America’s most polarizing TV dad reflects on the past and discusses the moves he’s making in the present.

Danny Tanner isn’t a real person. He’s very much alive, in the sense that millions of people around the world have seen him on the sitcom Full House — and he even exists, the actor and comedian Bob Saget makes it so. Separating the two, however, is still a point of confusion some 30 years later for people hung up on who he was, not on who he currently is.

So even after all these years, the ‘Danny turned Bob’ angle still holds weight. It’s a narrative I desperately try to avoid when we finally connect over the phone. He surprisingly agrees with me, that we should, that it’s a beaten horse long past — but also fully acknowledges it’s something he’ll probably never live down.

“(The media) is obsessed that I am who I am,” he says. “It’s been so long that I’ve … you know, between Entourage or even Aristocrats, things that have gotten huge amounts of promotion [his last comedy special has a Grammy nomination], people still say, ‘Oh he does standup?’”

He laughs.

“Yeah! I’ve been doing it for forty-three years!”

During his time on Full House in the late ‘80s through to 1995, Saget was a man embedded in U.S. culture as a father figure consumed by cleanliness. Everyone watched while he taught his three TV daughters the value of compassion and love while wearing bright yellow rubber gloves, always carrying a Windex bottle for comedic effect. During that time, Saget and his team spent the better part of a decade reassuring the world that everything was going to be ok.

He tried to raise America the right way. As any fully invested father would.

Then came his dramatic visibility towards stand-up, a career move barreled into the pop stratosphere by four simple lines from the stoner-approved movie Half Baked.

Marijuana is not a drug. I used to suck dick for coke. Now that’s an addiction man. You ever suck some dick for marijuana?

It’s here the confusion sets in. Just who was this ‘Bob Saget’ guy and why was everyone’s fake dad swearing so much? Was he really talking about fucking goats on stage and musing about what his balls were doing at that very moment?

He was. Because stand-up, for him, isn’t acting. It’s very much who he’s always been.

“All I’ve been doing is what I’ve been doing since I was 17 years old,” he admits, adding that not much has changed. His jokes have always been delivered in a particular fashion — goofy, irreverent, shocking. It was the systemic censorship of television at the time that really kept the masses from understanding the artist outside of the actor.

But the hype did nothing if not build a platform for Saget to continue confusing the world. It was a huge middle finger to a ‘90s-era Hollywood convention, a move away from being type-casted as the conservative, friendly guy next door as he likely would have been. It was a bold move at the time, and still continues to be a viable career strategy working to his benefit.

The polarization is what drives him. Hardly struggling to find work, Saget is still currently involved with a substantial amount of projects. Aside from Fuller House [which was recently picked up for a third season] and his ongoing stand-up routine, he’s also working on an independent flick called Jake, one he’ll be both directing and starring in. He’s also partnered with his friend and comedy peer Mike Young on a television show, as of yet untitled [Young will open for Saget when he performs Jan. 20 & 21 at Comedy Works South].

On top of everything, Saget takes part in collecting millions of dollars for advocacy work, too, fighting against the disease Scleroderma, a sickness that rattled his family in 1996 after it claimed the life of his sister.

Bob stays busy, and he likes it that way.

“(These projects) take time,” he tells me while still navigating a California highway. He’s on his way home from yet another Fuller House press appearance — his fifth in the past week. “Right now it’s kind of a fertile year for me — not that I’m planting my seed in anyone or anything — but I’ve got a bunch of stuff going on.”

The visit to Denver is what’s next on his agenda. It’s why we’re talking. He says he’s doing so to work out fresh jokes for an as of yet scheduled stand-up special, to be filmed later this year. He readily admits that it’s getting harder to be the shocking personality he’s banked on in the past though. People just aren’t surprised by much anymore.

“I wanna do a special that’s just funny,” he says about the new material. He’s also grown in content, much to the dismay of a few filthy fans. “Some girl in the audience recently shouted, ‘You’re not as dirty as you’re supposed to be.’ I said, ‘I know!’ — this particular new hour I’m a little bit cleaner. It’s got a few dirty things in it, I suppose. But it’s weird, the culture has changed so much, and so much is so dirty now, that I’m not as shocking as I once was to people.”

There’s a lot going on in the world too, with many comedians choosing to use their voice as a sense of reason in it all. Comedians, after all, have often been historical thinkers. Philosophers of our time. George Carlin, Joan Rivers, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams — all are markers in moments with an almost prophetic understanding of reality. Each have defining routines that worked then just as they do today in opening up the minds of the masses.

Is that an obligation now, I wonder, for budding comedians to undertake partisan politics and global drama as a necessary part of entertainment?

“I don’t think it’s their obligation, but I think they have no choice,” he replies. “I think they’re artists, and they have a craft that they’re good at, and they all do it in different ways. There’s all kinds of people doing a lot of political stuff, they’re obsessed with it because it’s lunacy that’s been happening.

“But we don’t want to have a separated country,” he continues. “We don’t want to go back in time to where people thought things were better but they were worse. There’s a reason they change. But that brings you back to entertainment that takes your mind out of it.”

That’s a large part of what drives art, he says. The escape.

“The job of the artist, whether they be a comedian or writer, actor, producer, director — the whole point is to give something to the people that makes a mark, that either entertains them and takes their mind out of it or takes them deeper into it,” he says. “I like to skip on the line and sometimes get into something a little bit heavier than I used to, because I’m older now and been through more.

Admittedly, he understands the game isn’t as it once was. Before, a few critics might have come out in disapproval of someone’s work in the local paper. Something easily forgotten. Now, the entire world gets to say what they want, at the exact moment when they want to. That can be off-putting for younger artists that may not have grown thick skin yet.

“Most of the world is full of critics,” he says. “If they had their way, most of the people that are artists wouldn’t be allowed to be artists because they hate them so much. All that we’d have is critics. We’d be in a world of critics criticizing critics.”

It’s not easy to create something, either. Everything that’s now put online, he says, can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. He goes on to suggest those perpetuating the online hate should try and make their own content, see how it feels to be torn down. Everyone’s allowed to hate, that’s your right, he adds, “but you’re not moving anyone forward by doing it.”

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure who I’d get when an ‘unknown caller’ flashed across my screen — Bob or Danny, or any one of the other characters spanning a productive career. In hindsight, it was small parts of them all, because that’s who he is: a loving father (on screen and in real life), a filthy comedian, a struggling artist and advocate for what’s right.

Don’t let TV trick you. Those people aren’t real. Bob is though, and sometimes he just likes to joke about fucking goats, too.

Sorry to ruin your childhood like that.

[Cover Photo: Natalie Brasington]