In “Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian,” Bob Saget addresses the dichotomy between his status a seemingly wholesome TV star and an uproariously unfiltered stand-up comic, delving into the hilarious and poignant details of his life and career along the way. Here’s an excerpt.
A LIFE OF FREE ASSOCIATION
Before I dive in, I should give you a heads-up that my book, like my life, does not always proceed in a linear fashion. When I write—whether it be stand-up, or scripts, or graffiti on the sides of a high school, or a Sharpie self-portrait on a biker’s a__ —I enjoy free-associating, just hitting on any subject that somehow pops into my mind. Underpants. I don’t give a thought to how the synapses fire. Deviated septum. I enjoy it, like riffing in my stand-up. Detached retina. It’s a skill of mine that is fun to employ. Like performing improvisational jazz must be for musical people. Come to think of it, there are probably a lot of jazz musicians with detached retinas. For them, I will record this book on tape with pure conviction.
So yeah, my writing and thinking are not very linear. Polyp. Neither is my life in general. Barium. I’m going to pop back and forth in time a lot in this book. I’ll try to not get too Cloud Atlas’y on your a__, but just stick with me. Events happen to us every day that jolt us back to an earlier time, to a nightmarish moment from high school or a poignant memory of our parents.
When I started in stand-up at a very young age, I was even more into free association and random word combos. My material at the time was often dark and came from the fact that I moved a lot as a kid. The first ten minutes of material I wrote, when I was seventeen—which I also used on my first talk-show appearances, such as The Merv Griffin Show—started like this: “I have no friends and I have no life and I live in a moped. My mother is Gumby and my father is Pokey and I’m Mr. Potato Head.”
Comedians’ first ten minutes usually stay with them the first several years of their career. It’s their mission statement. Their disclaimer that lets people know who they are. Or were. It’s also a good time to make fun of your name if you have a funny or strange one. My last name rhymed with some obvious words. Woohoo. In a way, it’s a good thing for a comedian to just have the worst last name possible: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome . . . Jimmy Uterus.” You would never have to ask him where he’s from.
When I see or hear my stuff from back then, I can’t believe how manic my style was. Always irreverent and fast-paced. Too fast, like I was running from something. Which I was. My childhood. [Sound effects: record screech]
So I guess that’s where I should begin this book, with a few moments from my childhood that seemed to form the comedy person I eventually became. It was a long time ago but I sometimes still feel like a kid, even though I know all too well I’m not one anymore. I know this because I’ll occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and find one of my toes has broken off under the sheets in the corner of the bed. Age does things to a man’s body parts. Sometimes I’ll put a couple of my broken-off toes on ice with Bacardi, lie back in my Barcalounger, and watch So You Think You Can Dance. (Shouldn’t that show have put a question mark at the end of the title?)
When I was a kid, my mother told me, “When you grow up, not everyone is going to like you.” And I told her, “I need names.” Well, I have them now. I have a list. But I can’t use all of the people’s real names in this book because they will come after me and castrate me. And I need my balls because I am still a relatively young man. In my head, a very young man.
In fact, this may be overly personal, but one of my testicles is younger than the other. I came out right ball first and it dragged the second one out minutes later. My left ball is always posturing to my right ball because he knows he’s younger, so he likes to rub it in my right ball’s face. Sometimes, and this may be superstitious on my part, they rub against each other, and it brings me luck. A few times, I’ve come into money this way.
All balls aside, rethinking it, perhaps it is okay for me to me mention some of the names of people in this book if they are now deceased, as long as I attempt to speak of them respectfully. My intention is only to bring up people who seemed to like me. Shorter list. I’ve met so many remarkable people so far, coming up through stand-up all these years, who just aren’t alive anymore. Because they are dead. Some really great people who helped change my life and career, people like Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Rodney Dangerfield, Johnny Carson.
And those are just some iconic comedy names I’m dropping. In my personal life, I’ve lost some of my true heroes, my closest people: my two sisters, four uncles, my dad, many friends, and a goat my father bought for two zuzim, which translates into half a shekel, an unheard-of good deal for a goat those days. My father bought that goat for the family but it proved to like my mother better than him, always headbutting my dad’s ass and yelling, “Maahaaa.”
In this day and age, if a person in a civilized place were to go to the market and buy a live goat and take it home, they might not be taking it home to eat it, if you know what I mean. That’s right, there are some sick goat f___ers out there. You read about it every day. Well, probably not every day. But I guess you could read about it every day if you set your Google alert to “sick goat f___ers.” But I wouldn’t suggest doing that if you aren’t one.
Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, once wrote, “If you love someone, set them free; if they come back, they’re yours, if they don’t, they never were.” But what if you’re one of those people who set their Google Alert to “sick goat f___ers”? What then? Sure, you may be all by yourself in the yard crying out loud, “But I love Daisy so much, why did I listen to Richard Bach? I miss my Daisy!” Shame on you, on your knees, weeping like a little girl all alone in a field over a goat! If that’s you, I’m here to tell you: Stop it! That’s one of God’s creatures. Let it be with its own kind. You go and get yourself some cheap therapy at a nearby clinic and start looking for someone more like yourself—a human. Something without cloven hooves.
Sorry about that digression. See what I mean? That’s a typical demon of mine. Not a bad demon, if there’s such a distinction, just a fallback to deal with hurt. As soon as I go into a dark subject, like discussing the people I’ve loved and lost, I off-road into absurdist comedy perversion. It’s both a means of protection and a kind of denial, a blessing and a curse. Wait, it’s not a blessing at all. I guess it would be a bad habit and a curse. Some people spout clichés for no reason, just because it’s how we’re trained by society. “Look for the silver lining,” a lovely and hopeful cliché. But some things don’t have a silver lining.
At least that one’s better than “It was meant to be.” That’s what someone says after something terrible happens, as a way of rationalizing or making themselves feel better. That crane fell off that forty-story building and landed on Aunt Betty because it was “meant to be.” So it was preordained the day Aunt Betty was born, from their point of view, that at some time in her life a giant crane would fall off the roof and crush her flat? And that’s okay, because it was meant to be? I don’t look at life that way. I think things just happen to people. That’s healthier, I feel, than believing there’s some grand scheme where your story is already inscribed in the Book of Life. Books get rewritten. This one definitely got rewritten and this is still what I wound up with. I’m looking up at this moment, making sure there are no cranes in sight.
George Carlin was so eloquent in pointing out clichés . . . “He’s out walkin’ the streets. You hear this when a murderer gets paroled from prison. Guy’ll say: ‘Now, instead of being in prison, this guy is out walkin’ the streets.’ How do we know? Maybe he’s home watching TV.”
George was very kind to me when I moved to L.A. in 1978 when I was twenty-two. Always asked me how it was going, asked me if I “saw the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Yeah,” I said, “but it’s connected to a train headed straight for me.” I was so depressed for so many years over trying to become a working comedian that my sense of self-worth would plummet . . . I’d go from being the kid with the dream, positive he was going to be the biggest comedy star ever, to a young man who feared he was going to wind up that guy paroled from prison “out walkin’ the streets.”
George knew the journey of show business, and he knew about following your own voice, no matter what the cost—but more significantly, he knew that the life of a comedian is about survival. Succeeding as comic isn’t just about writing some funny stuff, or having a good comedic persona, or getting lucky and winding up with a TV or movie career. It’s about being a survivor. Going into it for the long haul. George was more prolific than just about anyone I’ve ever seen. Much like Chris Rock and Louis C.K., who follow in his path (metaphorically) with their hard-core work ethic of writing and developing fresh material. They’re part of the new Mount Rushmore of Comedy.
At the time that I am writing this, my newest stand-up television special is behind me, my first in five years—and I found the experience profoundly rewarding. But that significantly pales in comparison to George, who did fourteen HBO specials starting in 1977 until his death in 2008.
He was a philosopher. And if you listen to his “stuff,” it’s the highest level of the form. He had a lot to say. And he said it. I wish he’d had a chance to say more. After I appeared in The Aristocrats, in which George was the Obi-Wan Kenobi, I reached out to him to go to lunch. I’d been paid high compliments by a couple people he was close to about how he dug my stuff. He knew how hard it was to reinvent oneself—from family TV to the kind of adult humor that made me laugh, then back to family TV, while continuing to spin what I found funny in my stand-up.
Anyway, the end of the George story is obviously sad. He passed away shortly after we were trying to schedule lunch. I think he wanted to avoid having lunch with me so badly that he chose death. My narcissistically self-deprecating cap to the loss of one of the many great people I knew briefly (in his case, very briefly) in my life whose end came too soon.
Excerpted from Dirty Daddy, copyright (c) 2014 by Bob Saget. Used with permission by It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins publishers. All rights reserved.