While it may seem like a departure for comedian/actor Bob Saget to go from performing his stand-up act in comedy clubs, voicing future Ted on CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" or playing a skewed version of himself on HBO's "Entourage," to a documentary series on cable where he spends a week inside a different subculture, it's not really as far removed as one would think. As Saget told our Jim Halterman, his new A&E series "Strange Days With Bob Saget," which premieres tonight, is closer than one might originally think to his stand-up roots.
In the back-to-back 30-minute episodes kicking off tonight, Saget first dives into a subculture such as a biker community and then he hangs out with a group of people who devote their time to seeking out Bigfoot. However, as he's quick to point out, he's not there in any of the episodes to make his subjects the butt of any joke but to explore, ask questions and find out what it's like inside these various worlds. During the interview, Saget also shared the story of the origins of "Strange Days" as well as what surprised him the most about the year he spent making this show, how he sees stand-up comedy today and how he got to the point where he could respect his past work on such family-oriented shows like "Full House" and "America's Funniest Home Videos."
Jim Halterman: How did 'Strange Days' get off the ground, Bob?
Bob Saget: I wanted to do a show like this 10 years ago and didn't really flush it out. I came up with this sub-culture thing where I go and do a documentary with people that I don't know anything about. It was my list of things that I never got to do - never went to camp, never was in a frat in college, never went to see Bigfoot [Laughs.] - and then what my comedy take was on it and do a Michael Moore-type of thing. We first did an episode in the Ukraine a year ago and that's still a work in progress. We shot it, we have a cut of it, it sold the show and I look for mail-order brides with guys [laughs] and it was just a different animal. If we get a good rating, I'm sure it will run. Then, we went to do the motorcycle club episode and Scott Lonker, an executive at A&E, went down with us and attended that final night, which you see in the first episode where I get inducted into the Iron Order. It was just a weird, magical thing because we though we were in a Rob Zombie movie. They're really interesting people and we could either deify or knock people down but we've chosen that the tone is really important to just shake the tree, shoot 60 hours and get 22 minutes out of it. Let's show the experience we went through.
JH: The first episode with the Iron Order biker gang gets highly emotional, which I was not expecting from the show.
BS: I know! There's a showmanship to my nature, which is, for better or worse, what I always arrive with and I don't have it much on this show. I really felt present for it and it was more personal where you're just completely open to the experience and you let it riff through you. It was a year in my life and I call them strange days because they are and they have been. My stand-up is strange, too. I was on a stage in Vancouver two nights ago and two women flashed their breasts at me. That's four breasts! That's a lot! I don't want to have breasts flashed at me! I'm not a rock-n-roll band! [laughs] I'm very appreciative that there are a lot of college people screaming and getting what I think is funny. It's very fun. I feel like I'm just starting out and this show is the starting off point.
JH: At first you would think it's an odd, different kind of endeavor for you to go on but it doesn't sound like it's really that far removed from your comedy.
BS: Exactly. You're an outsider and a chameleon when you do stand-up. You go wherever you go and you're in Cleveland and you're from Cleveland that night and you're with those people. In this show, I'm not on stage and I'm not performing and yet I am because there are three cameras shooting all the time, everyone has microphones on and all of a sudden everybody is in this show. They're in my world and I'm in their world. But, yeah, it is the same muscle as stand-up.
JH: What was your biggest unexpected surprise in this experience?
BS: I think for me to be as emotionally touched by the people as I was, which happened right from the word go and to get the people as invested as they did, which happened with every single episode even the Bigfoot episode, which was just weird. I had feelings for those guys and I might have [also] been scared of a couple of them - I don't want to be driven at 60 miles per hour in pitch-black darkness! Then, I went to camp with those 12-year boys and that was one of the most moving episodes. It sounds creepy no matter how you say it [Laughs.]! Then, I also joined a frat at Cornell and that was really fun. It was really cool that people just allowed me to be a part of their world. [This show is] an unusual thing that kind of found itself and with each show we found the four or five people that we found the most compelling and I ended up having some friendships with them as they took me into their world.
JH: How did you pick the various subcultures?
BS: We talked about it amongst ourselves and the networks also delegated. They had to approve it since it costs money to do these things. We had some other ones we wanted to do and we couldn't get the dynamics together. It had to be the right blend of getting permissions and a lot of clearances to do them.
JH: You've had a really great, long career. What do you think is the key to the longevity that you've had?
BS: It's no different than when someone says 'How can I make it in show business?' The answer is always you just can't hear 'no.' People don't want people to succeed [and] it's a really hard career to do. I'm loving it more now than I ever have. I guess something just happened where you get to the point where you say 'Why can't I be happy? Why can't I do what I love to do?' I love making people laugh. I guess it's just loving the work. I'm really, really fortunate and I know how fortunate I am to be able to do this. I just like to make people laugh and feed the people that I love. I like feeding people. Maybe I should open up a Souplantation!
JH: Since you started stand-up years ago, has it changed or is it the audience that has changed?
BS: I don't know that you can fool an audience. For every performer, you'd better deliver and if you can't sell tickets then you'd better be great. You can be the coolest cat in the world and love yourself to death but it's not about you. It's about relating to people and entertaining them because people are spending their money to see you. Stand-up has whittled down to having something to say. Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan are so solid. And you watch Jerry Seinfeld work and you don't think stand-up has changed at all. Greatness is greatness. Someone who is a great stand-up is a great stand-up. They can be the cleanest act in the world or the bluest act in the world; it's just what they do.
JH: You clearly own your past with family fare like 'Full House' and 'America's Funniest Home Videos' when others often want to forget what they're most associated with. Was that a challenge for you?
BS: Right in the middle of doing 'Full House' I was also doing 'America's Funniest Home Videos.' They were two very commercial shows but 'Full House' was meant for 12-year old girls and 'America's Funniest Home Videos' was meant for 10-year old boys. The more I've come to understand what it takes to make a hit show and what it takes to reach the whole globe with a project the more I appreciate the hell out of both of them. I was on a show that parents could watch with their kids and would I do something like that that would reach the masses like that again? If it was the right thing, yeah. I can't do something that's false and I can't play a two-dimensional character much anymore. And then what I did on 'Entourage' was the opposite. I loved doing that show. I'm at a very good place. I'm proud I did 'Full House' and I'm proud that I did 'America's Funniest Home Videos.' I'm excited where I'm at now and maybe in five years I'll go 'That's not how I pictured 'Strange Days' to be at all.' I don't think so, though. I'm a very fortunate guy.
"Strange Days with Bob Saget" premieres tonight with back-to-back episodes on A&E at 10:00/9:00c.