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Bob Saget in Three Acts: An Interview at Tony’s di Napoli
West 43rd
Between Broadway and 6th Ave. Monday, January 7, 2008

Written by Ryan Eagle



Bob Saget
Photo Credit Mark Rupp

 

Only four months into his starring role in The Drowsy Chaperone, Bob Saget must now move on to other projects. So too must the rest of the cast and crew of this production as Drowsy has been pulled from the Broadway lineup. On Monday, January 7th Saget was honored at the Times Square Tony's di Napoli with a portrait unveiling and party. The portrait is the latest in the restaurant’s collection of caricatures they call the “Broadway Wall of Fame.” Shortly before congratulatory speeches by restaurateur, Bruce Dimpflmaier; public relations hostess, Valerie Smaldone and producer, Kevin McCollum, Saget made his entrance to the spacious wine cellar/private party hideaway below the main dining room of the restaurant.


Bruce Dimpflmaier (the Manager of Tony's di Napoli),
Valerie Smaldone, and Bob Saget
Photo Credit Mark Rupp

ACT I: The Entrance

(SAGET steps down into several dozen mingling Broadway types [cast members, friends, business associates and press] to a round of applause while shielding his face in mock hesitation of the reception.)

The guy is eminently approachable. Others in this situation might “work” the room – a few jokes here, a posed picture there – and Saget does tell jokes and does graciously pose for pictures – but the easiness with which he shares himself is not workmanlike at all. The cozy sanctuary of the wine cellar and the concentration of familiar faces seemed to give Saget a license to enjoy the evening, which can’t possibly be so easy for a man as lovingly neurotic as the Saget that spoke to me about his approach to comedy. I was promised a few minutes with Bob and shortly thereafter got a quick introduction and a good handshake from the guest of honor. But first there were a few more hands he had to shake and a few more shots for which to pose. I sat and watched those new to the comedian and actor get their time with him, their shakes, their mementos.


Ryan Eagle and Bob Saget
Photo Credit Mark Rupp

ACT II: The Interview

(SAGET apologizes for making me wait to speak with him, though I was only made to wait a few minutes and had not prearranged a one-on-one interview. He’s immediately likeable. Goofy and cool at the same time. We share the corner of a large dining table and begin again with another handshake.)

Regardless of the questions I had prepared, the first words out of my mouth included The Aristocrats. For those whose virginal ears have yet to hear the magnificently vulgar stream-of-consciousness joke telling that The Aristocrats documents, you need only know that Saget all but steals the show. I told him as much and wondered how improvising during the movie’s unrehearsed scenes compared to attacking a Broadway role. Both mentioning the film and letting on that my understanding of the world revolves around comedy started Bob on a conversational answer. “Obviously,” it requires, “different muscles,” he said, comparing the freeform comedy of the film to the comedy taken from the pages of a script. Saget told me he, tried not to change even the smallest thing,” in the script of The Drowsy Chaperone because he felt the writing was so strong. On this point he was emphatic. Over and over again, he praised the script. How then did the reliance on someone else’s words compare to using his own words, timing and delivery? Evidently, there was a bit of crossover since the first thirty pages of Drowsy were just Bob talking to the audience – a sort of scripted stand-up (or sit-down, as the case may be, since that 30 page monologue was delivered while seated in a rocking chair each night).

Comfort presented itself a little differently in The Aristocrats. “Safe,” was how he described shooting his scene for that movie. Because of the intimate setting of the shoot (backstage at a comedy club with filmmakers and friends, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette) Saget felt he could be himself. At several points during his scene, he breaks down, laughing at the absurdity of his improvisation. It feels the same as a reel of funny outtakes at the end of a good movie. When you see it, you know you’re getting the good stuff, not just a watered down edit. He – like so many of the other comedians in the movie – is completely genuine. With a few exceptions to again praise the other talent that made Drowsy happen, the remainder of our conversation never turned away from comedy.

Before I could ask if he had been thinking about doing stand-up during his run on Broadway, Saget volunteered how anxious he was to get back to the clubs. “Stand-up is who I am,” he said, leaving no doubt about where he feels most at home. Efforts to throw himself back into the stand-up ranks had recently brought him back in touch with friends and fellow comedians Paul Mooney and Jeff Ross, among others. Saget confided that he had asked permission to appear with Mooney at a recent show. When he recounted Mooney’s reaction to being asked – basically saying that Mooney told him he didn’t have to ask, but just show up and perform – I could see some of what Saget had missed while on Broadway. The acting “muscles” as he put it, that he had been flexing had been exercised at the expense of their stand-up counterparts. The warmth and gratitude with which he spoke of his colleagues clarified just how much the stand-up itch needed to be scratched. Everything comes back to comedy with Saget. He couldn’t help but slide jokes into our conversation. After several off color comments that sent me into fits of laughter, he’d congratulate himself and feign arrogance saying, “You should write that down.” A junky after more laughs, always more laughs, he scored his high each time I cracked up.

Getting back to the comedy clubs will likely be a bicoastal experience for Saget. When he mentioned clubs on the Sunset Strip I asked about his relationship to New York. Although his life must be divided between east coast and west, we returned once again to the idea of a comfort zone – this time not a figurative place, but a geographic one. “I relax in New York,” he told me. “Everything I’ve ever done of consequence in my career was here.” He took a few minutes to express just how intertwined his life was with New York and how he enjoyed the bond he had built with the city.

I thanked Bob for his time and his candor and while pushing himself away from our table and extending his hand, he thanked me. “Thank you for everything,” he said. Considering the circumstances of seeing people with whom he had certainly grown close for the last time, this response had probably been lurking that evening, just waiting to pop out. However, directed toward a writer whom he’d just met, it was a little odd. As soon as the stray “for everything” popped out, he caught it and wrestled it into another joke. “Thank you for everything?” he shouted. “Like you were at my bar mitzvah?” He shook his head and closed his eyes in disbelief at what had escaped. Then opening his eyes, he saw me lose it again. Interview over, walking away from the table and Saget still had me laughing.


Portrait of Bob Saget by Artist Dan May

ACT III. The Unveiling

(SAGET sheepishly makes his way up to his portrait which is hidden under red linens and sitting on an easel behind a few lengths of velvet rope. Applause and a man’s voice rhythmically barking “SAG-ET! SAG-ET!” fill the room.)

Bob’s acceptance speech was shorter than any of the introductions that preceded it. He thanked all of the people with whom he had worked over the past few months and praised the efforts of many involved with the production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Intermittently, he quavered a bit while thinking back on his abbreviated time with the cast he was addressing. Each time his voice shook, he rescued himself with a joke – often at his own expense. When he’d thanked all there were to thank, Saget anticipated the unveiling itself. He described the still hidden art as, “The unbearable likeness of my being,” as those hosting the party grabbed hold of the drape. And there they were – Saget, the caricature and Saget, the comedian. The caricature isn’t bad, but the comedian really is worth seeing.


Valerie Smaldone & Comic Paul Provenza
Photo Credit Mark Rupp

Troy Britton Johnson & Gerry Vichi
Photo Credit Mark Rupp

Valerie Smaldone & Bob Saget
Photo Credit Mark Rupp


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