The year was 2005, and I was a 20-something living in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. As such, feeling hip and somewhat subversive, my friends and I looked for hip and somewhat subversive things to do. (Key word: somewhat. We all had real jobs.)
When we’d heard that AMC theaters had banned a new movie, “The Aristocrats,” from its 3,500+ theaters, seeing it went straight to the top of our to-do list.
It was a new documentary from Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza, in which scores of all-star comedians told their version of the same joke about a new fictitious act, always ending with the punchline: “It’s called...’The Aristocrats!’”
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It featured the heaviest of comedy hitters: Whoopi Goldberg, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Robin Williams, Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman...and then there was Bob Saget.
In 2005, remember, Saget had been out of the spotlight for some time. He’d been immortalized to all of America as the guy who played Danny Tanner, the dad from “Full House,” and then the squeaky-clean host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” the quintessential non-offensive, wholesome presence in all of our living rooms.
So, I’ll never forget watching him deliver seven of the most filthy, perverse, stomach-churning, indeed offensive minutes I’d ever seen on film while presenting his take on “The Aristocrats.” We left the theater sore from laughter but also stunned by Saget’s surprising star-turn.
It was a whole new Saget to us, one we very much appreciated. It seemed as though his comedian friends were well aware of this odd dichotomy Saget lived in, where his television roles utterly belied his raunchy blue stand-up roots and his dark humor.
Later, perhaps because of his appearance in “The Aristocrats,” he was able to dabble in both worlds, playing a satirical version of himself on “Entourage,” writing the book “Dirty Daddy,” and taking the kind of sitcom roles that made him famous — the voice on “How I Met Your Mother,” “Surviving Suburbia” and “Fuller House.”
A decade after seeing Saget in “The Aristocrats,” I was asked to participate in a roast of famed political consultant James Carville at The Kennedy Center. Known for being a filthy joke teller himself, Carville was going to be affectionately pilloried by the likes of Jeff Ross, Jim Norton, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and several politicos like Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, Carville’s wife Mary Matalin, and, unimaginably, me.
The roastmaster was none other than Bob Saget.
When the night arrived, I headed backstage, my husband John in tow, to go over the jokes I was to deliver with the writers, themselves an all-star cast of comedy writers who made me even more nervous than I already was.
I winced at the off-color content they wanted me to perform — jokes no one would expect from a young, female, conservative commentator. But I also knew it was genuinely funny stuff that, if I could get through it, would land some big laughs. I steeled my nerves, sighed in relief that I hadn’t invited my parents or my boss, and prepared for the show.
“Who let you in here?” I heard from the doorway of my dressing room.
It was Saget. He warmly introduced himself to my husband and me, and could immediately sense my nervousness. “Don’t worry, nothing you say will be worse than what we’re going to say.” He gave me a hearty pat on the back and a reassuring smile, and we were off.
I delivered my lines unflinchingly, and took my share of off-color commentary as well. At one point, Saget joked that he would have hit on me before the show if my husband hadn’t been such a “c—k block,” a joke he’d obviously come up with on the spot.
The night was memorable, to say the least, not just because of the stars on that stage, but because I still can’t believe how many filthy jokes were told — at the Kennedy Center, home of the Washington National Opera and the National Symphony Orchestra.
After the show, we all gathered backstage for drinks. Bob came over to John and me to make sure we were okay with his jokes. Of course we were, and then he gushed about his new girlfriend, a food blogger from Chicago named Kelly. He was utterly in love, he said. He’d go on to marry Kelly Rizzo in 2018.
And now, I’m heartbroken for Kelly, as well as the adult children he leaves behind after his unexpected death at just 65. Saget was full of surprises, and I can’t help but think he had so many more to share with us.
But I’m lucky. I’ll always have that strange and sort of wonderful hour or so on stage, where Bob Saget and I told dirty jokes together. Talk about surprising.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN. Follow her on Twitter @secupp
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