To answer your first question: Yes, Bob Saget does keep in touch with his former castmates from TV’s Full House. The night before we spoke, in fact, Saget had gone out to dinner in New York City with Ashley Olsen. The paparazzi made much ado about them being spotted together (although they made even more hubbub out of an Olsen twin being in the same hangout as Lance Armstrong later that night). "I’ve been TMZ’d!" Saget told me.
Saget recently made his Broadway debut in The Drowsy Chaperone, and he hosts a benefit Tuesday night at Carolines for the Scleroderma Research Foundation, "Cool Comedy Hot Cuisine," with performances by Susie Essman, Robin Williams, Jimmy Fallon, Gilbert Gottfried and more as part of the New York Comedy Festival.
Saget sounds like he’s having a blast on Broadway. "Drowsy’s really cool beacuse Bob Martin is brilliant. He writes all this stuff that I get to do. He’s got all these levels — he’s got parts that are very very dark, very critical, and then there’s these other gushy things about loving musical theater. It’s a fascinating journey. And I’m on Broadway! It’s an exciting piece. It’s so well-written and it’s so fast, it just goes."
That sounds a lot like your stand-up comedy, which is fast and loose. Is that why you’re enjoying it so much?
"That’s how my bowels are," he said. Ba-DA-dum. But seriously…"The 90 mph throttle of things that I do are things that satisfy me. I had six pilots in six years that didn’t sell at all. I had four networks that said they were going to put me on the air, and then nothing. I said, ‘Oh crap.’ My stand-up’s been a great reward to me because I get to do it on my terms and my audiences are great."
"The Drowsy Chaperone, myself, the character, that play is hilarious. It’s about Liza Minelli…but something like this, you do theater sometimes, the crowds are definitely older than my standup audience. I feel like the guy in Ghost who jumped from one subway car to another. It’s a fast, frickin thing and then two weeks later, I’m in the show. Now I know the thing, now 10 days of it, I know it, the blinders are coming off and it’s just really incredible. I just did the matinee and I can’t literally wait until tomorrow night. Each night you try something and then make it better. It’s great. It’s great. I’m so fruity when I say this crap. But it’s genuine."
He’s also talking a mile a minute. It’s been a trademark of his for decades now, letting the words come out of his mouth the instant the thought enters his head, a freewheeling stream-of-consciousness that often — at least when he’s on the stand-up stage — leads him down dark paths into filthy adult themes. But even back when he first hosted America’s Funniest Home Videos, it seemed as if Saget tried to cram three extra jokes into every setup or cue to commercial. When it works, it’s fun to watch and listen to. When it doesn’t, well…let’s get back to Saget, who already is talking about Full House castmate John Stamos.
"Stamos is coming next week. He lives for me. He loves this musical theater….He has done this before, where you have two weeks to learn an entire show and then you hit the ground running."
What about your stand-up? Is your style based on wanting to ad-lib and improvise?
"I’m trying to do that as much as I can. But the night before I went on in Drowsy, the 18th (October), I performed with my buddies Jeff Ross and Jamie Kennedy at the University of Maryland. It was 5,000 people. I have 10 minutes of new stuff that I find funny, but some of it is reminiscent of what I’d done on my HBO special…It’s a different kind of scat. It’s like jazz. Sometimes it’s better than other times. But I love not knowing what I’m going to do. To not have fear. It doesn’t always work 100 percent. But to do it without fear is really fun."
"With this show (Drowsy), it’s got to be word perfect. There’s no reason to punch it up. The work is done. I don’t need to say ‘and’ instead of ‘but.’ It’s all done. So it’s all about how I say it."
What’s your involvement with the Scleroderma benefit?
Saget said Robin Williams has been involved with the group and the benefits almost from the start, which include a live auction. "Caroline (Hirsch) is being very generous and giving us the room," he said. "This is the third one we’ve done at Carolines. Susie Essman is doing the auction with me, and then the people doing it are Gilbert (Gottfried) and Jimmy (Fallon) and Robin…Dana Delany will be there. It’s one of my main causes."
Saget’s sister died from the illness, which causes overproduction of collagen in the body’s connective tissue. How does he keep the atmosphere fun at a benefit like this?
"It’s part comedy and part emotional. A lot of people have said we’re one of their favorite benefits. The food is high-end and amazing. The key is I do gallows humor. I can’t help it. Even when I did that movie about my sister (1996’s For Hope), the first 20 minutes had sick, sick jokes. ABC allowed me to do it. We said, ‘It’s like Weekend At Bernie’s. Let’s take her with us!’ But it gets very sad when there are patients in the room. Like every disease, there’s nothing to laugh at…you definitely bring levity into it, though."
How does this compare to your first comedy gig in New York City?
"The first time I played New York, it was a very consequential thing. Carnegie Hall. I opened for Gino Vannelli. He sang that song, ‘I just want to stop.’ I was managed by Brad Grey and Harvey Weinstein. I was 23 and Brad (Grey) was 22 and they were my managers and they were rooted in Buffalo. I remember a review, too, and it was really favorable. I played guitar on Carnegie Hall and did 12 minutes. I played song parodies. I went out in the lobby of Carnegie Hall on a pay phone and called my mother and father. I put a quarter in the phone and then dialed collect. Anytime I’ve ever done anything in New York it’s been wonderful."
He claims that’s as true of the time he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1995 as it is of his short-lived tenure on CBS’s morning program in 1987.
"My HBO special was at NYU. I want to move here!" Saget declared. "I need to have dual citizenship, between here and Portugal."