Books - Talking ‘Dirty’ with Bob Saget

Actor/comedian opens Book Festival of MJCCA

Bob Saget says if he were the editor for his memoir Dirty Daddy the opening line would read: “Call me Ishmael.” Fortunately, the actor, comedian, and now-author didn’t completely let his sense of humor trump editorial judgment. In fact, the 264-page text reads more like a diary, albeit littered with jokes about popping Viagra and Benadryl before first dates.

“It was a cathartic process,” says Saget, one of the featured authors at the 23rd edition of the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA). “I didn’t want to write some servicing book either that just gave 17-year-olds more of my penis-type humor.”

Known as the neurotic, cardigan-wearing patriarch of the Tanner family on “Full House,” and the first host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” Saget was known as the nice guy you could watch on television. However, thanks to an appearance in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats, and a cameo as a weed-loving narcissist on HBO’s “Entourage,” in which he played himself (he insists that was an act), audiences got to see the another side of the Grammy-nominated comedian.

Dirty Daddy tells the story of a young kid who fell in love with comedy as a way to cope with personal trauma, a down-on-his-luck comic trying to make it in Hollywood, and a family man who did whatever it took to raise his TV and real-life daughters. Ahead of his opening night reading at the Book Fest, Saget spoke to Creative Loafing about turning pain into joy, what’s wrong with TV today, and why Dirty Daddy will never see the silver screen.

Dirty Daddy, was that the title you always wanted to roll with? Was that always going to be kind of the way you were going to approach it?

Well, the title was a toss-up back and forth of what would be a good “opposite day” kind of thing, because here’s a book that’s heartfelt that’s got — I am a dad, and I’m proud to be a dad. And then I do — the comedy that I do in my life can be a one-eighty into something from someone watching my sitcom character. A friend of mine, her name’s Cassandra, and she said, “Why don’t you call it ‘Dirty Dirty Daddy’?” And I just thought, “Well, that’s too many dirties.” [laughs] And you don’t want to go ‘Dirty Daddy Daddy,’ because that sounds like I’m opening a brothel, so it seemed to be the right title and it does give it a little bit of a sensation and approach of “What is this?”

I think what will surprise people is how serious and somber the book can be. Folks have seen your comedy and watched “Full House,” but I don’t think they’ve seen super serious Bob. Were you nervous about sharing that side of yourself?

What you just said — you made me have reason to reveal what I revealed because people wanna buy a book, but only if they’re going to get some inside stuff on a person or insight or it’s really funny. This book told things that I haven’t told anyone, even in interviews. I’d say, “Yeah, we’ve had a lot of losses in our family,” but when you read the book, you go, “Oh, man, it didn’t stop—these people’s losses.” And I was very proud of that. And to go through that stuff and still find humor is —it’s not hard to figure out where a lot of the top comedians come from. Like, I’ve sat down one night at dinner with Gilbert Gottfried and I’ve said, “So let me just ask you, your family was in the Holocaust or something?” And he went, “Nope.” And I go, “What, nothing? I mean, what happened?” And he goes, “Nothing, nothing.” So I say, “Gilbert, you’re like this and nothing happened?!” [laughs] So it’s possible that nothing that traumatic happened, but I knew something happened to turn him into a person who has a certain wordsmith way of saying your humor.

In the book you talk a lot about the current television landscape, and how it’s crappy daily news shows and “chop-‘em-zombie TV.” What’s your beef?

The news itself and the cavalierness that they have ... when, you know, you’re trying to catch up with the news at the end of the day — it’s very hard for me to go to bed and listen to the coverage on beheadings and people killing each other and running the same propaganda-like footage over and over again. And the newscasters are smiling and it’s because they know they’re on camera and their ratings are up. And then they’re smiling, and then of course we’re just thinking it’s because they’re having sex with each other because they’re smiling too much. And then the zombie shows, I can’t really wind down by watching a bunch of people eat people, especially if you have a date and you’re lucky enough to have someone in your house. I don’t know, I don’t know how you go, “Hey, honey, that zombie thing sic, they ate him.” That’s not romance — that’s eating somebody. So you don’t want that, but there is great television and some of the best television that’s ever existed.

You talk about failure, and doubting whether you’d ever make it as a comic. What was your lowest point?

I had one birthday — I was 29 and I had already done this Richard Pryor movie called Critical Condition — it was like a Paramount movie and one of the biggest things I ever did. And I was still depressed, you know, after one job you go, “Oh, man. I can’t believe I’m working and it’s significant, but I’m never going to work again.” You know, and everyone feels that way, like we’re all crazy. And I was at Dave Coulier’s apartment, and he made a cake for me and it said “Crappy Buttocks” on it instead of “Happy Birthday.” And he had a big butt on it that he lit on fire and it said “Crappy Buttocks” and he sang “crappy buttocks to you.” You know, I was bummed — it was all career driven. I had just done it for so long, and then six months later I got a CBS offer [“The Morning Show” in 1987] to go to New York, and it changed lives, so it is interesting how you think everything’s over and then something comes along and refills your creative urge.

The book spends a lot of time on the topic of loss, and how it your family got through it with humor. Your dad was huge comedic influence even though he wasn’t a comedian ...

My parents, I don’t know how they got through what they went through, but laughter was not a denial, not like saying, “Oh, let’s just joke now. There’s dead bodies in the other room, let’s do bits,” you know. But it was a way of talking about stuff and having sad conversations. The humor is just something that I think is healthy — that’s one of the healthiest things that creates a comedy mind. And sometimes, funny people have a large litany of deaths, but they share with other comedians who have had that. Everybody shares ultimately their lowest points, but, you know, I guess you always have to go with the bigger picture of it. I’m not saying loss is a great thing to have, but it does make you a stronger person and better —well, not better, but you’re ready for something to go south and you can not fall apart if you have a certain way of looking at life.

These days every good book — past and present — gets some type of television or movie treatment. Would you consider bringing Dirty Daddy to the big screen?

When I made it and the book started to do some numbers, my manager called me and said, “OK, where’s the movie in this?” I was like, “There’s no movie. There’s not a movie.” It’s just a memoir, an observational conversation with me, that’s what it is. It’s written to be like I called you, you picked up the phone, you say “Hi, Bob,” and I talk for seven hours. That’s what the book’s intended to be, a conversation, really, even though I’m pushing the conversation the hardest. I don’t see a movie at all. I don’t even see a flip book [laughs].