A lot of comedians do scatological material; none employ it with quite the same childlike glee as Bob Saget. He makes the connection early on in his memoir, Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian. Saget’s father, it turns out, was also a fan of juvenile humor. It’s a learned trait, borne of the clockwork tragedies the Saget family endured, starting in young Bob’s early years.
Saget explains how three of his uncles died young, the first when he was eight and the next couple through his teenage years. When his father lifted the mood with off-color comedy, Saget was obviously paying attention. “As soon as I go into a dark subject,” he writes, “like discussing the people I’ve loved and lost, I off-road into absurdist comedy perversion.”
As if to prove his point, he peppers the text of his memoir with naughty diversions and one-liners. The death toll mounts throughout the book to include his father, two sisters and comedy legends Saget is humbled to have known, including Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield. He even visited Larry Fine of the Three Stooges in his nursing home, a short but affecting tale of fame in its twilight.
Saget writes about each subject in a heartfelt manner, and his respect feels genuine. But rarely does he get more than a paragraph without making some sort of joke. It’s tempting to believe in the “tears of a clown” school of thought, that comedians are all damaged people keeping tragedies at bay with laughs. Though it doesn’t apply across the board, rarely has the impulse been so direct as it is in Saget’s autobiography.
Some responses are patently offensive, like his line when Paul Provenza visits after he nearly loses his wife and daughter in childbirth. But most are harmless filth—dick jokes, bodily functions, sexual taboos—well represented in his stage act for years. Though he was never embarrassed the material surprised some fans of Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos, he does seem genuinely embarrassed to be repeating it in print.
There are some fun anecdotes about both shows, which made Saget a household name. But the biggest revelation may be how unabashedly Saget loves them, even though they created an image he fought to escape. He considers his former castmates his family, and cringes to hear them made fun of. Now that The Aristocrats and Entourage have provided introductions to the more scatological side of his comedy, he no longer has to defend the family-friendly fare.
Saget comes across as extremely self-aware and grateful. He struggled for what felt to him far longer than many of his peers, but finally hit a professional jackpot. And he overcame demons and some very serious personal problems, including a time when he was drinking and driving with his loved ones. In the age of TMZ and daily scandals, Saget’s story is sad and often serious, but not shocking. Fortunately he’s never far from delivering punchlines with a sheepish smile.