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Arts and Entertainment

TV Junkie Interview: Bob Saget

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Bob Saget hunts Bigfoot with friends on "Strange Days With Bob Saget" which premieres tonight at 10:00pm on A&E

Bob Saget hunts Bigfoot with friends on "Strange Days With Bob Saget" which premieres tonight at 10:00pm on A&E
We last had an interview with Bob Saget a couple years ago as he was preparing to do some shows in LA. Since then he's been roasted on Comedy Central, put together another TV special's worth of new material (to be shot this Spring, most likely), and took a year off to shoot a TV series, "Strange Days With Bob Saget" which premieres tonight on A&E at 10pm with back-to-back episodes.In "Strange Days" Saget tours the country (and world?!) to meet up with various subcultures and see how they work through a process of total immersion. Tonight's premiere episode features Saget riding 1500 miles with a hardcore motorcycle gang, getting hazed as a prospect, witnessing a biker wedding as well as a biker funeral - a week's worth of time that obviously was very moving to Saget by the end of the the ride. Are there moments when the comedian in Saget jokes about himself and the experience? Yes, but these happen in moments on the fly - there is no set-up done by producers or writers for the show, Saget is just being himself in the moment. The second episode tonight features Saget on midnight adventures with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization - a motley group of eccentrics who do get their fair share of ribbing from Saget but he's open to the experience of joining them through pitch-black jaunts in the woods while guzzling beer and other beverages. Saget made friends on this tour de force, something that wouldn't be possible if people felt they were getting exploited or humiliated.

We spoke by phone yesterday.

Thomas Attila Lewis: You're friends with Conan O'Brien, how do you feel about his new show on TBS?

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Bob Saget: That show is just fantastic, everybody is happy that he is back, and he's back in a way that is nice to see. It's nice to watch him, this is totally the right moment, the right place, the right time. I was on the show last week and he's on the stage that my Comedy Central roast was on. It's the perfect stage at Warner Brothers, Stage 15, the studio is set up so perfect.

LAist: How do you feel about the show moving from New York to LA?

Bob Saget: When you're a comedian it always comes back to what is different between LA and New York. I have a romance with all the shows out there, I used to do the Letterman show all the time and I know that stage and the studios at 30 Rock. I was at Conan's show the last week that he was in New York and then I did a cameo the first week he was on NBC in LA. You know it was kind of cool, but you just don't know, you can't tell if things are going to go great or not. I was fine with him moving. I always think about myself so much that it takes the edge off of worrying about other people's problems. But I was on the show last week and everything was so perfect - I'm always really happy when my friends are doing well.

Thomas Attila Lewis: It was great to see you on the show, you've been on his show so many times before, there's a familiarity there.

Bob Saget: It was great to be there, I know, well, I always know that I'll say something that will make him just stare at me. What can I say that will make him look at me and make him say "What is wrong with you?" I used to go on his show and he would start to pick the red phone up, like he was going to call the Commissioner.

Thomas Attila Lewis: You seem to have an endless amount of that kind of material.

Bob Saget: It's not material, it's just some second hard drive inside me that should be stopped. I've turned it into a skill set but it needs to go on a break sometimes, you know?

Thomas Attila Lewis: Your performance builds up into a cascade of firing synapses, where we can believe the stuff that is just flowing out of you.

Bob Saget: I'm happy I do it and I'm loving the way I do it and it all comes out of my stand-up riffing. When I take time off from it I do something like this "Strange Days" show that I just did, how did I even work that in? But I kind of took off for five months, I couldn't do any stand-up, I just went and existed with these people that I wanted to do some shows about. Then it got jump started again but now I'm in press mode which is a very good problem to have, to get out there and sell the show and hope it does well. But all this does add to the fast talking part of my show.

Thomas Attila Lewis: I think people are going to be very impressed, particularly with the debut episode which features you going cross-country with this motorcycle club. You were obviously really moved by being with these men and women, it was impressive, it was great, it showed this side of you that I hadn't seen before.

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Bob Saget: It was exhaustion, it was being with these people for 60 hours straight, it kind of set the template for what we wanted this show to be. We're not some crazy reality show where we're breaking doors down or hazing people, we're trying to do a documentary-type thing. I'm a big Hunter S. Thompson fan, we even did an episode in Vegas, I got the red Cadillac and put Jeffrey Ross in it as my Laszlo and we went to the Mint 400 [dune buggy race] and shot it - it's the last one that airs in this series of six. It was something that we wanted to do without raising people up and deifying them but we don't try to knock them down either. If there's any wry humor, 9 times out of 10 we're making fun of myself and not the people we are with.

Thomas Attila Lewis: I've seen the motorcycle club episode and this other one where you are hanging out with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization where you do make some jokes about what these people are doing but it's as it unfolds, you aren't setting them up.

Bob Saget: [Laughs] It was there for the offering, they were offering it up. I got to make some new friends, I know this guy Bobo now, he's hilarious. He said something to me off-camera that we almost put in the show, he said "Man, I never thought you were funny until now. You sucked! I used to watch you, I hated you, but I love you now." I said, "Bobo, I think you just erased a compliment, but I'll take it anyway." He said "Did you know Sam Kinison?" I said "Yeah, I was there when he got his first spot at the Comedy Store, I'd help him out since I knew him from doing stand-up in Houston." Bob said, "Now that guy was funny, I never thought you were funny." You gotta love the guys that keep telling you the negative. He's my new friend.

Thomas Attila Lewis: There are people who are real fans of comedy and there are people like Bobo who have perhaps a tangential connection with pop culture who probably aren't a real consumer even of that.

Bob Saget: Bobo? He is becoming a part of that culture since he's creating this whole connection with Bigfoot. But he really is one of those guys that is ascerbic and witty and catches funny stuff, it's one of the things he loves. He's kind of what all of us are at heart, this 14 or 15-year old boy - if you're out looking for Bigfoot you are kind of like a ComiCon guy who's dressed up. It's your own adolescence that has become your adulthood.

Now you pointed out what I do which is doing these toppers and toppers and toppers and some bathroom humor thrown in with some sexual innuendo - I can't help the way I'm drawn. I've been on tour now, 15 shows so far, and I'll be going until February or March, and then I'll shoot it as a special because I think I have enough for that. Then I'll develop some acting stuff - that's a completely different muscle. Nothing ever gets old for me, it's a lot of fun. I'll always be doing stand-up but the trick is to keep doing these different things. I'm still recovering from my trick to Seattle that I got back from yesterday and then tomorrow I go to New York to do press for "Strange Days". It's a good problem to have!

I went and did "Strange Days" which took a year of my life but this all depends on something as simple as the ratings, we're not sure what's going to happen with it, it depends on how the network feels about the show. You do the best you can, you go to bat and hit it as far as you can and you hope people like it. The first episode we shot we went to the Ukraine, we had got these guys some mail-order brides, we went there for a week, it was completely bizarre and totally unlike the other episodes. From there we had to go on and figure out what to do with the show, in order to make more.

I just enjoyed doing these, they're hard to do, I really want to do them, but you don't want to have to fight to get the show made. We want to do stuff like go to Burning Man, we want to go to China, we want to see how these people are living. It's not a tour show, or a travel show, it's not "Dirty Jobs", you know. I used to like George Plimpton. Louis Theroux did a show that I liked a lot. This is kind of like a show that I did 12 years ago where I would sleep over at people's houses, just knock on anybody's door and see if we could make it happen. But that was too celebrity-ish, it didn't make a lot of sense at the time, before all this crazy stuff that's on TV now.

Thomas Attila Lewis: There's what you're doing here, where you are discovering customs that these various sub-cultures have vs. the celebrity stuff like "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" - those are two very different things.

Bob Saget: That's a world that I'm not interested in - I can't even watch it. This has documentary roots, that's my background, that's what I went to school for. I had drifted away from these things that I love and I wanted to reconnect with them. I'm old enough now to see my patterns in what I do. This is right in my wheelhouse - this really means something to me. I did the best I could at it but it's not a Michael Moore documentary, it's not a 2 hour movie. But hey, I really experienced this stuff. I guess that what would make this a "reality" show is that it's me, I'm in it with these other people. It's comedy-documentary, my joke is that it's cockumentary.

Thomas Attila Lewis: [Laughs] You have this history with documentary, it's something you studied. Who are some documentarians that you have admired or have influenced you?

Bob Saget: The first thing that comes to mind is Robert Flaherty who invented it, wow, that's like remembering who wrote the Bible, I really had to drag that one out.

Thomas Attila Lewis: Did you see Nanook of the North?

Bob Saget: Yes! Yes, I saw that! That was a long-ass movie, that was even longer than "Sarah Palin's Alaska". That movie was amazing though, they ate whale blubber together, they killed a seal and ate it together. I took a lot of documentary film courses, I actually won the Student Academy Award for a film I made about this young boy who had his face surgically reconstructed.

The things that interested me, well, I sat through Leni Riefensthal's Triumph of the Will and Olympia, but I was more interested in the things that were real. But that's a lot different than what is "reality" today. I want the real experience, I don't want to put mics on people for 19 hours a day and manipulate them, a system that is designed to hurt people. My producers have been fantastic - really good people who have made sure that nothing was invasive. It was all about making the real experience better - perhaps a better shot so that people could see better or hear better to connect with the people we were hanging with. We would have about 100 hours per shoot and then edit it down so it would fit into a half hour show, it was a lot of work but it was all done so that the viewer could see how these people work with each other, what their lives were like.

Documentaries can be a wonderful tool for many things, sometimes for propaganda, but I've been so moved by documentaries - March of the Penguins was a documentary that moved me. I ended up doing a parody DVD of that [Farce of the Penguins].

Thomas Attila Lewis: Yes! That was great!

Bob Saget: [Laughs] I can't hear that, are you admitting that you're a stoner? [Reporter's Note: no we are not.] I loved March of the Penguins so much, it was so beautiful but nobody is putting a body mic on a penguin and telling them to go into a room and embarrass the other penguin, not that animals are the answer.

For my journey, the people that I got to be with: I got to have an experience that most people don't get to have. It was George Plimpton's Paper Lion all over again. I got to be a student at Cornell, I got to pledge a frat, we had a week where they let our cameras roam the campus which is something that just doesn't happen. Perhaps it was the A&E banner, perhaps it was their perception of me, this guy that does family type material but sometimes goes off onto the R-rated tangents, but we can trust him. They let me into this summer camp with these 12 year old boys - you wouldn't go "Hey that sounds like a great idea" but it was great. I liked talking with them but they're 12 years old, I don't have a son, it was a lot of fun, we got into some irreverent things them together.

But some people have asked me why my new show isn't dirtier. The show is itself, I wouldn't talk dirty around 12 year old boys in order to embarrass them, what kind of show would that be? But I went to Vegas with Jeff Ross and that's filthy. Every episode is completely different. When you're with people that you don't want to violate then you don't violate them. When you can take the artistic license to let your irreverence out, then you do that, you let that come out. The show takes on a different life with each episode which I really loved.

Thomas Attila Lewis: You go from freezing your ass for 1500 miles on a motorcycle to....

Bob Saget: zip-lining in summer camp. I had to go up this giant pole, I didn't know what it was like to go to camp but I know what it was like to work for the phone company, climbing up those pegs thinking that it wasn't good for my bad knee. And then going from that to a dune buggy race, going 80 miles per hour in a cage with this guy that's more than a little eccentric which was OK and then there's the Bigfoot show you saw where there was this guy doing something I didn't like, driving a bit too fast in complete darkness wearing a night-vision monocle - that was not much fun.

Thomas Attila Lewis: In the Bigfoot episode you claim to have actually heard "something", perhaps Bigfoot himself. What was it that you heard?

Bob Saget: I heard what could have been another person calling from over a mile away. I don't know those guys could have timed it, somebody could have signaled somebody to have manipulated us, but I don't know. We had a couple crew people who are sure that they too heard something that was real, that they had an encounter. You saw the episode, it's comedic, it unfolds the way it did, which was: Are you kidding me? But there's still something about it. I performed in a casino near Seattle 2 nights ago and I told the crowd that I had just been up there 6 months ago shooting the Bigfoot episode and I asked "Has anyone seen Bigfoot?" and a couple people said "yes," and then I asked "What did you see?" And then no-one spoke.

There is something there where people don't want to be called out for it. but when we went to go shoot, there were obviously some people in the research group who were all about the search, the search was what was fun for them. But I talked to some Native Americans when I was up there who said that this stuff was real and that they had seen it. I emailed my daughters "This is real, I try to get back to you in a couple days."

As a comic, you kind of go into the world you are in, you chameleon your way into them. It's not acting, it's not improv, it's it's own thing. This was basically me going into these worlds, spending time with these people, and following some kind of arc with them. Everything about this year and doing this show has been enriching for me.

Leslie Nielsen started his comedy career at the age of 54. Now I'm 54, and I'm feeling like I'm starting out - I'm doing things because I want to do them. I just want to honor my commitments and then do what I want to do. I'm very lucky that I can do this. It's hard work, but what I get to do in my life is the best work I could do... unless I was a brain surgeon and I was good at it.

Thomas Attila Lewis: It's been great to talk to you again, have a safe trip to New York.

Bob Saget: Yeah, it will be busy, I'm going on the "Today Show" and "The View". You will probably hear some of these same bullet points so I apologize in advance.

Thomas Attila Lewis: That will be intense. You could probably get some good publicity if you could get Whoopi to walk off the show.

Bob Saget: What I told Conan last week was that someone in one of my audiences, this lady called me a misogynist and I guess "The View" would be the perfect forum to talk about this. I've been told this before "Why is everything a dick joke?" And my point is, you know...... why shouldn't it be? What's the problem? Who am I hurting? I'm not doing gynecological humor? I don't talk about a woman's parts.

What I need to do, and they are correct about this, is that's it's immature male humor, and I guess an immature male might be misogynistic, but for the most part, he's lonely. I'm not lonely, I'm very lucky, I have very good relationships in my life. I may complain right now, but all I need is sleep and Imodium and I'll be alright.

"Strange Days With Bob Saget" airs on Tuesdays at 10 and 10:30pm on A&E