Remembering Bob Saget: Inside The Loveable Duality of America's Dirty Dad
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On Sunday evening, the world of comedy – and the world as a whole – suffered a devastating loss when actor/comedian/beloved TV dad/blue humor icon, Bob Saget was found dead in his Orlando, Florida hotel room hours after performing a stand-up show as a part of his national comedy tour. At just 65 years old, Saget's untimely passing struck a chord, rattling several generations of fans and fellow comedians alike.
"Beautiful Bob Saget passed away today at 65," fellow comic Jim Carey wrote of his late colleague. "He had a big, big heart and a wonderfully warped comic mind. He gave the world a lot of joy and lived his life for goodness' sake."
“Nice guys DO finish first,” actor Rob Schneider said of his pal's passing. “Beyond his considerable talents, Bob Saget was a kind and gentle presence that always made every one in the room feel at ease. A sweeter man there never was. And a wicked sense of humor that would make you howl with laughter.”
And they're right. Over the course of his life in the spotlight, Saget mastered a subtle art few other comics and actors ever could. He was able to embody two polar opposite -- and still equally hilarious -- personas all while staying true to himself and his audience, an impressive skill that speaks to his unparalleled expertise in comedy – and the kindness of his character.
Throughout the bulk of the late ‘80s and early '90s, Saget graced television screens across the nation every Tuesday at 8 p.m. as Full House's loving patriarch, Danny Tanner. A wholesome single dad that adored his three daughters, DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle, “lime soup” (a.k.a. runny green Jell-O), and of course, disco, Saget's character always had a heartwarming, fatherly life lesson on deck … that he'd only share as cheesy, sentimental ‘80’s music swelled in the background. It was this iconic portrayal – one which he reprised in the sitcom's 20-teens Netflix reboot Fuller House – alongside his gig as the host of America's Funniest Home Videos and his reputation as a loving father that earned him the title of “America's Dad.”
But after the credits rolled on the Tanner family's latest hijinks, Saget's public persona and brand of comedy quickly shifted from G-rated dad jokes to absolutely filthy, piss-your-pants hilarious gags. His signature style of blue comedy made him a roast/stand-up staple, cracking crass jokes detailing coked-out strippers wearing Easy-Bake Oven tins for pasties, trading oral sex for marijuana (and coke, obviously), and, his rendition of the documentary-inspiring “Aristocrats” bit, an easily Google-able seven-minute joke so filthy that the entire Cracked team would be fired on the spot if we even thought about publishing a single detail of what has been widely dubbed as the dirtiest joke of all time.
But honing this duality between doting dad and filthy joke finesse-er with such authenticity is no easy feat, a carefully balanced dichotomy Saget says was influenced by both his own father and his clean-cut on-screen persona. A talent Saget dubbed his "'sick silliness'" in his 2014 memoir, Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian, the star says the raunchier side of his humor stemmed from his dad, "a grown-up who said things a nine-year-old like me always wanted to say because I was told not to."
One of his dad's notable jokes? “He was a supermarket person,” Saget recalled in his 2013 stand-up special That's What I'm Talking About. "He said that one day A&P was going to merge with Stop and Shop and be 'Stop and P.'" Considering his dad's penchant for more scandalous cracks, Saget hit the ground running when he first entered the comedy world at age 17, armed with several gloriously crass gags that were most definitely NSFNYOBS (not safe for nine-year-old Bob Saget).
"I had wild jokes from the start," Saget recalled to the Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University's student newspaper back in 2006. “In fact, my first joke was, ‘I have the brain of a German shepherd and the body of a 16-year-old boy. They are in my car. Do you want to see them?’” But along came Full House, a gig which he says “changed him," making him temporarily reframe his delightfully dirty approach humor.
“I felt like my voice was tainted because I had to serve that audience,” Saget explained, referencing the show's family-oriented demographic. “If I cursed, it would have been a big deal in my stand-up back then," he continued, adding that at the time of the interview "everything I do now is R-rated.”
So how exactly, did he transform from America's Dad to the Baron of blue humor? “After doing ‘The Aristocrats’ and ‘Entourage,’ it’s been pretty easy,” Saget said, referencing the aforementioned documentary and the foul-mouth version of himself he played on the HBO drama. “I also did a play in New York. That gave me a lot of confidence. Doing theater and movies generally will do that."
And it seems this approach paid off. A year earlier, the star spoke candidly to Rolling Stone's Erik Hedegaard about this self-assuredness, a sense that evidently informed the trajectory of his aughts career. “All I want to do is be who I am, because I spent a lot of years not knowing who I was and not being who I was.” he explained. “I’m in one mode right now: Entertain the s--t out of people. And if people don’t like it, I just don’t give a f--k anymore. I just want to cut to the chase.”
Between roasts, stand-up tours, and specials, entertain the s--t out of us he sure did. But just as much as he was a dirty comic who reveled in dunking on his wholesome Full House persona in the early/mid-2000s, Saget was a great father -- both on and off-screen and off. Even with his R-rated jokes, being a family man still played an integral role in Saget's professional and personal identity, one he embraced more authentically in the Fuller House reboot. In a 2015 interview with Esquire, Saget said he found it "complicated at times to be so heavily associated with the name Danny Tanner," although he maintained he fondly remembered the early days of his iconic role. But when given a second go at the part nearly 20 years later, Saget chose to take a slightly different approach, infusing more of his signature wit into the beloved character.
“It's definitely not me in a cardigan sweater sitting around using Windex all day,” he said of the sitcom's revival. "It's an evolution. Times have changed in the way you act on television since then. It will stay true to what the character was, but it will be a little more contemporary. It will be a little more real, which I think is the idea."
But considering his long-standing prioritization of his loved ones, a trait admired by his friends and colleagues alike, it seems stepping back into the role of Danny Tanner probably wasn't all too hard.
"He was a family guy," Saget's former Temple University classmate and Jacksonville, Florida-based news anchor Bruce Hamilton, told People magazine. “He put his family first.”
But you don't need to take it from Hamilton. In interviews with the press, Saget would regularly gush about his second wife, Kelly Rizzo, who he married in 2018 and his daughters, Audrey, Lara, and Jennifer. “I am a fortunate man in that all three of my daughters are exceptional,” Saget told People back in a 2016. ”Very high beings, very smart people, very brilliant, very beautiful.”
Saget also was outspoken about his love for his on-screen family. “I am very protective," he told The New York Post of his Full House daughters after his 2008 roast. “I love them very, very much.”
And it seems this love will always be mutual. "Thirty-five years ago, we came together as a TV family, but we became a real family," wrote Saget's former Full House co-stars, including John Stamos, Dave Coullier, Candace Cameron-Burr, Jodie Sweetin, Lori Loughlin, Andrea Barber, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in a joint statement posted to social media. “And now we grieve as a family. Bob made us laugh until we cried. Now our tears flow in sadness, but also with gratitude for all the beautiful memories of our sweet, kind, hilarious, cherished Bob. He was a brother to us guys, a father to us girls and a friend to all of us. Bob, we love you dearly. We ask in Bob's honor, hug the people you love,” they continued, noting that “No one gave better hugs" than their late co-star.
So folks, as we mourn the dirty comic genius and doting family man that was Bob Saget, be sure to hug your loved ones extra tight – and crack a dirty joke for good measure. He'd probably appreciate it.
Top Image: NBC