Over the past year, Bob Saget has hit the road with motorcycle clubs and gone into the woods with Bigfoot hunters. Strange days, indeed. No, indeed, Strange Days with Bob Saget. That's the title of his new series that debuts Nov. 30 on A&E. Here's the quick clip trailer:
Saget is in the middle of the big promotional push for the show, and after spending the morning calling in to several radio shows, he called me up.
"I was in Seattle recently to do a show, and I thought, geez, last time I was here I was literally in the woods."
How did you pick which groups to hook up with for the show?
"Our producers are really cool…Troy Searer, Carter Mays, here are guys whose names you cannot print. They're great producers. They know how to preproduce what I specifically wanted to do with this show. They'd go and meet the groups that we wanted to follow. They met these guys who are right on the web. BFRO is on the web. So they went out and met them. And these guys have done some TV before, so they're familiar with being on camera. And Bobo. And some of these guys. Moneymaker.
"What I love about the show is everybody has a different take on each episode. and everyone, call it casting is what it is, it's interesting. The first episode we ever did isn't even airing yet. We'll see what the ratings are. The first episode, we went to Ukraine and tried to get these guys mail-order brides. We did this a year ago when I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I did this joke on Conan the other night: 'The legal age of consent in Ukraine is yes.' They style we're doing isn't so much of a mocumentary. I call it cockumentary, is what i call it…but i dont think they want to spell it that way. I think it needs the hard k, it needs to be a capital K."
Maybe they feel like without the K people will pronounce it differently: Cocumentary.
"Right. That'd make it French. Cocumentary. When was the last time we talked?"
We spoke when you were in Broadway in "The Drowsy Chaperone," and now it seems like the hip thing for stand-up comedians to Broadway.
"Broadway is always the dream if you get the right part. When I started at Catch A Rising Star when I was 17 years old, Nathan Lane, Stack and Lane was a comedy duo. I remember watching him and liking him, what he does. This is a guy who clearly could have chosen a stand-up career.
"I joke that if this show does well, you'll see me on a bus. If the show doesn't do well, you'll see me on a bus."
What did you learn about how to adapt to these new subcultures and fit in quickly?
"I was just talking to Dennis Miller on his radio show, when we go out on the road, you're a chameleon to that audience. What's Milwaukee? Or you're in a casino at Foxwoods? Where are you? You're an outsider as a comedian, but you're an insider. I was a documentary filmmaker when I was young. I won the student equivalent of the Oscar. It's the same thing as a regular Oscar, but the student Oscar has acne. That's a 30-year-old joke. It hasn't aged well. I don't know why I felt like I needed to convey that.
"But doing the Strange Days show was like a jazz stand-up muscle."
It's crowd work to the extreme.
"It's crowd work when you're inside the crowd, which you dont want to do. I did this recently in New Jersey. I walked offstage into the crowd, and thought, why did i do this?"
Saget did not have that feeling doing his A&E series. For one thing, most everyone was welcoming to Saget and his production crew because they knew what they were in for, too.
"Someone asked 'Did the bikers know who you were?' Izod had seen my HBO special and said 'You're one sick motherfucker.' He kept looking at me — we didn't show it on TV, obviously — but he kept saying, 'That ain't right, Bob.' I didn't take lessons to do this. I didn't take lessons to do anything of this. It's my very small bucket list…it's a Nyquil list. My mom never let me go to camp, so I went to camp. i was in a bunk with these four guys who are 12 years old. It's still family television, but why would they let me do that? But I didn't abuse the privilege of anyone who was on camera, because I'm not that kind of comic. I didn't want to do that with this show."
Did you think about expanding from a half-hour to an hour to give these groups more time?
"We were an hour. We tried to be an hour show. But we regrouped on it and said, 'I'm not Michael Moore.' And it's a slower pace. It's not my stand-up. I'm a mile a minute, and it didn't feel right. In success, the show can be anything, it can be whatever. I could go to Burning Man. I could hang out in the Bronx for a week. Now why would I do that? I don't know. I like doing what I want to do now, what I'm allowed to do. An hour would have been a different show. But cutting them into half-hours felt better for me. And A&E was very collaborative." (Coughs) "Excuse me. I had a Sasquatch hair in the back of my throat. He raped me. I want you to put on the web not only did I meet one, but he raped me. R-A-P-E-D. I got so into that, I was emailing my own daughters saying I think Bigfoot is real. And they were like, ok, Dad, have fun. All of the stuff we did was fun. Going to Cornell was fun, joining this Seal and Serpent frat was fun. All of the stuff we did, we made friends along the way. It's not my life. It's me with other people. The one that I think you'll like is our Vegas show. We did a Hunter S. Thompson tribute…I did it with Jeff Ross."
Is that why he looked differently recently?
"He was Screeched out for a little bit, but now it's all combed back."
He looked like Fozzy Bear when I saw him a couple of months ago.
"He is Fozzy Bear! We didnt go to clubs. We didn't do a bizarro show where we're at a club that just opened. But it was really cool…and then we stayed up all night and he sang in bars. It's just a comics show. You can't help and enjoy it if you're a comedian. It's like Midnight Cowboy and he's Ratzo Rizzo, peeing on the side of the road, taking his shirt off."
Doing voiceover narration for A&E, how much did you find yourself thinking about the voiceover narration you do for How I Met Your Mother?
"That thing changes constantly, that (HIMYM) voiceover. Carter (Bays) and Craig (Thomas) write that, and it's adorable. How does Josh (Radnor) turn into me? That's what everyone asks…When I now narrate 'Strange Days,' I'll go, 'This is the story of how I met a biker.' But no. I did eight years of all of my bad Mel Blanc voices on America's Funniest Home Videos. I've come to loathe the sound of my own voice, but I'm a self-deprecating comic. I'm going to improv with you. Yes! And that."
I don't know if you've talked much about Leslie Nielsen yet, but in looking back on his life last night, it's remarkable how he was 54 when his career in comedy really started. And I noticed you're 54 now.
"Leslie Nielsen — I wasnt close to him, but I knew him, and I loved his work. He had this fart thing that he held in his hand that he'd press and make everybody laugh. His ability was just to react."
But how do you think about being 54 and knowing that you could have a completely different career?
"That's exactly how I feel about my career. It's just started. Everything else was these great jobs that I was blessed with, I was a hired hand, I was happy to do it. The financial tree opened up for me. It's great to be 54 and be known, to be a household name. But Leslie Nielsen, I'd seen him in a bunch of movies, Creepshow, I remember, and it was a horror movie that he did with a knife, just weird creepy movie stuff, and then Airplane! came out. Zucker is a friend of mine and I've pumped him for every last bit of information aout how they made Airplane!…The deadpan that he was able to do. That was something I thought about a lot in narrating Strange Days. What is hard for me, what's hard to do is force jokes, which is hard for me to do because I just take body shots. He was able to land a punch without even moving."
"I'm always looking to just reinvent. I get bored by myself, and whatever. I don't even think about image or perceptions. I just think about the work I want to do."
So I take it you don't have a Google alert for yourself.
"No, but I sometimes do Google myself…Really wise people won't do it, and I worship them. I have Twitter, and I love my Twitter. It's an interesting way to get out my thoughts. The fact that I can read Steve Martin's Tweets gets me off. I never thought I'd see that. That makes my day."