This weekend, comedian, actor, director, and for many of us, America’s TV Dad, Bob Saget died at the age of 65 after a show in Orlando. To me, though, he was the guy who had issued the kindest threat of violence I had ever received:
“If you ever pull your wallet out in front of me again, I will shoot you in the face.”
Bob said this to me when I tried to pick up the check for post-show drinks at a hotel lounge in Portland, Oregon, in spring of 2013. I had only known Bob for 48 hours at this point, but he had made it clear that when you were with him, he would take care of you. As a comedian, I opened for Bob on the road a number of times over the years. I didn’t know him incredibly well, but from that first time we met, he made me feel like family.
Comics are known for being socially awkward and aloof when we’re offstage, so my method was to always give the headliner his or her space when I first met them. But Bob did not want space. When we were first introduced in that Portland green room, he was laboring over his phone. Without getting into details—even now I’m sure he wouldn’t want anyone to feel bad—he wanted to block someone on Twitter, but he didn’t want to hurt this person’s feelings. He immediately explained the delicate situation, and asked for my advice.
Wait, Danny Tanner, legendary advice-giver, wanted my advice?
At first, I did not want to interfere. But he genuinely wanted my opinion, so I gave it to him. Once we put out his Twitter fire, Bob wanted to know everything about me. There wasn’t much to tell. I was (and let’s face it, still am) a relatively unknown comedian from Bob’s hometown of Philadelphia. But for the rest of that week, Bob made me feel like we were best friends.
Every night after the shows we’d go out for dinner and drinks. That’s where I learned that Bob had a lot of best friends. Whoever was talking to him, whether it was a fan, a waiter, or a celebrity who came to the show, he was completely engaged in the conversation. It looked exhausting. But he did it effortlessly. He treated every conversation like it was the most fascinating exchange he’d ever taken part in.
He did that on stage too. Every crowd was special, and he was going to give and receive as much love in that show that could possibly be wrung out of it. In the age of the internet, and especially after Half Baked, it became known that Bob’s stand-up was a lot dirtier than his squeaky-clean America’s Funniest Home Videos persona. So crowds could be a little rowdy; buzzed and excited to see the guy from Full House swear. An unruly crowd is usually a comedian’s nightmare. For a lot of comics, any kind of heckler or disruption is seen as hindering the show. Their goal seems to be to “crush” the heckler, and make him or her wish they never stepped foot in the club. But Bob rolled with anything, because no matter what someone said, he knew he was in complete control of the crowd. And the crowd knew that too. Bob was able to harness their energy and send it right back to them.
It’s true that his stand-up wasn’t exactly family-friendly. But it was friendly. Sure, he worked blue, but it was never angry or mean-spirited. He wouldn’t punch down, or pick on anyone with real malice. He liked making people happy—either 2,000 people at a time, or one by one.
A few years ago, we were performing at the Borgata in Atlantic City the same weekend as the Beach Boys. Of course Bob was friends with the Beach Boys, because Bob was friends with literally everyone. The Beach Boys are my parents’ favorite band, and I mentioned that. So Bob made a phone call, and the next thing I knew, my parents and I were backstage taking photos and making small talk with the Beach Boys. Because of Bob Saget, I never have to get my parents a birthday present again.
Friendship is a two-way street, though. I opened for Bob at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This show was the end of a two-week road trip for Bob, and he was short on clean laundry. An hour before showtime, Bob called asking if I could do him a huge favor, and go down to the casino mall to buy him some underwear. He couldn’t go down there, because he’d be swarmed. But I, he said without saying, was completely unknown, so I’d be fine. So, 45 minutes before I’m about to walk out in front of the largest crowd I had ever performed for, I was standing in a men’s store, trying to figure out what kind of underpants Bob Saget would prefer.
Over the last few years, Bob and I texted pretty regularly. (Again, who the hell am I? He didn’t have to do this.) If he ever heard that something went well for me in my career, he seemed genuinely happy for me, and would go out of his way to tell me how proud he was. But then he would immediately remind me that I was still just the guy who buys him his underwear.