Over the past year, Bob Saget has hit the road with motorcycle clubs and gone into the woods with Bigfoot hunters. Strange days, indeed. No, indeed, Strange Days with Bob Saget. That's the title of his new series that debuts Nov. 30 on A&E. Here's the quick clip trailer:
Saget is in the middle of the big promotional push for the show, and after spending the morning calling in to several radio shows, he called me up.
"I was in Seattle recently to do a show, and I thought, geez, last time I was here I was literally in the woods."
How did you pick which groups to hook up with for the show?
"Our producers are really cool...Troy Searer, Carter Mays, here are guys whose names you cannot print. They're great producers. They know how to preproduce what I specifically wanted to do with this show. They'd go and meet the groups that we wanted to follow. They met these guys who are right on the web. BFRO is on the web. So they went out and met them. And these guys have done some TV before, so they're familiar with being on camera. And Bobo. And some of these guys. Moneymaker.
"What I love about the show is everybody has a different take on each episode. and everyone, call it casting is what it is, it's interesting. The first episode we ever did isn't even airing yet. We'll see what the ratings are. The first episode, we went to Ukraine and tried to get these guys mail-order brides. We did this a year ago when I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I did this joke on Conan the other night: 'The legal age of consent in Ukraine is yes.' They style we're doing isn't so much of a mocumentary. I call it cockumentary, is what i call it...but i dont think they want to spell it that way. I think it needs the hard k, it needs to be a capital K."
Maybe they feel like without the K people will pronounce it differently: Cocumentary.
"Right. That'd make it French. Cocumentary. When was the last time we talked?"
We spoke when you were in Broadway in "The Drowsy Chaperone," and now it seems like the hip thing for stand-up comedians to Broadway.
"Broadway is always the dream if you get the right part. When I started at Catch A Rising Star when I was 17 years old, Nathan Lane, Stack and Lane was a comedy duo. I remember watching him and liking him, what he does. This is a guy who clearly could have chosen a stand-up career.
"I joke that if this show does well, you'll see me on a bus. If the show doesn't do well, you'll see me on a bus."
What did you learn about how to adapt to these new subcultures and fit in quickly?
In six 30-minute episodes, Saget will make stops around the United States to investigate unusual cultures. This is not to be confused with the upcoming History Channel series sending Larry the Cable Guy around the country. Or even Bert Kreischer's Travel Channel series from earlier this year, Bert the Conquerer. There have been a few of these shows recently, haven't there.
But no, Saget's will be different. For one thing, the outfits. For another, Saget will be getting it done his own damn way.
Among the adventures he took on for the show, Saget will ride with hardcore bikers for 1,200 miles, search for Bigfoot with Bigfoot hunters, learn what it takes to become a professional wrestler, look for the reality inside Las Vegas, rush a fraternity at Cornell, and train to become a counselor at a sleepover camp.
"I've always been interested in the under belly of anything," said Saget, "but what I truly enjoy is diving beneath the surface of a subculture that may appear to be one thing, but ends up being something completely unexpected."
Producers of a Broadway revival of Terrance McNally's "Lips Together, Teeth Apart," announced that Megan Mullally and Patton Oswalt would take the leading roles when the former Off-Broadway hit from 1991 returns to New York City's bigger stages in April 2010. It's set for a limited engagement to run through June.
Oswalt played drama on the big screen this year in Big Fan, but his Broadway debut in the coming year marks yet another stand-up comedian who will learn the lines for the dramatic stage. Is this a new trend or just something we're only now starting to notice? Who's to say? A quick search of my memory and the Internet turns up at least these precedents of going from stand-up to stage:
Mario Cantone has performed in several Broadway productions since 1995. But it seems as though the connection between stand-up and Broadway began heating up in the past six years, when Eddie Izzard received a Tony Award nomination for starring in the 2003 revival of "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg." Since then, musical comedian Stephen Lynch has starred in the stage adaptation of the film, "The Wedding Singer," Bob Saget took a turn as the Man in Chair in 2007's version of "The Drowsy Chaperone," Cedric the Entertainer was part of last year's short-lived revival of "American Buffalo," and of course, the beginning of 2009 saw Will Ferrell romp on Broadway in his one-man show, "You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush." Currently, you can see David Alan Grier in David Mamet's new play, "Race," co-starring with James Spader, Richard Thomas and Kerry Washington.
Who else am I missing from this list? Are comedians finally being taken seriously as stage performers? Discuss.
Hooray for Hollywood! That's a saying, right? I bet these people are saying things like that this week, even if they're nowhere near Los Angeles, because the show business is making their TV projects into TV realities, and sometimes reality TV projects. They include:
Bob Saget is going on a great American road trip for A&E in his upcoming seven-episode series, Bob Saget's Strange Days. He had made the cable net's pilot list back in May, and now he has his order -- series sounds a little bit like Dave Attell's Insomniac, only not constrained to the overnight hours and instead seeking out "oddball" American culture wherever Saget can find it and riff about it. Money quote: "Bob Saget has been a part of the television landscape for years, but now we'll be seeing him in a completely different light as he travels the country to explore ways of living that most of us know nothing about," said Robert Sharenow, A&E senior veep of nonfiction and alternative programming. Production begins in early 2010. (via Variety)
Remember way back when John Oliver taped six episodes last month of a stand-up showcase for Comedy Central? You do, of course. So it's kinda anticlimactic that Comedy Central put out a press release announcing it had ordered the series. What if they didn't? That'd be awkward. Anyhow. Congrats! Oliver's hourlong show -- featuring performances by Paul F. Tompkins, Janeane Garofalo, Marc Maron, Brian Posehn, Kristen Schaal and Eugene Mirman, plus Maria Bamford, Greg Fitzsimmons, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nick Kroll, Matt Braunger, Hannibal Buress, Pete Holmes, Amy Schumer, Chris Hardwick, Matt McCarthy and Hari Kondabolu -- will debut as a series on Jan. 8, 2010, at 11 p.m.
Wondering what Ricky Van Veen is up to since leaving CollegeHumor to launch a spinoff company called Notional? The new video production arm of IAC, which already produces Chopped for the Food Network and Don't Sweat It for HGTV (neither of which make you scream College or Humor), unveiled a slate of new projects for all sorts of video platforms (TV, Internets, inside your head?!), all of them game-showy, with titles including: Ready, Set Dance!; You Vs. America; Chase The Money; and Love Taxi. Here's a money quote from Van Veen: "We are thrilled to be up and running so quickly, with a few shows already on the air and some great ideas ready to bring to market. We are particularly excited about 'Ready, Set, Dance!' because it's an innovative show format that truly combines our unique television and online expertise. This is exactly what we set out to do in building off of CollegeHumor."
In case you missed it last night, Norm MacDonald had quite the rambling chat session with David Letterman. Really. It was all over the map. But Letterman finally got what he wanted in the end, giggling throughout MacDonald's story about Bob Uecker seeing John Fogarty. Apparently, Uecker must not be that much of a f---ing fan of "Centerfield" after all.
In small storytelling doses such as this edited clip, MacDonald shines. But I wonder what a full stand-up set from him would be like these days. Maybe I'll have to drop in at Carolines this weekend and find out.
After the jump: Clips from Norm MacDonald's brilliant anti-roast roast of Bob Saget last year...
A quick look at comedy and comedians making news in the past day:
I knew I should have gone to today's Friars Club Roast of Matt Lauer! I'd seen Jeffrey Ross try out some of his roast jokes earlier this week at Seth Herzog's Sweet show at The Slipper Room, but reluctantly didn't ask Ross to get me into the roast. Argh. Ross wasn't roastmaster general on this lunch, ceding that honor to Lauer's Today Show colleague, Al Roker. But. I missed seeing Tom Cruise make a surprise visit to the dais. As the gossipy tabloids reveal, Cruise joked that he and Lauer actually were good friends with altered pics. OK! Magazine relays Lauer's retorts, which were pretty witty: "Come on, Tom... Stay. We can get a booster seat!" And when he realized Tom wasn't returning, he added, "Oh, guess his spaceship has to leave." Nancy O'Dell from Access Hollywood also jotted down some of the barbs Lauer received from Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira and others. (Photo courtesy of NBC)
If it's glib you're looking for, Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart interviewed Lauer right before the roast.
UPDATED: The Village Voice's editor wrote down more raunchy roast lines. And here's my friend Mandy Stadtmiller from the New York Post getting lots of quotes from the red carpet...
Finally, after a number of roasts for non-comedians, Comedy Central has returned to salute one of our own, with the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget debuting at 10 p.m. Sunday. Here is the extended trailer:
More clips after the jump.
Before I get to recapping the year in comedy, circa 2007, let's look back at some of my more illuminating, insightful and interesting comedy interviews from the year.
My sit-down with Ricky Gervais has to take the top spot in my mind, because his strongly held opinions on sticking to your creative guns and not sacrificing your beliefs in your own sense of humor (and humour) are words that any creative artists -- whether they're comedians, musicians, writers or actors -- can live by.
A close second, then, has to have been my September face-to-face with Dane Cook. Arguably the biggest headliner in the country this year and last, in terms of tickets and CDs sold, Cook met me in a Manhattan hotel lounge as part of his promotional tour for Good Luck Chuck. But we barely talked about the movie, instead tackling every question you've probably wanted to hear Cook answer, and then some. He even brought up Louis CK!
Speaking of whom, Louis CK was just one of the many other bright lights of comedy I got to talk to at length in 2007 -- the others included Nick Swardson, Christian Finnegan, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Ian Black, Eddie Brill, Bob Saget, Artie Lange, Doug Benson, Damon Wayans, Charlie Murphy, Frank Caliendo and Tim Minchin. Of course, there were hundreds of other comedians I got to witness and talk to this past year, and hopefully, I'll get to tell you more about all of them in 2008.
To answer your first question: Yes, Bob Saget does keep in touch with his former castmates from TV's Full House. The night before we spoke, in fact, Saget had gone out to dinner in New York City with Ashley Olsen. The paparazzi made much ado about them being spotted together (although they made even more hubbub out of an Olsen twin being in the same hangout as Lance Armstrong later that night). "I've been TMZ'd!" Saget told me.
Saget recently made his Broadway debut in The Drowsy Chaperone, and he hosts a benefit Tuesday night at Carolines for the Scleroderma Research Foundation, "Cool Comedy Hot Cuisine," with performances by Susie Essman, Robin Williams, Jimmy Fallon, Gilbert Gottfried and more as part of the New York Comedy Festival.
Saget sounds like he's having a blast on Broadway. "Drowsy's really cool beacuse Bob Martin is brilliant. He writes all this stuff that I get to do. He's got all these levels -- he's got parts that are very very dark, very critical, and then there's these other gushy things about loving musical theater. It's a fascinating journey. And I'm on Broadway! It's an exciting piece. It's so well-written and it's so fast, it just goes."
That sounds a lot like your stand-up comedy, which is fast and loose. Is that why you're enjoying it so much?
"That's how my bowels are," he said. Ba-DA-dum. But seriously..."The 90 mph throttle of things that I do are things that satisfy me. I had six pilots in six years that didn't sell at all. I had four networks that said they were going to put me on the air, and then nothing. I said, 'Oh crap.' My stand-up's been a great reward to me because I get to do it on my terms and my audiences are great."
"The Drowsy Chaperone, myself, the character, that play is hilarious. It's about Liza Minelli...but something like this, you do theater sometimes, the crowds are definitely older than my standup audience. I feel like the guy in Ghost who jumped from one subway car to another. It's a fast, frickin thing and then two weeks later, I'm in the show. Now I know the thing, now 10 days of it, I know it, the blinders are coming off and it's just really incredible. I just did the matinee and I can't literally wait until tomorrow night. Each night you try something and then make it better. It's great. It's great. I'm so fruity when I say this crap. But it's genuine."
He's also talking a mile a minute. It's been a trademark of his for decades now, letting the words come out of his mouth the instant the thought enters his head, a freewheeling stream-of-consciousness that often -- at least when he's on the stand-up stage -- leads him down dark paths into filthy adult themes. But even back when he first hosted America's Funniest Home Videos, it seemed as if Saget tried to cram three extra jokes into every setup or cue to commercial. When it works, it's fun to watch and listen to. When it doesn't, well...let's get back to Saget, who already is talking about Full House castmate John Stamos.
"Stamos is coming next week. He lives for me. He loves this musical theater....He has done this before, where you have two weeks to learn an entire show and then you hit the ground running."
What about your stand-up? Is your style based on wanting to ad-lib and improvise?
"I'm trying to do that as much as I can. But the night before I went on in Drowsy, the 18th (October), I performed with my buddies Jeff Ross and Jamie Kennedy at the University of Maryland. It was 5,000 people. I have 10 minutes of new stuff that I find funny, but some of it is reminiscent of what I'd done on my HBO special...It's a different kind of scat. It's like jazz. Sometimes it's better than other times. But I love not knowing what I'm going to do. To not have fear. It doesn't always work 100 percent. But to do it without fear is really fun."
"With this show (Drowsy), it's got to be word perfect. There's no reason to punch it up. The work is done. I don't need to say 'and' instead of 'but.' It's all done. So it's all about how I say it."
What's your involvement with the Scleroderma benefit?
Saget said Robin Williams has been involved with the group and the benefits almost from the start, which include a live auction. "Caroline (Hirsch) is being very generous and giving us the room," he said. "This is the third one we’ve done at Carolines. Susie Essman is doing the auction with me, and then the people doing it are Gilbert (Gottfried) and Jimmy (Fallon) and Robin...Dana Delany will be there. It's one of my main causes."
Saget's sister died from the illness, which causes overproduction of collagen in the body's connective tissue. How does he keep the atmosphere fun at a benefit like this?
"It's part comedy and part emotional. A lot of people have said we’re one of their favorite benefits. The food is high-end and amazing. The key is I do gallows humor. I can't help it. Even when I did that movie about my sister (1996's For Hope), the first 20 minutes had sick, sick jokes. ABC allowed me to do it. We said, 'It's like Weekend At Bernie’s. Let’s take her with us!' But it gets very sad when there are patients in the room. Like every disease, there’s nothing to laugh at...you definitely bring levity into it, though."
How does this compare to your first comedy gig in New York City?
"The first time I played New York, it was a very consequential thing. Carnegie Hall. I opened for Gino Vannelli. He sang that song, 'I just want to stop.' I was managed by Brad Grey and Harvey Weinstein. I was 23 and Brad (Grey) was 22 and they were my managers and they were rooted in Buffalo. I remember a review, too, and it was really favorable. I played guitar on Carnegie Hall and did 12 minutes. I played song parodies. I went out in the lobby of Carnegie Hall on a pay phone and called my mother and father. I put a quarter in the phone and then dialed collect. Anytime I've ever done anything in New York it’s been wonderful."
He claims that's as true of the time he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1995 as it is of his short-lived tenure on CBS's morning program in 1987.
"My HBO special was at NYU. I want to move here!" Saget declared. "I need to have dual citizenship, between here and Portugal."
Anyone who really wants to understand the psyche of the stand-up comedian, the process of constructing a stand-up set and the business behind the show business -- well, you should see the 2002 documentary Comedian. That movie is full of insight. The Aristocrats, on the other hand, exists more as a way to turn what inherently is a subjective form of entertainment -- what you think is funny isn't what everyone else thinks is funny -- into something more scientific and objective. See how dozens of different comedians tackle the same premise. In doing so, maybe you'll find out more about the comedian telling the joke. Or not. I finally saw the film on the big screen (thank you, Coolidge Corner Theatre), and the highlights for me were those moments in which you got to see which comedians really have creative genius in their corner. Among those moments, again for me...
-- George Carlin, getting self-analytical mid-routine
-- Gilbert Gottfried, more for his explanations of the joke than for his 2001 live performance of the joke at the Comedy Central roast that reportedly inspired the documentary
-- Eric Mead turning card tricks for his joke (impressive on that level alone)
-- Billy The Mime, because he didn't care about being on a public boulevard
-- Dana Gould's discussions all around the joke
-- Bob Saget, not for showing his true stand-up self (because anyone who follows comedy already knew that), but for cracking himself up repeatedly, yet continuing to tell the joke
-- Mario Cantone's channeling session (spooky but silly)
-- Sarah Silverman's endearing creepiness
-- And the South Park gang's animated bit (by the way, a new season has begun on Comedy Central -- you should still be watching it)