Not including standup comedy, Bob Saget’s career on the New York stage included one Broadway musical, a Broadway comedy, and an Off-Broadway drama. As luck would have it, I saw all three of them – and also got to meet Saget.
Like many others of my generation, I grew up watching “Full House” and other staples of ABC/TGIF family sitcoms. Even if I can’t bring myself to watch “Full House” (or “Fuller House,” for that matter) today, it was enjoyable, heartwarming programming at the time. One can’t help but wish they could live in a world where each day would end with a lesson learned, accompanied by cheesy synthesized music and a comforting hug.
In the spring of 2005, Saget appeared Off-Broadway at Second Stage in “Privilege,” a drama by Paul Weitz (“American Pie”) in which Saget played a finance exec who gets arrested for insider trading. The play focused primarily on how this arrest affected the lives of his two young sons, who were forced to leave their swanky midtown apartment (with a bedroom filled with toys of all sorts). Casting Saget was a bold move because it conflicted with his wholesome “Full House” father figure persona, which made the idea that the character had broken the law all the more troubling. He gave a gentle and understated performance in a supporting role, which kept the attention on the younger actors.
I attended a post-opening Wednesday matinee of “Privilege” with a friend. Following the performance, I did something I had never done before or so, which probably had to do with my attachment to “Full House.” I went up to the house manager, identified myself as a member of the press, and asked if I could speak with Saget about the show. And to my surprise, Saget met me in the lobby and I interviewed him for about a half hour. (I wish I still had my audio cassette recording of the interview.)
Two years later, Saget made his Broadway debut in the musical comedy “The Drowsy Chaperone,” taking over as the “Man in Chair,” who narrates show-within-a-show for the audience. He joined the show right before Broadway shut down due to a stagehands strike and then continued with the show until its final performance in early 2008. In an endearing performance, Saget presented the character as scared, sad, and socially-awkward. One suspects that his background in standup comedy and ability to build rapport with an audience made him ideal for the role.
On Twitter, Bob Martin (the original “Man in Chair,” who also wrote the show’s book) reminisced about Saget’s final performance. “Bob came off stage directly into my arms and he just started weeping…Bob was a star in TV and film, but being on Broadway meant so much to him. It wasn’t just another gig. Like me, he thought of it as a dream come true,” Martin wrote.
Most recently, in 2015, Saget appeared in Peter Askins’ irreverent comedy “Hand to God,” taking over for Marc Kudisch as a family-friendly pastor who concludes that a teenage boy has become possessed by the devil – which came in the form of a foul-mouthed hand puppet. I don’t remember much about Saget’s performance besides the fact that he was awkwardly trying to pull off a Texan accent. In any event, one had to admire the fact that Saget had joined the cast of such a raw and raunchy show.
It’s a shame Saget did not do more theater. However, one can’t but admire how he chose good projects and took on supporting roles in shows that were either about to close or a limited run. It’s as if he just wanted to be part of the theater without really calling attention to himself.