As beloved ‘80s/’90s sitcom dad Danny Tanner, Bob Saget dispensed wholesome wisdom with a smile, soaking in the “awwwws” from an audience who loved and appreciated the gentle hijinks of the Full House family. During the same era, he hosted America’s Funniest Home Videos, providing amusing commentary over user-submitted family films, as if YouTube were only available once a week.
These roles earned Saget a reputation as America’s family-friendly entertainer of choice, but even then, there were signs that there was a lot more to him as a performer. His foul-mouthed comedy routines were whispered about on playgrounds; 1998 saw him direct Dirty Work, a raunchy, critically panned film that’s since become a minor cult favorite; he made a brief, memorable cameo in Half Baked as a guy in recovery loudly reminding the crowd of the things he’d done for coke. It’s not unusual for a sitcom star to work at changing up his image, nor is it surprising that a comedian with an overwhelmingly family-friendly image would work to broaden his appeal. But this was less about a star trying to rebrand, but about a comedian who no longer felt constrained by his audience. His nearly 10-minute joke in The Aristocrats—which leaves no filthy stone unturned or subsequently unshoved up someone’s ass—proves fairly conclusively that he wasn’t a G-rated guy playing at being a potty mouth. He was the real deal.
By all accounts, Bob Saget was a study in contrasts: a wholesome sitcom dad with a dark sense of humor who, by all accounts, was also an incredibly nice person. The secret to comedy is always in surprise; the best jokes seem to lead in one direction, only to conclude with a punchline no one saw coming. That ability to surprise and shock—without ever losing his status as one of America’s favorite TV dads—was the secret to an unlikely but impressive career.