Laughing and Crying
Bob Saget, whose showbiz career has spanned the continuum of characters, from the innocuous to the crass, shares a darker yet more intimate side to his life in the public eye
by Bill Donahue

Bob Saget is not depraved. He does not have an abhorrently foul mouth. There is no reason to lock up your daughters when he comes to town, which, incidentally, will happen next month, when he comes to the Theatre of the Living Arts ( for two shows. Rather, Saget suggests he is quite normal—as normal as any star of stage and screen, at least—despite his reputation for being a wound-up, potty-mouthed rascal.

The discord, as he sees it, is a matter of comparison. America got to know him through his character on the long-running sitcom “Full House,” a wholesome father figure named Danny Tanner. Or perhaps they tuned in to see him host the equally innocuous “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” So when he utters a few four-letter words or makes a random reference to his reproductive parts, people assume he has lost his mind.

“I’m just a normal guy,” says Saget, who grew up in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood and spent one year at Abington Senior High School. “I have three kids—they’re 27, 25 and 22 now—and I don’t curse around my kids. I tell them, ‘That’s work. That’s for Daddy’s craft.’ … I’m not as dirty as people think. People got used to seeing me play a good father on a two-dimensional family show, so when I’m not acting like that, it’s like the sky is falling.”

Although Saget was born in Philadelphia, he was a bit of a nomad. He left the Northeast with his family and lived in Encino, Calif., and Norfolk, Va., before returning to Philly to attend film school at Temple University. While there he made a short documentary, “Through Adam’s Eyes,” that gained some critical acclaim and nearly led him down a much different path. “I could have made documentary films out of Philly or gone to grad school making cheesy horror films, but I ended up doing comedy full time,” he says.

Saget discovered at a young age his gift for make people laugh. He grew up watching the likes of Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett, while his penchant for “sick silliness” and infantile humor were inherited from the adults closest to him, particularly his father. He credits restaurateur Stephen Starr, whom he met in 1975, for giving him his start in comedy. Saget took the stage at Starr’s now-defunct Philadelphia cabaret/restaurant Stars, which gave him the confidence to move to Los Angeles, where he would work in establishments such as the Comedy Store and cross paths with the likes of George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield. 

Standup remains a core part of Saget’s life, as does his work on the small screen. One of his most memorable TV roles of late was a lascivious version of himself in cameos on HBO’s “Entourage,” and he also narrated the hit CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” Now, in a way, Saget is returning to his roots in film. He will act in and direct an independent film called “The Intervention,” which he describes as “a comedy with serious overtones.” He’s also working on a few other screen projects, including another scripted show, though he can’t yet share details.

When he comes to the TLA for two back-to-back performances on April 18, followed by an appearance at the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem the next night, attendees will experience Saget’s unique brand of madness in all its many iterations: some funny stories, some sad stories, some dark stories, some new music, maybe even some mildly inappropriate sing-alongs.

“The show will be a PG-13 kind of act,” he says. “I will riff like a free-form bluesman, talking about a lot of sad stories, saying, ‘Here’s the pain, and here’s the comment on the pain. Here’s the news, somebody died, here are some non sequiturs having to do with my penis.’ I’ll be up there wondering: Did I get the laugh, or am I just standing here appreciating the fact that I’ve been picking something apart and making the past four minutes uncomfortable for both of us?”

Some of the show’s “darker” tales will likely deal with some of the revelations he shared in his debut as a published author, last year’s “Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian.” The book details, among other things, the loss of some of the people nearest to his heart: parents, siblings, uncles, cousins, etc. Of course, even Saget’s saddest stories will be rife with his trademark wit.

“We all go through it; we all lose people,” he says. “We all want everyone to live as long as they can, unless they really get on your nerves.”

Photograph by Natalie Brasington