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Bob Saget burns bright when life turns dark

Natalie Brasington

It’s a well-worn trope that comedians use tragedy to fuel their art. Bob Saget has seen more tragedy than most. His new memoir, “Dirty Daddy,” details the losses he has suffered in his life, including the death of three uncles when he was young, and later, two of his sisters, and how his father taught him to soothe the pain with inappropriate, scatological humor. That’s coming in handy now as Saget hits the road to do stand-up, including a show at the Wilbur Saturday.

“There’s been so much tragedy lately, it’s making me happy that I have some tour dates coming up,” he says, referencing everything from recent mass shootings to a June 7 New Jersey highway crash that killed comedian James McNair and injured Saget’s friend Tracy Morgan. The worse the news, the more Saget wants to help people escape from it.

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“I don’t have the chops, emotionally, to write the political satire that comes out of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher,” he says. “I just want to have fun. I have some new stuff. I think when bad stuff happens I go a little wiggy.”

Saget, 58, has found himself in something of a career lull, after releasing last year’s hour-long special, “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About,” and ending his work as the narrator on “How I Met Your Mother,” the CBS sitcom that concluded its nine-year run in March. He says it took him a year and a half to write “Dirty Daddy,” an intimate memoir that also happens to be sprinkled with sex and poop jokes. It was a difficult endeavor for Saget, who found himself reliving traumas he had never properly processed before.

“Two of my sisters’ deaths, I just hadn’t dealt with it, and I just go, ‘Oh my God, this is 40 years later,’ ” he says. His sister Andi died of a brain aneurysm at 34 — the night of her death, Saget performed on stage — and his sister Gay died of scleroderma at 47. “Those are the kinds of things, that I was sitting and crying, and my editor was going, ‘Yeah, this is what you want to do. You want to touch people’s hearts, then you want to be funny, because that’s what you do.’ ”

This year, Saget’s mother passed away. She has been a subject of his humor in the past — last year, he lampooned her problems understanding computers in a FunnyOrDie.com video — but her death almost made Saget want to drop some bits about her from his act. Almost. But that wouldn’t be true to form.

“It’s funny, I had some death jokes about my mother, which is very strange,” he says. “And it now makes me not want to even do jokes about her because she was so clear the last month of her life, it was like being in a holy room. But she knew there was going to be material to come out of it. There’s nothing I can do.”

This darker side of Saget is far from the clean-cut image he portrayed as Danny Tanner on the sitcom “Full House” or as host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” But he has always had a sweet tooth for a filthy pun in his stand-up, and his “Entourage” cameos and debauched turn in the comedy documentary “The Aristocrats” helped bring audiences around to Saget’s roots.

Still, he can’t shake the image “Full House” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” created. “They’re not gone from television is the scary part,” he says. “If I ever flip a channel and it’s on, [it’s] like, ‘I gotta go.’ ” But how, he wonders, could anyone expect his stand-up to fall in line with that image? “Who would go there, to go watch Danny Tanner in concert?” he says. “I mean, I don’t know what he’d do.”

In “Entourage,” Saget played a nasty alter ego to his public image, but neither persona speaks to who he is as person. “That character, which is supposedly me, is as two-dimensional as the Danny Tanner character,” he says.

Saget also believes his reputation as a “dirty comic” is ill-fitting, personally and professionally. “I don’t talk blue in my life,” he says. “There’s a lot of people dirtier than me. Most, I think.”

Despite the troubles and misunderstandings he has worked through in his career, Saget would say he has arrived in a good place. The book was therapy for him, and a reboot. There are deals in the works for a new TV pilot and an independent comedy film Saget would direct. He’s tight-lipped about details on both projects but will say the film is “not a broad comedy, it’s a human one” and may be a surprise for fans.

Perhaps best of all, he has an audience for his stand-up that he says ranges from 60-year-olds who used to watch him on “The Tonight Show” to teenagers who know him from “Entourage” or “How I Met Your Mother.”

And he has nothing to prove. “That’s such a nice place to be,” he says. “It’s a lovely thing to do, to make people laugh.”

Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.
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