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January 19, 2007

The Uncommon Interview: Bob Saget

In recent years, comedian Bob Saget has transformed his image from Danny Tanner, the good-guy father figure on the long-running sitcom Full House, to a raunchy comedian who recently made waves with cameo turns in The Aristocrats and an episode of Entourage. We talked with Saget about that transformation, his new film Farce of the Penguins, and the Michael Richards controversy in anticipation of his MAB show at Mandel Hall this Sunday.

Chicago Maroon: I want to know about Farce of the Penguins, which is being released on DVD on January 30.

Bob Saget: Yeah, I clearly have issues.

CM: What was the inspiration for that?

BS: I watched the movie, the original March of the Penguins, a year and a half or whatever the hell it was ago, and I started voicing it over like a jerk. Just for fun. Basically the video show reincarnated. And I’m just sitting there talking about [how] they only get laid once a year, they’ll walk 70 miles to eat one piece of fish, and they only get sex the once, and if it work it works, if it doesn’t the baby dies, gets pecked by another bird, they sit on it, they smash it, they kill it.

CM: You were voicing it over in the theater?

BS: No, I saw it at a friend’s house. He has a screening room. It was a high-end parody situation…. All I wanted to do was take the soundtrack off March of the Penguins and revoice it. Basically, I just wanted to take off Morgan Freeman, and [the producers] said, “legally you can’t do this, you’ll get in a lot of trouble.” So I said, “alright,” and we ended up going the harder route, which is [that] we got over 200 hours of stock footage, and we had a really good, crazy-good, talented editor Michael Miller who edited a lot of the Coen Brothers’ movies…. I wrote a script, and people liked the script, and they saw 20 minutes of the kind of parody we were trying to do with stock footage. It’s not even CGI, it’s not like Happy Feet where the mouths move. The mouths don’t move…they just walk around, and we curse during it, and it’s a love story—we do tell a love story—and Samuel L. Jackson narrates it, which is hilarious. It’s a voice-over movie—it’s a low-budget stoner movie.

CM: You’re very well known for The Aristocrats at this point—

BS: Yeah, it’s kind of weird, people try to get me to tell the joke, and it’s very hard to do because it’s such an offensive joke. I have women friends who just walked out of the theater. So when I go do my stand-up, like I’m coming to you guys, and people yell it out, I try to accommodate it, but it’s really tough to give everyone what they want.

It’s so weird to say that women don’t like it as much as men, but I get a lot more blank stares when I start telling them that a family is having sex with each other…. I think it’s because there’s a lot of fucked-up stuff out in the world. You can tell sometimes when people’s eyes glaze over if perhaps something’s happened to them in the past where their dad did more than carpool.

CM: What’s the longest you’ve ever gone telling that joke?

BS: I think the film. I never really told the joke. I was told the joke, thought it was funny, told a few people. I’m a guy that likes to cut to the chase anyway.

CM: I was Googling your name earlier today, and one of the first things that comes up is a website called BobSagetisGod.com

BS: That’s my son.

CM: Is it?

BS: No, no. I met this guy in Atlanta, and he comes up to me, and he gets on his knees, and he’s bowing to me, and he’s got earrings and a bolt through his nose. And he’s like, “I worship you, dude, I’m not worthy,” and I’m like, “son get up….” There’s a lot of legal action you can take with this kind of stuff. There’s cease and desist…. Are they selling stuff? But I don’t know, the poor guy really worships me. He doesn’t seem dangerous, he hasn’t shot me yet, so if he hasn’t shot me—

CM: He hasn’t gone after your family?

BS: No threats. No letters cut out of newspapers and put in a different order, letters that look like scrabble, when the game’s been hit by an earthquake….

It’s a little odd to me [that people have made me into an icon], and I just utilize it as a PR campaign to make the next projects I want to make…. It’s a fun time right now because the phone’s ringing a lot, and I’m trying to figure out what I want to do that’s funny. When you’re feeding the beast, which is what I’m doing hosting an hour quiz show [on] primetime [1 vs. 100], you’re automatically feeding the beast, and…three-quarters of your audiences are people you might not necessarily be hanging out with. They’re regular hard-working people. It’s interesting when you’re hitting masses on that level. What I don’t want to do is what I did in the past, and only do it for those people. So I’m not. And I like those people. It’s hard to explain as a performer, because the thing I love the most is like when I come to your school. That’s what I do. It’s really what I do. It’s just like running into the ocean with a boogie board or something—although I’d probably get hurt if I really did that.

CM: Has anything crazy happened at one of your performances with the audience? I ask especially given what happened recently with Michael Richards.

BS: Somebody yelled out “pull a Kramer.” And I was like, “you can YouTube it if you want, but shut the fuck up, buddy, the world’s written too much [about the Richards incident]…. I don’t need that crap.” All they’re trying to do is incite me….

We’re in a weird world right now where you don’t have a lot of protection. So if I go and do something weird, or say something weird, or make a big mistake, they can YouTube it. The jury’s always out on you. I’ve been doing this 33 years, so that’s a pretty long time to know to not [blow up at] some guy who’s done some really bad weed screaming at me. If I can’t handle that, then I’m having a major brain glitch.

CM: Has being recorded all the time on YouTube changed your comedy?

BS: No. I love the audience. I’m not scared. There’s nothing to be scared of. Anything racial or hate related…I don’t make accidents. [The Michael Richards incident] was an incredibly unfortunate accident in every sense of the word. It was based on anger, rather than racism or hate. It was based on pure anger. Everything else was “I’ll say anything I can because I’m so mad at you right now. I’ll call every card that I possibly can on the heckler.” That’s a very sad place for us all to be. I’ve known him a long time, and I always thought he was a great guy, and not a racist at all in any way.

You can’t really be a stand-up comedian and be a racist—you’re living with everyone who’s ever been an outsider. That’s what a stand-up is. You know Borat would say we’re not going to make fun of anyone except the Jews. If you are doing racial stuff—and it’s a way of holding up a mirror, and that’s what Borat is—that’s what great stand-ups do, and I’ve seen Michael Richards be hilarious, and it wasn’t anything similar to [the incident]. [Holding up the mirror] is true great stand-up and great comedy.

—Eric Benson