Bob Saget On ‘Zero To Sixty,’ His New Film ‘Benjamin,’ And Confronting Comedy’s Demons

Yes, Bob Saget realizes you probably know him as Danny Tanner from Full House, the original host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, or — if you’re one of the millions who supposedly stream it — Danny Tanner from Fuller House. And you know what? He doesn’t mind at all. In fact, the 61-year-old actor, writer, director and stand-up comedian celebrates his claims to fame — just as much as he skewers them, which happens frequently in his comedy specials. Whether in 2007’s That Ain’t Right or 2013’s Grammy-nominated That’s What I’m Talking About, Saget is always willing to make fun of himself.

Nor has this practice of self-deprecation wavered in Zero to Sixty, the first original stand-up special from album producer and distributor Comedy Dynamics. Now available to stream on a number of services, Saget dives right into the filthy, stream-of-consciousness jokes he’s famous for in the new hour. Yet as Saget tells Uproxx, he’s made a concerted effort to emphasize “being kind to each other” in Zero to Sixty. “[A]s ‘soft’ or ‘hard R’ as people want to say I am, the whole point of this special — and everything else I do — is to entertain people and be kind.”

I saw you were just in Rio. Still recovering from the jet lag?

Kind of, but I ended up working a lot. This morning I was back to finishing up the movie. We have a screening this Tuesday, and then I was getting ready to promote the special. So my brain goes right back to working hard. I’m a workaholic. But yes, it was an amazing trip. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was just John Mayer opening up his heart and bringing his friends along with him. The activities were hilarious and fun, and it was decadent but weird. It was just a really good time. And now [John] Stamos is engaged. So much is going on. I can’t keep up.

Whether it’s a long vacation or a short one, or even a weekend, the need to get back to work is always there.

To be honest, I was working with my editor, Bruce Green, the entire time. He was sending me QuickTime files while I was in Rio. We were editing via WiFi the entire trip. I was on a boat. I was literally using their WiFi to pick which take I liked better. It was just nonstop work, but it’s a good problem to have. You know, what a great problem! To be able to be working on a movie you love, to be with friends that you love, to be with a great girlfriend, and then to be able to not have any time to do your work. Meanwhile, people are shooting Nerf bullets at each other on the boat, back and forth. It was quite hilarious.

John Mayer is a very intelligent and funny guy. I’m very lucky to know him. Andy Cohen was there, too, and he’s nonstop. There were a bunch of funny comedy writers were there — just really smart comedy writers like Jarrad Paul and Jordan Rubin. Smart, fun guys. So it was a really, really special trip. We stayed three nights and flew 16 hours each way, so I’m basically doing a study on how to make my testicles smell as bad as possible in as little time as possible. They were like, “We’ve got lay back seats.” Really? Is that going to stop my testicles from smelling? I don’t think so. [Laughs.] Yeah, I always have to go to a lovely place, don’t I?

By now, anyone familiar enough with your career knows what your comedy is like. Speaking of which, how did Zero to Sixty come about?

I didn’t even know I was going to do it at first. I was on a plane on a Thursday, going to New York to do some press and some gigs, when I got a call. Actually, I didn’t get a call. I’m sorry. I was on a plane. I got a message via the plane’s WiFi from Brian Volk-Weiss, who runs Comedy Dynamics. He asked me if I wanted to shoot a new special the following Tuesday at the Williamsburg Hall of Music in Brooklyn. It’s a great venue. I love that place. I’ve played there many times before. So I told him, “You know, I do. I’ve got three years of material set to go at this point.” It’s all really stories about my life.

Zero to Sixty was an easy title to come up with because I’m 61 now and I was 60 when I shot it. It’s me at nine years old learning the facts of life, and it’s like, oh God, that’s what made him turn into this. It goes all the way through the different experiences I had, suffering as a both a comic and as a human being. Things like my mother passing away. It kind of taps into a lot of stuff like that, and the message I wanted to get across is the final song I perform, which is about being kind to each other — but with jokes. So as “soft” or “hard R” as people want to say I am, the whole point of this special — and everything else I do — is to entertain people and be kind.

That’s been one of the blessings of having this dual, bipolar career. One minute I’m Danny Tanner — I still am because it will never go away — and the other minute I do this stand-up, which usually entertains people if they’re in the right demo. Or, if they like this kind of offbeat, dirty comedy. I try to make it be unlike everybody else’s stuff. I mean, I don’t think anybody else would talk about a squirrel eating a frozen hemorrhoid. [Laughs.] So, you know, I think it sets me apart slightly.

Maybe not frozen hemorrhoids, per se, but there are plenty of comics who go as blue as you do.

John Oliver might. John Oliver — who’s a great friend — and I share the love of animal humor, and he goes into some very funny offbeat animal stuff sometimes. Not bad like my stuff over the years, but roughly the same ballpark. It’s my dream that one day we’ll have a meeting of the minds and make an animated movie about animals. He would be the otter and I would be the stork, I guess. I don’t know.

You say Zero to Sixty is based on roughly three years’ worth of material. What is your workshopping process like ahead of taping?

I’m a really stupid guy who sometimes doesn’t go through doors that others open up for me. This thing just happened organically. I didn’t go, “I want to shoot a new special.” This was a freestanding hour, and as I worked on it, I started shedding the extra material that I was trying out but didn’t work. Or stuff I used to do that didn’t fit anymore. Sometimes I’ll still do old material like that, but I’m just like anybody else when it comes to eventually dropping the older bits for the newer stuff. This one just kind of came out. It was a natural thing to then one day say, “I don’t have to do anything from the last special or the one before that. Let’s see how this new stuff goes.” It just came out. Maybe it was because my process changed a bit after writing Dirty Daddy, which was part autobiographical and part riffing. That’s kind of what this was.

It’s pure coincidence, but your jokes and comments about what Bill Cosby did, and what happened to him after, are sadly timely again.

There are stories in it. Interestingly enough, it has stories about misogyny and my disdain for it, and stories about taking advantage of women — which I don’t really make light of. I mean, I kind of do a public service announcement about it all, in a way. In my mind, I was ahead of the curve when it comes to the Bill Cosby stuff. As far as where we’re at right now, it’s a pretty horrific shine-the-light-on-everyone moment. We’re not in a good place. But the bad things we’re being exposed to, I think, can help turn us around. That being said, my stuff deals with it very lightly. There are a few statements in this that I haven’t ever put into a special before. I might lean into it more in my next one.

Are you already thinking about a next one?

I’m not thinking about the next one right now. I’m just thinking about different ideas and new things to try out. I’ve got some touring coming up, and I’ve got a benefit that I’m doing for scleroderma. It’s a benefit I’m hosting on December 5th in New York with John Oliver, Michael Che, George Lopez and Jeff Ross. I wonder if there’ll be any Trump jokes? I don’t know. With those guys I have no idea, but I’m really happy with this one. I hope people don’t get offended. I hope they see it for what it is, and can finally accept that after 25 years, half my audience is literally people that say, “I love your stand-up” while the other half says, “I love you on Full House.”

Or Fuller House, but not really. Mostly Full House. They love Fuller House but, you know, I’m not on it every week so it’s not like it’s a regular thing. There’s actually a couple of funny ones coming out in December I’m in that I’m pretty proud of. I think it’s a miracle what they did, reinventing the show. It’s just a miracle. Anyways, I’m excited to have done the special, and the way it’s coming out is kind of a new model for me. It’s already available for pre-order on iTunes, and it’s going to stream on Amazon. My joke is with two clicks, you can get the special and the lotion to watch it with. [Laughs.] Who knows? Maybe you’d prefer peanut brittle too — if you want to eat something while you’re using the lotion.

If it’s Amazon Prime delivery, you’ll get it two days or less. You won’t have to wait so long.

That’s true. “Prime just can’t wait to get into your pantry. Pull down your pantry for Prime.” I’m sorry. That’s what I have to offer the world. Puns. But that’s what Groucho Marx offered the world, too. So if I’m going to acquire anything from anyone, at least he’s not my least-favorite person. Sorry to digress while digressing, but I watched The Jerk the other night with my girlfriend, and holy shit! I loved that movie when I first saw it, and I still love it now. There’s just something about it.

It holds up really well.

It holds up so well. There’s a wonderful facet of racial equality to it that makes you fall in love with Steve Martin. Both him and Richard Pryor were great about that stuff at the time. I was fortunate enough to do a movie with Pryor, Critical Condition, and I idolized him. He and Martin were Mount Rushmore at the same time. Both of them were able to do meaningful comedy that was funny, but also hit home hard. That’s why comedy can be so strong, and why we need it so badly right now. When it’s done right, it makes you go, “Holy crap! That was a very eloquent way of saying that, and you said it in the worst situation imaginable.” Especially if it’s done in a way that doesn’t just roast people. I feel like that’s kind of where we’re at now. Our own president makes jokes all the time that are making fun of people, debasing them. Good roasting, however — good old-fashioned roasting — comes from a place of love. It doesn’t come out of just making fun of people.

You roast a few people in Zero to Sixty, though you tie it very clearly to this idea. You also mention Don Rickles, who was the master of it.

Oh, he was so good. He was so good and so funny.

Like many people at the time, I really enjoyed listening to you, Stamos and Jimmy Kimmel tell Rickles stories in April.

I’m actually doing something tomorrow about Rickles. Kimmel’s doing a special for ABC and I’ll be interviewed tomorrow for Don Rickles. I’m also doing a bit for Kimmel. I can’t believe it. I’ve really got to get into shape. I’m getting rid of my bloatedness, which is good. My girlfriend’s really helping me out with that. You’ve got to stay in shape in this business. Don used to ride his recumbent bike all the time. He would do it every day for an hour. He would sit on the bike and exercise all the time, but then he had leg problems so he wasn’t able to do it anymore.

I love old friends or friends who are older than me, I should say. Norman Lear and other people like him who I’ve been lucky enough to know and learn from. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, and I just hope Norman doesn’t see my special and get offended. He’d probably say, “Why do you talk like that?” He read my book. He said, “It’s very good. Your next book should be completely serious.” I went, “What are you saying, I’m not funny?” He said, “No, I’m saying you have a lot to say.” Everything he says is like literally talking to Obi-Wan Kenobi. There are few people like him, and that’s why I’m a fortunate man. I get to know them. How crazy is that? People as great as him and Rickles and Pryor.

You mentioned our president earlier, but his name doesn’t pop up too much in the special. A lot of comics are trying to find ways to talk about Trump without necessarily talking about Trump. Was this your intent all along?

I’m inferring it in the special. You know, because of the legality of getting into the country. But really, I’m just not shouting him out. There’s no reason to. He likes being mentioned. He likes starting things. Then again, he wouldn’t give a crap about me, but I can already say the negative things he would say about me. I’m pretty self-deprecating. I know my handicaps. We really do, and I know it’s true of all of us. Comedians are out full-throttle right now, but I never thought, “You know what? Jerry’s doing another Netflix special. And another one.” That’s not it at all. I think we’re needed, and in return we need them. We need the audience. We need them to help us because we’ve always been outsiders. We’ve always watched how things happen. And the more Jerry talks about whatever is on his mind, I’m in heaven. I’m in frickin’ heaven because he’s taking me into that and taking me out of this.

I try to make a real good get-together out of my stand-up. I want to bring everyone together and have everyone feel like they’ve shared in something that was fun. I had two audiences the night I taped the special. I know they had fun because they told me. I mean, I’ve never had an audience chant “Bobby” just because my mother used to call me that. It doesn’t get any more personal than that. I’m a 61-year-old guy onstage, though I was 60 when we taped it, and people find out my mother called me that? I don’t even know why they’re calling me Bobby, but they’re doing it anyway and it’s great. There’s nothing nicer than that if you’ve devoted your life since you were 17 to doing something. Even though I didn’t know I was going to do it, I just did stand-up. I originally wanted to make movies. It’s a real gift to have, to be able to make people feel good.

By now, I think despite your previous claims to fame with Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos, most people know your stand-up is different. When I was watching Zero to Sixty for this interview, my girlfriend heard it from the other room and commented, “That’s Saget, isn’t it?”

It’s a role that you play. If it’s family hour, you don’t get out there and curse. Doing so would shut down television. But I like entertaining. This is going to sound really creepy, but I really like entertaining families. I think I said this in the special, but I can’t remember. I really do. I’m on Fuller House and kids are watching it. They’re enjoying watching me play Danny Tanner again, and I like that. I mean, it’s just a different valve you’re opening while shutting down another one. It doesn’t make any sense that a person has to be one thing, especially if you’re playing a two-dimensional character?

That makes sense. As for your stand-up, however, you’ve talked previously about the influence Rickles, Pryor, Marx and Rodney Dangerfield have had on your career. Is it fair to say they helped shape your comedy into what it is today?

You know what’s weird? I didn’t know I wanted to be a comic originally. I guess a lot of my first inclinations came from the old Dean Martin movies. If I go further back and I look at it, I’ll find Jack Benny being an influence, but I have nothing to do with him in my style. What I do is more like Groucho’s style because it’s more of a machine gun rhythm, but it’s also more than that. Most people wouldn’t say I’m like Groucho because he never really went blue. I guess that comes from Rodney. You know Rodney had a plethora of dick jokes, and they were really good ones. “You want to see my Longfellow?” Things like that, or the things he would do or say in his movies. I mean, he didn’t do Caddyshack until he was 58 or something like that.

It’s fascinating when you see how these guys struggled and how they ultimately broke through. People will go, “How can you say Richard Pryor influenced you?” Well the fact that I got to know him, and the fact that he was maybe the best comedian that ever lived, probably figures into it. Especially when it comes to storytelling. Pryor would tell a story, and he would tell it as real as he possibly could in the moment. He wouldn’t do it verbatim every time, except for the actual jokes and punchlines, but he knew it was about putting people through an experience. It’s all about having a real human experience.

I can’t even approach what a genius Pryor was. I’m nowhere near it. But I do know that I understand his process, to tell a story about something that happens and find the humor in it. Find the moments that were so crazy — like when the mob guy picked him up and lifted him up and down under his arm, telling Richard how cute he was and treating him like a little pet monkey of his. He would spend a lot of time saying stuff that only he could say, mainly because it involved stories about things that happened to him. That, and subjects only he could get away with talking about. Pryor had a fearlessness about him, and I guess I just wanted to acquire some of those attributes in my own stand-up. He was more honest onstage than almost anywhere else.

Meanwhile, Rodney started me off. Johnny Carson was a huge influence, too. I guess the only thing I can say I copped from him was the ability to think that, no matter what, I’m not going to bomb. Bombing is part of the exercise, so if something doesn’t do well, you use it to your advantage. I remember one night I was on his show and he said, “I’m really sorry, the audience is so bad.” I said, “No, they’re great. I thought they were great.” He said, “No, they’re not. They’re terrible.” And I said, “Well, what do you do if you get a bad audience?” He told me there’s always tomorrow night. That’s something that has stuck with me all these years. Sometimes you acquire these great ideas or life philosophies from these these great people and you don’t even know it until you’re older. Though ultimately, I never really wanted to be like anybody else. I just wanted to be whoever I was. Still trying to figure that one out.

Since you mentioned you were working on it in Rio, I wanted to ask you about Benjamin. How did this project come about?

Seven years ago, a producer named Nicholas Tabarrok came to me and with a script written by Joshua Turek. They’re both very dear friends of mine, so dear that we decided to just hold onto the back of the tiger’s tail and try to get it funded. We finally got the funding from Jeff Sackman, who was the person at ThinkFilm who helped make The Aristocrats. He also helped make my Farce of the Penguins movie, which I made with David Permut, who just did Hacksaw Ridge. So Sackman got us money for this extremely low-budget, very difficult 15-day shoot with wonderful people. Rob Corddry, Kevin Pollak, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Peri Gilpin, Dave Foley and Cheri Oteri are all in it. It’s this great ensemble piece about my character believing his son is hooked on crystal meth. So my girlfriend posts a post on Facebook calling for an intervention. Corddry plays our family’s gynecologist and he decides to help lead it. Basically, it’s about a bunch of people who are not equipped to do any of this, but who do it anyways. The boy is played by Max Burkholder, a really talented young man who was in Parenthood.

We went through many drafts of the script over the course of seven years. Now I’m working on the final cut with my editor, Bruce Green — a talented guy who was one of Garry Marshall’s favorite editors. Garry actually read the script and gave us some notes on it. I’m proud of this movie about a dysfunctional family trying to help a young man, even though they have no clue what they’re doing. Because people are, as you know, quite ill-equipped to take care of a lot of things — other people included. I think it’s why there are so many screwed-up people, especially young people. They don’t have good role models to look up to.

You don’t get to direct that often, so I imagine the opportunity to get behind the camera again was really enticing.

I love it. I’ve done six full-length things, and three of them were features — if you include the penguin movie. Hard to include a movie made of stock footage from New Zealand, with dirty voices and Tracy Morgan cursing and other silliness, but I really do love it. This has been a joy. You always talk about how hard the work is, and how you do things yourself. We have a screening tomorrow night to let an audience see it so we can fix things or whatever. I went to the theater this morning. I got up at 7 am and I went down to the theater, went into the projection booth and made sure that everything was working right. I did it all myself because I don’t trust anyone or anything else. I just think Murphy’s law is going to attack me at any time. But we show it tomorrow night, and then we continue the post-production process all the way through December.

It comes easy to me. As hard of a job as directing is, it’s something that’s part of who I am. I went to film school. I won the Student Oscar when I was a kid. It’s something I love. Then again, now I’m beginning to wonder when I’ll get back to doing stand-up again. I’ve got some gigs coming up. I’m going to Canada to tour a couple of casinos in a few weeks. That should be fun, and it help get me back out on the road. I enjoy it up there a lot. Calgary’s really pretty. The theaters are nice. After that, I’m going to Edmonton. I think that’s where the squirrel story took place, or was it Winnipeg? I think it was up there. People are either going to laugh hard at that, or stare at the screen and blink.

Bob Saget: Zero to Sixty is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, Comcast, DirecTV, AT&T, DISH, iTunes, Charter, Google Play and many others.