Bob Saget talks Norm Macdonald and why coming to Tampa for stand up 'truly is a gift'

He's at Tampa Improv tonight and tomorrow.

click to enlarge Comedian Bob Saget visits Tampa Improv Oct. 8-9, 2022. - Bob Saget
Bob Saget
Comedian Bob Saget visits Tampa Improv Oct. 8-9, 2022.

Bob Saget has done a lot of things in his career, but “stand-up comedian” has always been part of the resume. Last year the 64-year-old launched a podcast, but now that things are opening up he’s back to telling jokes on the road. His current tour takes him to Tampa Improv where he'll perform four shows over two days in Ybor City.

We talked with Saget about losing a dear friend, singing as a monster, playing a killer in a police procedural, and performing stand-up comedy.

Bob Saget
Friday, Oct. 8 (7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.) and Saturday, Oct. 9 (7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.)
Tampa Improv
1600 E 8th Ave., Ybor City
improvtampa.com

First things first: Norm Macdonald’s passing was a big loss for comedy. As people revisit his clips, his set at your Comedy Central Roast still stands out. He basically roasted the concept of roast jokes, leaving a lot of people confused. But when the camera panned to you, you were laughing your ass off. What were you thinking as it was happening, and what was it that made him so special.

Yes, Norm’s loss is something that is very fresh and very hard for me to deal with now and probably for a long time. A day after he passed I summoned the ability to do a special podcast of my show “Bob Saget’s Here For You” and spoke for 37 minutes, crying throughout, a tribute to my friend.

 To answer your question, Norm called me a week before the roast and said, “Saget, I can’t make fun of you, you’re my friend…I’m just gonna read jokes out of a 1940s joke book.” I was laughing because I got what he was doing immediately, as did all the other comedians. I laughed because Norm was, as usual, funny and brilliant. While he did his diatribe, I was just loving everything about it, and obviously when it was over and he said he loved me, it’s visible that I was deeply touched on camera, because as in life, I loved him, too. And always will.

“Fuller House,” the Netflix sequel to “Full House,” ran for five seasons. You reprised your original role, making periodic appearances along with John Stamos and Dave Coulier. What was it like going back to that character knowing that he wasn’t the focus of the new show? You didn’t have to do the full sitcom grind, but did you feel pressure to make his appearances memorable?

I was thrilled to do “Fuller House.” I’d stayed close with every member of the cast since “Full House” went off the air. And yes of course, I needed to pay Danny Tanner the respect he deserved. He was no longer 30 years old when “Full House” began, but 60 years old, so he became part of me at this age— the same part of me that I summoned to play Danny at 30 years old. It wasn’t a grind to do the show, as they called the adults from the show the “Legacy Cast,” so we only did 2-4 episodes per season of “Fuller House.” It was easy and fun, and I loved every moment, mainly of being with the cast again for more than just a dinner every once in a while.

On your episode of “Law & Order: SVU,” your character (spoiler from 2006) turned out to be the killer. Did you know that when everybody saw you on that show, they’d instantly assume you did it? Would you have taken the role if you weren’t the murderer?

That’s a funny question. Whenever you see someone on "Law and Order: SUV,” (one I stopped calling it “SVU,”) I realized, the person with guest star billing is often the murderer. I’d been friends with Mariska (Hargitay, a lead actor on the series) for years, so I was excited to come play. And the scripts were always so good on that show. If the part was right, no, I would not have had to be the murderer.

Also, your character’s wife was cheating on him, but he didn’t kill her or the guy. Instead, he killed the cheating guy’s wife. What was that about?

Actually, if I recall correctly, my wife, played by Catherine Bell, was not cheating on me, but I thought she was. So my character was trying to poison the man he thought was his wife’s lover, played by Chris Sarandon, but accidentally killed his wife instead. At least I think she was his wife. When you play in that show, some of the character traits are bullet points. It was a blast to do that show.

You seem to be open to many things, as evidenced by your turn on “The Masked Singer” as a crooning Squiggly Monster. Are there any roles you’ve turned down that, in hindsight, you wish you had done? 

I turned down a couple of small parts back in the day I wish I had done. I turned down a small part in the movie “Blind Date” with Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger. I also turned down a small part that would’ve been under prosthetic make-up in the Peter Jackson film, “The Frighteners,” starring Michael J. Fox. I was too dumb to know, the gift was getting to work with the best directors, no matter the size of the part.

And yes, being Squiggly Monster on “The Masked Singer,” happened because I had said no, thank you to the wonderful executive producer many times since the show began. But after nine months of quarantine, when they asked, “Would you like to be on it now?” (with intense COVID safety protocols—Pre-Vaccinne) I said, “YES!! Pick me up now at home and put me in a mascot suit and hit me with a fungo bat.” Whatever that is.

I had a lot of fun doing it, actually, but I was robbed of doing a third song by Paul Anka, who was Broccoli. Damn that Broccoli!

In addition to singing in a monster costume, you’ve acted, directed, hosted game shows, written books and served as the narrator’s voice on “How I Met Your Mother.” But you always seem to come back to stand-up. What does telling jokes on stage give you that other creative outlets can’t?

I love that question. When I started singing comedy songs when I was 17, I was drawn to music and parodies and writing original songs too, because I had seen Martin Mull do his show while I lived in Philadelphia (I’ve been directing a documentary, and we are near completion, about Martin Mull). So I always did musical comedy, but then took off the guitar and did stand-up since I was 17 all the way through my entire life. I would go away from it for a few years here or there, but then I always came back to stand-up to find my core of what I find funny, no matter where it lead me. I’m on tour because I love this new hour plus of material I’ve been working on so much. It’s literally like beginning again, but now I know all the tools to make it better than in the past.

When it comes to me doing my music, that’s different as comedy songs can be heard over and over if they’re any good. But my stand-up is never the same. It’s pretty much different every time I do it, because I always need to change it up. It’s always happening in the moment. I love it now more than ever. With stand-up, no one can tell you what you can or can’t say or do… except the audiences.

Now that things are kinda, sorta, back to normal (at least enough to do comedy shows), what does it mean to be able to go on stage and connect with a live audience again? Do you approach stand-up differently after losing it for about a year?

I love the gift of being able to go on tour and perform with people there again. And I do approach it differently. I’m much more appreciative of every moment I have with an audience. It’s a very precious thing. I’m like the Blues Brothers, who knocked on doors, the door would open, and Belushi and Aykroyd would say, “We’re on a mission from God.” Their mission was to bring the blues everywhere. That’s how I feel about touring with my comedy. It truly is a gift.

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