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Bob Saget on Laughter, Love and London
The American Entertainment Legend is making his London West End Debut at the Leicester Square Theatre on September 21
Thanks for speaking with us Bob. First of all, our traditional starter question – where in the States are you from?
I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then moved to Norfolk, Virginia and then in the middle of ninth grade moved to Los Angeles and then inbetween my junior and senior year of high school moved back to Philadelphia – and then graduated Temple University in Philadelphia film school in 1978 – we moved a lot because my father was an executive with the supermarket company – he was one of the heads of meat. We called him a meat head. Literally. He didn’t like that much.
You're an entertainment legend in the US – you've been on the small and big screen, on the stage and on the page. You'll be performing stand up in London this September – where does stand up comedy 'sit' within your broad spectrum of work?
Everything I do, whether it be acting directing, writing or my stand up comedy which I’ve been doing for 40 years, I give 1000% to – and stand up is just something that came completely natural to me and something that I’ve always loved – it began with comedy songs that I would perform when I was 17 and I won a radio contest in Philadelphia with a song called "Bondage".
I will always love stand up comedy because it is what everyone always says it is – direct contact with an audience that gives you a direct response and it’s just you out there and you get to make people laugh or think or not think – or all of the above and it’s a total gift and an honor to do it.
This is your first West End show in London – why now, and how exciting is it?
I am frankly over the Tower of London past the moon excited to perform in the West End at Leicester Square Theatre. It’s funny because I am not known in London like I am in many parts of the world because my hit sitcom Full House only ran on Sky TV for like four years, then they took it off back in the '90s – and America’s Funniest Home Videos was hosted in London by the TV icon in England, by the late Jeremy Beadle who did the British version of the clip show made of videos. I would think that people might know me from my several comedy specials from HBO, Netflix, and now my latest, Zero to Sixty on Amazon Prime. Also they might know me from The Aristocrats as well as Entourage. Sorry I went on so long – all you asked was, "Am I excited to perform in the West End?" I do go on sometimes, hence the standup gene.
What can visitors expect from your show in London?
I think just a fully entertaining show – because I believe in this crazy world we are in right now – more than ever – that people need to be entertained. I’m a combination of five styles of comedy which I always have been – The first half of the show is primarily stand up which would be considered a soft R–rated narrative of stories and humor – and free association (which should be free because no one should have to pay when someone just indulgently goes off and comedy riffs like they’re playing jazz). It’s kind of British in its roots, having been such a fan of Python and esoteric British riffing, and it’s not offensive because everything is done in a way that I make sure entertains and not offends. That’s not to say some people think it’s a bit much – but I do get out of it very quickly once I’ve dug a hole that seems hard to get out of. And yet I definitely cross the line sometimes which I always have as a stand up. Second part of the show is made up of original comedy songs that I love doing – and that involve the audience – and always brings the room together. So I would say what people can expect and what I always plan to do – after 40 years of doing this – is a truly entertaining evening out that they talk about for a while – until the next time I am so fortunate to come back to London and perform again.
The great Eric Idle was among those on Twitter promoting your London show – I've read that Monty Python made quite an impact on your career?
Yes that is more than true. The brilliance of Monty Python is that they would take situations that would involve the upper class and the lower class – and yet we’ve hit with this incredible irreverence occasionally and magnificent parody of what human beings are like. Besides being hilarious and incredibly smart, their collaboration was inspiring – and always will be for the whole world. Eric Idle, who I’m lucky to call a friend, is one of the best comedy song writers ever, so he was also a major influence in how I started my comedy in the first place – along with a few other comedy song writers and performers like Martin Mull, who I am working on directing a documentary about – which Eric is in as well as Steve Martin and many other friends of Martin’s.
Even when I hear my incredibly poignant and hilarious friend, John Oliver do his weekly show on HBO here, in the US, he always has a graphic that says, "And now this," which is directly correlated to, "And now for something completely different." It is that shifted gears that’s strictly beautifully British at its roots which replicates how the mind works. It requires no segue – except "here’s something else unrelated" – sorry no segues. I do that in my standup work. Totally acquired from Python.
Comedy feels like it's changed a lot in just the last few years – has it changed for you, and how so over your career?
That is an understatement – Yes, it is changing as people read this. From doing so much family television in the US, I had a desire to express my other original comedic side both in acting, which I’ve done in television, film, and on Broadway, and in stand up as that’s where it stands out the most. We are in a time where many of the things I said 10 years ago may be deemed offensive and unacceptable. I still can do humor similar to it, but it needs to be set up properly as well as gently buffered after an offensive moment may have occurred in something I had said. I don’t try to be more careful in my stand up because of all of the things that are going on in the world – I have always been deeply offended by anything that happens horrible to any human being. And that is where my comedy has always come from – a relief from the tragedy that I went through as a child with my family and many members passing away including both of my sisters. It just made me more irreverent and made me want to say things you’re not supposed to say. But if it’s done right it can be quite funny and yet quite honest and you can feel the pain underneath – but also feel the relief that we get from laughing at the pain if it’s done properly. I am certain these days I am much more conscious of saying anything that would hurt anyone – Because I’m not made that way – I don’t believe in hurting anyone with words (or by sitting on them) and yet I like to say things that sometimes are completely socially unacceptable because I find them funny. My penis gets much too much airtime in my stand up and I’m trying to cut that back – but I think it’s been cut enough since my circumcision. Now that kind of humor hurts no one but my penis and my ego.
Apologies again – All you asked was "how has comedy changed?"
I do think I am drawn to comedians who, like Dave Chapelle, say their truth and make statements that are quite accurate and even if they are not and perhaps offend some people, the way someone as good as Dave weaves in and out of those statements is something that I also love to do in my work.
How would you describe your brand of comedy?
As I’ve said before I think it’s basically me, a nice guy who looks like your accountant or your dentist or your dad – saying things that one might not want to say themselves and yet they have thought them – which is most comedians’ jobs. If you say what people are thinking you are succeeding as a comedian or as a smart public speaker that’s funny. I also love to go off on tangents and the miracle is when I get back on topic seven minutes later as though those seven minutes haven’t passed. I also like to bring the audience into the show – Some civilians call it "crowd work", I call it getting to know your audience. Standups have been bringing audiences into their work since public speaking began. So I like to look at my show as a first date of sorts – and also a town meeting. And the music portion of my show definitely brings people together and I don’t botch it up too badly. The main thing I care about is to make sure my show is funny – and that’s basically just knowing that I’m funny – and I know that’s subjective – but if you’re piloting an airplane you have to believe you’re good at it. I’ve always wanted to play London because I felt like I kind of belong there – and I’m hoping that the audience that comes to the show and my future shows hopefully in London, feel the same way. My show is just what it’s supposed to be – funny and entertaining. Sounds so self–serving – sorry. There’s nothing worse than talking about your comedy. People need to see it. And I literally am as comfortable on stage as I am in my living room (oddly enough, I never go into my living room) – so the other part of my comedy is that I am basically what you would call a personality comedian – so I hope the takeaway for the audience is that they feel like they know me when the show’s over and I feel like I know them somewhat. It’s a very special relationship between a comedian and their audience.
Again, I just realized I didn’t answer your question – Currently in my stand up, besides my comedy songs in the second portion, I do a lot of jokes about what exists below my belt (not uncomfortably, just silly) interwoven with the love of my future wife, my daughters – who are different people – and I must say, and I’m not proud of this, I do quite a bit of name dropping of people I have known throughout the years and crazy stories that have literally happened. There’s also some seriousness in my show regarding the loss of my parents as well as the state of the world we are in right now – which I don’t dwell on but it’s hard to ignore. But I think generally, "Funny, silly and at times, poignant" is how I would like my tombstone to read one day.
Is comedy the best vessel for responding to the kind of big issues the US and UK face today?
It’s a damn good one. The best vessel (which apparently, according to Google, the Seawise Giant) – so the best way to respond to the big issues the US and the UK face today according to me, is not as political, though it is subliminally – but it’s more about kindness and treating humanity with respect. And to be able to find humor in the darkest of times, which is unifying. And it wouldn’t hurt for many Americans to realize that they originally came from Europe and all over the world to create the United States. I don’t think my show would’ve gone over as well back then.
Whilst you're in London, is there anything you hope to get up to aside from the show?
Yes – I am coming to London with my beautiful fiancée/wife–to–be and so we are definitely going to – as you put it – "get up to" – besides the show. I’m going to take her all around London because she’s never been there and I know she will fall in love with it as much as I have over the years.
There was one time I was there with my three daughters in Kensington Gardens and it started to hail just as we came upon the famed statue of Peter Pan. It was quite interesting, sudden, and mystical as we tried to find a cab to take us back to our hotel. I’m not proud of this moment that I was such a pussy to run away because of hail.
But yes I’ll be in London for a week to visit the tourist spots quickly but so looking forward to taking in the entire city and enjoying the food and the people and the beauty that is London.
What's next on the horizon for you?
Besides the Netflix Fuller House episodes I’ve been filming, I’ll be getting married and honeymooning, hopefully with my intended. I also have quite a bit of stand up in the future and in the Spring I’ll be doing a full theater tour in the United States and Canada.
I’ll also be appearing on several television shows and acting in several more when I return to the US. In just a couple weeks, a new show on Netflix comes out, The Good Cop, starring my friend Josh Groban and Tony Danza – and I play a talk show host and a suspected murderer on one of the episodes – I would tell you whether I was the murderer or not – if I sell out a second show.
You're very involved in charitable work raising awareness of Scleroderma, and it's featured in some of your work. Would you like to you tell us a little about the condition, why it's important to you, and your work with the Scleroderma Research Foundation?
Thanks so much for asking this. It’s my passion cause. Comedy literally is a healer. I lost a 47 year old sister to the disease called scleroderma – hardening of the skin – and since then for 25 years have been producing and hosting benefits – always the tent pole of which have been my comedian friends performing, most who are known throughout the world. Since I began hosting these events 25 years ago, we have raised over $47 million that goes directly to research – to help the hundreds of thousands affected by this horrible disease. It affects mostly women in the prime of their lives. The beautiful Robin Williams did the benefit seven times because he was one of the most giving people in the world besides being one of the most talented and funny. My beloved Scleroderma Research Foundation can be found at SRFcure.org.
Finally, what's the best thing about being Bob Saget?
That’s a funny question hearing or reading my name as though I am an object of some kind of notoriety. I think the best thing about being me, is that people that I meet everywhere generally, especially those that have seen my work, are appreciative for whatever part of my work they’ve enjoyed – the family stuff, the incredibly adult stuff, the stuff that was just some kind of acting or directing of a project that hit them deeply. It’s quite an honor when people respond to you so positively and with love. I don’t take it lightly. In fact it drives me to do even more work that has meaning and that can take people out of the craziness our world often provides.
The honestly true thing about being me that I treasure the most is the love of my wife–to–be, Kelly, and my three beautiful daughters, and the amazing friends I get to have in my life. And then in a completely different channel and part of my brain the best thing about being Bob Saget, as you put it, is that I get to entertain people and get to make them laugh, and share myself with them, and in return they share themselves with me. Nothing carnal, just a joyous interchange.
So yes definitely, comedy can unite and comedy can heal and I can also bring you into a room with others that might not share your point of view but for that fun longish show I will be doing at Leicester Square Theatre, I get to have that audience all share something together and hopefully give them a fun joyous evening they won’t forget.
The incredible Bob Saget will be on stage at the Leicester Square Theatre in London's West End on September 21. Buy Tickets Here.