’s hire her.’ That’s dog-nature and I’ve been hearing it a long time.

It’s pretty disturbing. So, I think [with] what people are saying, there is some good that will come out of it. Frankly, you know, when Oprah spoke at the Golden Globes, that speech was in the right form. It was a magical thing to hear someone speak from their heart again. And speak, not just of women’s rights, but human rights. There’s a lot of good men, you know? That’s just what we seem to forget. But there’s a lot of despicable people… It’s just enough already. People go ‘Oh this person’s getting taken down.’ It’s like [sarcastic tone] ‘Oh, really? Oh, that’s too bad.’ [laughs].

My experience with some of the people… it’s shocking and sad. There might be other sides to it but my experience with a lot of the people that have been accused it’s just like…besides being sad… Just because someone has this amazing talent doesn’t mean they can walk free. I do think we need to police this and there is no other way to police things unless we evolve as a society and we certainly are not evolving in government right now. But maybe we are. Maybe this big fall backwards in everything and this transparency that we’re going through… it becomes very obvious when you wait for your leader’s tweet the next morning to go ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.’ It becomes ‘Oh, that’s where we’re at.’

So, all it will mean is we need a hero. We need a hero or heroine. We need a man or woman, or men or women, to be heroes and try to make this world a better place and try to make sense out of things rather than send time back 75 years. But a lot of people in my audience believe everything is on course and that we are fine. My job is not to argue with them. My job is, if they’re not happy, and they’re not laughing or I’m too R-rated that night– because I mean I vacillate. My audience is really– I mean it’s South Park, you know. It’s Family Guy.

It used to be ‘Oh look what Bob’s done’ or ‘Oh you’re really not Danny Tanner?’ It’s like, ‘Well that’s absurd.’ What would he do on stage? The fact that [some] people don’t understand that you’re playing a character, or that I played it so convincingly, so they thought that A). I wasn’t funny B). I never cursed, and C). I didn’t have a warped sense of humor, which is how I started when I was, you know, 9. So that just doesn’t make any sense. My whole thing is that people have fun. Actually, that’s why I love playing a place like [Rocksino] actually. It’s funny, I’ve talked to a bunch of different artists and they go ‘Oh I’ve played the Rocksino. I like that place.’ And that’s kind of my audience too. When that’s my audience, it’s a pretty fun night. I think I’m more myself in this new special. It’s a little off the rails sometimes but it’s still all-in-fun and I mean, I close with ‘We’ve gotta be kind to each other.’

Yes, you’ve mentioned that Zero to Sixty largely emphasizes being kind. It feels like there may be some Danny crossover in Bob the comedian?

I am part him. I just played this guy that’s totally messed up in this movie [Benjamin]. It’s as if Danny Tanner went off the rails. It’s definitely not my stand-up character. I played a pastor on Broadway in a play called Hand to God two years ago and that was big challenge and a remarkable thing to be able to do. So, it’s the same type of thing. I guess if you play a character for eight years, they just figure that’s how you answer the door in the morning.

It’s strange how an audience can’t detach from a character.

I guess professionally it shows range. If you’re at your in-law’s home, you’re not gonna use the same language that you’d use with your girlfriends or boyfriends. You’d say, ‘Oh my God, I had to be so behaved around my in-laws.’ Meanwhile, the in-laws are up late at night watching R-rated HBO movies.

That’s very true.

Sexuality is the other thing that’s so confusing right now because people can’t make moves on people and they can’t do things that are borderline predator. They really have to have some dignity for a change. If a guy is out and has to have sex with somebody every night, they’ve got a problem. I’m guessing it’s a clinical problem. I wouldn’t know. I mean I’ve got a fiancé. I’m kinda like finally settled down. I can’t live the same type of Entourage-borderline life I used to live years ago, which I did sometimes have moments of. This is what people are interested in talking about.

People are good, you know? We’re just in a really screwed up time. I mean just don’t kill something, you know? Don’t hate something. Don’t hate people. Don’t abuse people. How hard is that to figure out? But if some in the country think it’s okay to do those things, they’re misguided, and they’ve been given a voice. I don’t pay mind to that voice. I can’t. It’s so damaging at night to watch the news. Just give me John Oliver and Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher and Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel and I’m a happy man. Let me get my news from them.

When’s the last time you were in Cleveland?

Well, I started there. Cleveland was a good comedy town and it was one of the places I would go to all the time. I would go to this Cleveland comedy club when I was just starting out and they were very good to me. There’s a bit in my special about it. And I hope…I hope she’s not mad at me. I mentioned someone that wanted to fool around, and I didn’t wanna do it. It was during a time when 'ludes were popular, which is in The Wolf of Wall Street, and it’s in the special. One of the first clubs I’ve ever played was the Cleveland Comedy Club. It was right by the parking lot of the Stadium now. It used to be a chicken slaughtering house and then they put comedians in it. That is pretty cool to me that after all this time I’m coming back there [to Cleveland] in a completely different way.

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