Interview Date: 11/23/2010
Run Date: 11/30/2010
It isn’t as easy to pinpoint how people recognize Bob Saget as it used to be. First, he was just the happy-go-lucky guy who played dad to the Olsen Twins (not to mention Candace Cameron and Jodie Sweeten) on “Full House” and hosted “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but then people started to hear about his stand-up and how it featured material that was decidedly different from his prime-time persona. Somewhere along the line, Saget also earned a certain degree of recognition for his directorial efforts, including Norm MacDonald’s “Dirty Work,” he occasionally turns up playing an exaggerated version of himself on “Entourage,” and you can also hear his voice every week as he narrates “How I Met Your Mother.” Yes, that’s right: he’s Future Ted. Now, he’s taking on reality television, hosting A&E’s latest series, “Strange Days with Bob Saget.” When Bullz-Eye had the chance to chat with Saget, we asked him about all of these projects and more.
Bob Saget: Hey, how are you? This is Will…?
Bullz-Eye: It is!
BS: A pleasure, sir.
BE: Same here, especially since I understand that you actually used to live right here in my area: Norfolk, Virginia.
BS: Are you kidding me?
BE: I am not.
BS: Wow! Where do you live there?
BE: Well, technically, I live in Chesapeake, in an area called South Norfolk. But Norfolk is literally a five-minute drive from here.
BS: Holy crap! That’s fascinating! Say “hi” to everyone for me, would you?
BE: (Laughs) I certainly will. Well, I’ve watched two episodes of “Strange Days with Bob Saget” thus far, and I’ve enjoyed it, but I’ve got two relatively obvious questions to lead with: how did you come up with the concept of the series, and how did you go about selecting the ideas for the individual episodes? Because the two episodes are pretty different from each other.
BS: Yeah, they’re really all different. It’s a crazy thing. I guess it’s meant for the ADD in all the people involved. I thought of this idea, I guess, 12 years ago or something like that, where I’d be able to put myself into anyone’s house that I wanted to, and it never really came to fruition or got anywhere. And then I worked on it for the past two years, I guess, and had collaborations with my management company, Brillstein Entertainment. And then I met with these guys at Tijuana Entertainment, who got it right away: Troy Searer and John Foy and this guy named Carter Mays, who’s a really good producer. And we just decided to do a thing that was more anthropological. I went to film school…actually, I went to Temple University and was a documentary film student…and this was just something that felt anthropological to me, and we all thought it would be cool if I could add my comedic whatever it is to it. Basically, I just kind of lock and load, landing by parachute into this world…and stay in a mysterious but really nice hotel that you never see on the air… (Laughs) …and just get to know people in a real way without fear, without deifying them nor slandering them, and allow people to look inside a culture that we might not be familiar with, and also into things that I was always interested in. My little… (Hesitates) I don’t want to say “bucket list” because whenever I say that, people always go, “Oh, are you sick?” No, I’m just working hard. (Laughs) But it’s stuff like…I never went to camp, so I went to a summer camp, and it was really cool. But you wouldn’t put me with 12, 13, 14-year-old boys. It’s not a prerequisite to put me and my varying senses of humor with kids, but it was appropriate. I did curse once, but it was to a horse. It was just me and a horse walking around, and I told him that he was hung like a horse.
BE: Or, really, just hung like himself.
BS: Perfect. (Laughs) And, like, to be able to just go through things like…I’m not an Ivy League kid. I went to Temple and was proud of it, and I’ve performed at Cornell, but to be able to have access to the campus like they gave us…? We were kind of shocked. I’ve done something right that they didn’t go, “No, that’s Bob’s show, we’re not letting you guys in.” (Laughs) And the wrestling episode…that was a world I didn’t know. We did backyard wrestling, Lucha Libre, Nacho Libre, and then went on to Dragon Gate, semi-professional and professional wrestling, and, y’know, those were worlds that I knew nothing about except for what I’d watched as a kid. But the Bigfoot episode…I’m fascinated by paranormal stuff, anyway. That’s not paranormal, obviously, but it’s a giant creature, there have been sightings… (Starts to laugh) Well, you’ve seen the episode. We know he’s not Jewish, but that’s about all we know about him.
BE: Yeah, y’know, that guy was pretty quick to declare that Bigfoot isn’t Jewish, too. I’m, like, “Wait, is he being anti-Semitic?”
BS: (Laughs) It was really amazing. We actually just did the sound mix on that episode, and I’m, like, “Please, make that ‘definitely not’ louder.” As quickly as a person can possibly answer. “Definitely not.” But, you know, the guy’s eating lox, he’s eating salmon and apples and Danish…it sure looked like a nice spread for a Sunday to me. And I believe, as you saw on the show, that his teacups and saucers don’t match, and he’s on the run. (Laughs) ‘Cause he’s ashamed that he’s not Bigfoot, really. But, you know, to be able to go each week and do something that’s completely different is something that feeds me. I just love that, ‘cause it’s got its own formula. It does have its threads that go through it. I am Sidecar. I am Peppermill. That’s my name in the frat, named after a donkey on “Full House” that got aroused.
BS: Yeah, that’s going to be on TV. I can’t help it. It’s too late now. We shot it and we’ve edited it. (Laughs) But it leaves things open for us to explore a lot of other worlds. We really wanted to do Burning Man, but it didn’t work out with our schedule, because that was in September. But we’re going to hope for success, and if people like it, we’ll do as many as we can before I lose my voice. (Clears throat) But it takes about 60 hours to shoot each one, and…I think we put 100 hours in post-production into each one, because it’s so much stuff back and forth with the network people. It’s not been a bloodbath, though. It’s always hard to do anything good, but it’s such a luxury to work with people who are so collaborative and so loving of a project. Everyone that’s worked on it, from every production company and definitely through A&E, there’s no butt-kissing ‘cause it’s just…I mean, this guy Scott Lonker picked the show up on the phone! Rob Sharenow, this guy Bob DiBitetto, and Abbe Raven, who runs the network, they’re just really cool people, and they wanted to see what would happen and give us some free reign…within reason. So we’ll see what happens. But I’m very proud to be promoting it. It’s a very jazz-like show to me.
BE: Well, you know, I think it’s a testament to how interesting it is that I didn’t particularly want it to end at the 30-minute park. Certainly that was how I felt about the episode where you joined the motorcycle club. I definitely didn’t feel like I’d seen enough.
BS: Thanks! Yeah, they were hour shows at first. The very first one we went and shot was in the Ukraine, where we were trying to get guys mail order brides, and that was a very complex episode. We don’t know what we’re going to do with it. We’ll see how the ratings are. We would like to… (Clears throat again) Excuse me, I’ve been talking so much, obviously, and I apologize for not stopping. I get on this crazy treadmill of running and talking. But it’s an episode that was the strangest, probably, that we shot. And what’s amazing and what I love about the process of this show, which you don’t get luxury on, is that it was able to find itself. We started these a year ago. I was talking about it a year ago, and that’s all I did. I went and did stand-up, took off five months to do the filming, and then we would edit, and I’d work on some other projects while still working on this. And then I’m touring, too. This show, though, is an interesting entity all of itself that I’m just…it kind of feels a little bit like my stand-up in some ways, ‘cause it exercises that muscle of “you have a directive, you know where you’re going to end up, but you don’t know how you’re going to get there.”
BE: I guess it makes sense then that…and I mean this in the best possible way…the episodes are kind of all over the place. For instance, in the motorcycle club episode, you start off at a table, sounding nervous around these bikes, and it’s kind of funny, but then you go to a biker funeral, and it was legitimately poignant.
BS: And it was poignant to be there, and to watch it…? It’s funny…no, it’s not funny, but it was interesting when I did the sound mix the other day on the motorcycle club episode. Not bikers. They don’t enjoy being called bikers. Actually, the Iron Order guys came to my show in Washington, DC. A hundred of them came to my show, and I walked out on stage at the Warner Theater and asked, “Who the fuck are we?” And, like, a fifteenth of the audience yells out, “Iron fucking Order!”
BS: Yessir! (Laughs) What’s really interesting about it is that we would laugh and…we don’t make fun of anybody on this show, you know? It is what it is. Naked Dave is coming up to me, and we scramble the signal ‘cause he’s naked. I mean, he’s Naked Dave! So Dave’s gonna take his shots. He’s coming in. He knows it. And I take shots at myself ‘cause that’s what I do. But then I’m watching it in the sound mix, and our sound engineer who’s working on it, he really hasn’t seen it before. He hasn’t lived it for a year like we have. So he’s watching it almost like you watched it. It’s a fresh set of eyes watching it, and I just sat there and watched, too. I’m watching the memorial. I look at Little Killer, this kid who’s about to go on TV, on this show, and expose his emotions, and…we wanted to be as kind and treat him with as much dignity as we possibly could. It’s required. And the same thing applied when I went to camp with these four kids. These four kids are the cutest, nicest boys, but it felt like…you know, I’m not hanging out with them, because that would be wrong. (Laughs)
BE: Well, for instance, in the episode where you’re with these guys who hunt for Bigfoot, you’re not making fun of them, per se, but at the same time, they all pretty much seem to have a sense of humor about what they’re doing.
BS: And that’s what so cool. They’re characters. They really are. Matt, the guy who drove the car without his hands, I’ll bet you…I mean, I know…that people are going to watch this episode and go, “I want to go on that trip. I want exactly the same trip.” (Laughs) Hey, they got me into it. I was believing in Bigfoot for a few days.
BE: Now, there’s no credits on the screeners I’ve got, but can I presume that’s you singing the show’s theme song?
BS: I did sing the theme song. There will be no credit of that. (Laughs) But in the actual show…the press people of consequence, yourself included…
BE: Why, thank you.
BS: …didn’t get the actual credits because we got you the screeners as quickly as we could. But the new version, what the show’s actually going to look like, is a wide shot of me singing the song live. I didn’t lip-synch it. I’ve got a guitar, and I’m sitting on a park bench which is floating in the clouds, and it’s just nebulous and…it’s in the sky, and the clouds are moving, and I’m floating. And then the title just comes down. It’s that simple. What you’ve got, I think, is just white lettering on a black screen, and if the title hadn’t looked as cool when we shot it…? We did it to make it look cooler. It was kind of our wannabe Hopper moment. (Laughs) Otherwise, it would’ve been exactly what you saw. But, yeah, I sang that song in the shower, and they said, “Why don’t you just record it?” So I said, “Cool.”
BE: I wanted to ask you about a couple of other things you’ve worked on.
BE: I was actually at the TCA table read for “How I Met Your Mother,” and…
BS: (Laughs) That’s funny, because I just talked to someone else who was, too! That’s such a beautiful show. I love having anything to do with that show. It’s hilarious. But I forget that I work on it until people talk to me about it!
BE: I think it’s cool that, even though you’re not onscreen, you still try to make it to as many table reads as possible.
BS: I would love to go to every table read there is. It’s just that, this past year, I’ve been out and running. And I always feel a little weird, too. (Laughs) It’s Josh (Radnor’s) show, and it’s funny to me, because…he’s a really sweet guy. I actually met his mother not long ago, which is kind of ironic. It was at Sundance, for this movie that he directed (“Happythankyoumoreplease”) and I went to the screening of it. It was funny to meet his actual mother. We look like we could be related, but…I don’t know how he would become me. He’d have to drink for, like, a month straight.
BE: Well, we don’t know what the future holds. Maybe he will.
BS: Hang on, I’m sorry, but I really need to clear my throat. (Vanishes from the phone for a moment) Sorry about that. That’s what happens when you start talking at 5 AM.
BE: I’m a big fan of “Dirty Work,” and…
BS: Oh, man! Seriously, why don’t you just get me flowers? This is unbelievable. I mean, that’s just the nicest thing you could possibly say to me.
BE: Well, I’ve been a Norm MacDonald fan for years.
BS: Hey, me, too.
BE: And you directed an episode or two of his sitcom as well, didn’t you?
BS: I did. But that was just hanging out with Norm, really. (Launches into a Norm MacDonald impression) “Saget! Why don’t you direct one of them?” “Okay. I’m not really good at that four-camera thing.” “Ah, who cares? You directed the movie. Just come hang out with us!” He’s brilliant.
BE: So when did you first try your hand at directing ?
BS: Well, like I said, I actually went to film school at Temple University, and I won the student Academy Award for a documentary I made about a young man who had his face reconstructed…and he narrated it. So I always loved directing and, really, I didn’t think I’d do anything but direct. And then I went to USC film grad school for three days as a directing student, but I quit because Mitzi Shore told me I could work at the Comedy Store for free. And I did for about eight years off and on…and then I got paid when they started paying people. And I did little TV things here and there, and I got a couple of jobs over about eight or ten years. But it was a long journey, and I always wanted to get back to directing. And, you know, I was always directing things when I could. I directed four TV movies. I did one for my sister, in her memory, called “For Hope,” which was about when my sister passed away from scleroderma. And after that, Norm had seen a couple of things that I’d made and thought I’d be right to direct that movie, as did the producer, Bob Simon, and MGM at the time. Until they went broke. (Laughs) I had nothing to do with that…even though I got a note that said I owed them $30 million personally for “Dirty Work.” I wanted to put out a director’s cut, because there are, like, five minutes that are just really filthy, but I’m just too busy.
BE: I’d love to see that.
BS: They’re really funny. I mean, Norm MacDonald…that movie was written by Norm McDonald, Fred Wolf, and Frank Sebastiano, and it’s in some kind of comedy zone, and I was happy to be part of it. It wasn’t a laugh riot to make it, because it was a year in the guerilla war house of comedy, but it was (Chris) Farley’s last movie, and I got to work with Jack Warden, Chevy Chase, Chris McDonald, and Artie Lange, who I love. You know the people who were in it. It was just a special, weird, rarified air of comedy people.
BE: I’m curious: does one actually direct Don Rickles, or do they just let him loose?
BS: I got in trouble for that. He’s a dear friend of mine now, and we’re very close. I really love him. It’s hard not to. But I’d turned two cameras on him and just let him talk, and I said that we’d just cut it together afterward. And everybody got mad at me. The director, George Folsey, said, “Ah, I can make something out of it.” But I always knew he could make something out of it. I mean, you shoot two hours of straight footage of a man riffing for a two-minute monologue, you’re going to wind up with something as long as you can get his hands and his energy to match. And George Folsey’s a masterful editor and was able to do it. But I got in trouble. I shot the entire week’s budget of film that day shooting Don Rickles, and I got in trouble.
BE: But wasn’t it worth it for you, ultimately, just to watch him?
BS: Oh, I love him. Love him. My dear friends Jeff Garlin and Jeff Ross…for Jeff Garlin’s birthday, we asked him what he wanted, and he said, “I want you and Jeff Ross to come with me to Vegas to see Don Rickles.” And I’ve become friends with Don through (John) Stamos, who’s very close with him, so I’ve gone and seen him many times in New Orleans or Vegas or wherever I can. And we just sat and watched him, then we went back and kissed his ring ‘cause he’s just so…I mean, it’s Don Rickles. There’s just no one like that. And, yeah, I was really reverential about it…and there’s a lot of nice footage of him saying what a piece of crap I am. (Laughs) He went on Jay Leno’s show, and he said, “Yeah, I’ve had a great career. I’ve had two directors: Martin Scorsese and Bob Saget. Yeah, I’m really doing great.” That’s how he went on to promote “Dirty Work”! But he’s one of the dearest people in my life.
BE: How did you enjoy the experience of working on “Entourage”?
BS: It’s really fun. It’s a really easy thing for me to do. I’ve known Doug Ellin for many years. He was a stand-up, he’s a really good writer, he’s a really good guy. I know all the guys. I’m friends with all of them in different ways, and I’ve gotten closer with them since I’ve done the show, obviously. And it’s just really easy. They write my voice, and I don’t change many words. I just try to do justice to what he writes, and…it’s a bad-ass version of me. It’s not a fleshed-out character. It’s just this person who makes you go, “Who the hell does this guy think he is?” And, oddly enough, he bears my actual name. But it’s a heightened version of me.
BE: Were you disappointed that neither “Surviving Suburbia” nor “Raising Dad” managed to last beyond a single season?
BS: You know, truth be known, I liked both shows. I really did. And, obviously, I was earnest about them both. In retrospect…I’m very hard on myself, I don’t like doing what I would deem in my snobbish mind two-dimensional characters, and sitcom is what it is, but here I was playing a dad again. I’m 54. The odds of me having a child in reality…? Not what they were. But, yeah, I had three girls on “Full House,” and now I had two daughters, played by Kat Dennings and Brie Larson, on “Raising Arizona.” I mean “Raising Dad.” (Laughs) I believe the title was the problem. It’s (producer) Jonathan Katz’s fault. And “Surviving Suburbia,” I loved that show, and I thought that, come the second season, it would’ve found itself and would’ve gotten more real and more grounded. The cast was great: Cynthia Stevenson, Jere Burns, Jared Kusnitz is working, and G. Hannelius is an astounding little person. All of the people are really talented, and Kevin Abbott was heartfelt, so I was disappointed for sure. What I did when I went and did that show was, I did and went the pilot for “Strange Days” in the Ukraine – that’s how long ago this was – and…I’m trying to think, but I might have just gotten back from the Ukraine when I did “Surviving Suburbia.” Or maybe it was right before. But either way, there wasn’t a lot of lag time, which is fortunate in show business, but it was sad because we were on the bubble with that show, and I know it would’ve done well and could’ve been on for awhile, given everybody a lot of work, and been a fun show to do. But I’m always happy with the trajectory that my life and career take, because I’m an unknown entity. (Laughs) I am! I’m 54, and I look at my life and…I love what I do, and I love my stand-up more than I’ve ever loved it before, so that constantly surprises me. The key for me is to eat bran and to do cardio. That’s pretty much it. (Pauses) And all you asked me if I was sorry if my sitcoms were over.
BE: Yeah, but what a great answer.
BS: Yeah, a great answer you don’t even need to use. All you need to put is “yes.” I’m not even sure if you have a clean “yes” you can use!
BE: We’ll fix it in editing.
BS: Okay, yes, please do. (Laughs)
BE: Are you happy that people still remember you for “Full House”?
BS: Of course! It’s wonderful! I wouldn’t be able to have…I mean, my career’s been 150 do-overs since then. That was a two-dimensional show that was meant really well for 14-year-old girls, and they loved it. That’s what it was: a kid’s show. It was a sweet show. I don’t have any regrets. I’m very fortunate, because I’m always working on something new that takes me to another place. I literally feel like I’m just starting my career now, which is…I’ve always kind of felt that way, but I really feel that way now, because I’ve got “Strange Days” coming on, I’ve got some other stuff coming up, I’ll do more acting. But, yeah, there’s nothing but happiness that I did “Full House” and the video show (“America’s Funniest Home Videos”). I mean, you take your hits when you do commercial television, and if you’re hosting a blooper show, you’re not going to wake up with good reviews. “Wow, your blooper show is great!” I’ve never heard that before. “Hey, that guy who got hit in the nuts that week…? Fantastic!” (Laughs) But that show’s traveled around the world, and three of us wrote 60 pages a week, and we did it for over 200 episodes, so that’s something I’m very proud of. And I’m proud of eight seasons of “Full House” that will run ‘til the end of time.
BE: Lastly, you talked about being surprised by your stand-up, so this kind of ties in to that: at this point, are you ever still surprised that some people don’t realize how dirty your stand-up is?
BS: It’s funny. I was talking to somebody the other day, and he went, “Bob…? People know.” (Laughs) He said, “I think more people think you’re dirty now than think you’re clean.” What’s happened now is I’ve got to defend myself, because I’m definitely not an X-rated comedian. I’m just some guy who…I mean, you watch “South Park” and “Family Guy,” and you cover the gamut of everything I could possibly say. So I have a 10-minute hunk of material about what college kids shouldn’t do with small animals. Who doesn’t? But it’s an immediate cross-section. I’ll be in a public place, an airport, and there’ll be five or six people all at the same time, and it’s the little girl who should not know anything I’ve done on HBO, and if she’s going to know anything about me, it’s that I’m the father on (‘Full House’). But then the father goes, “Oh, I loved you in ‘The Aristocrats’!” And I’m, like, “Your kid is six!” I think most people know that I’m just doing what I find funny, but I don’t know what that is. I mean, I know what it is, but I’m constantly looking for uncharted waters. (Hesitates) I can’t believe I actually finished a sentence.
BE: And right at the end of the interview, too. Perfect.BS: (Laughs) Do you need to go into a sweat lodge or something after this? You’re going to call your wife, aren’t you, and tell her, “You’re not going to believe how painful this was.”