‘1 vs. 100’? Place Your Bets on Bob Saget

He's got game. And now Bob Saget's got Broadway under his belt.

Give that man a chair — no, table that notion; he's already had one. Indeed, Elkins Park's pride and joie de vivre received great reviews for his recent role as "Man in Chair" during the closing end of "The Drowsy Chaperone" on Broadway.

In a way, that was a wake-up-call for fans who only knew Saget as the kindly caring "Full House" father with a fatwah on bad times, and as the host of "America's Funniest Home Videos" and its picture perfect image of the nation at its VHS silliest.

But there have been other shows; a tellingly compassionate telemovie that he directed and starred in about his late sister Gay and her battle with scleroderma; an off-Broadway bravura performance in "Privilege" … all going along with his Aristotelian take on "The Aristocrats" — if Aristotle had argued with four- and seven-letter words in his speeches.

He's only one man versus 100 projects — which, of course, includes Saget's hosting role on NBC's "1 vs. 100," airing Fridays.

And if his life is a mob scene these days, there's always time for comedy and caricature, even when he's the target of it.

"It's unbelievable; it almost looks like me," says the Jewish jester of the honor he recently received of his caricature hanging from the walls of Broadway's Sardi's, where the sartorially casual Saget now has a permanent place in musical mensch-hood.

If looks could kill, well, he kills as a comic: "It was more George Hamilton than me," he kibitzes.

Is that a joke or just a tan line? "It was very attractive."

What attracted producers to Saget was not so much his world premiere production of "Beach Blanket Blintzes" some 35 years ago ("I put every Jewish lad in Elkins Park in the film") nor his directorial debut of "We Come in Peace," a piece of which he shot as a kid at an Abington department store. No, it was his notable take on life and an ability to be at once everyman and every Jewish mother's dream date for their daughter.

After all, how many Oscar winners — Saget won one, a Student Oscar, while at Temple University for "Through Adam's Eyes" — have their eye on the prize without need of lasik surgery?

The narrator of TV's "How I Met Your Mother" has never met a project he couldn't take on. Hot to trot? Or as cool as the title characters he sent up in "Farce of the Penguins"?

"I'm not cool," he says, deflecting a compliment, although he did serve as the unlikely star of a rap video that unwrapped to millions of hits on YouTube.

In line to be online king? Save some cyberspace for other projects. And as far as taking it easy … this Bob's no Barcalounger buyer; his "Man in Chair" took a back seat to no one.

"I played it the Jewish way," says Saget of his Broadway role. "There was a line in it where [a couple] got married under a chupah."

In pronouncing it, "I did the hard 'C.' "

Not hard to see why Bob Martin — who originated the role and wrote the show — gave Saget the okay to change it from the "hoopa" hoopla he had generated himself on stage. Bringing even more legitimacy to legitimate theater goes the Saget saga.

But a musical? Well, Saget acknowledges, he didn't really have a musical part in the show. Don't give us a song and dance, Saget; we've seen you on your special and remember that song you wrote accompanying yourself on guitar.

Of course, the lyrics for that number will never be heard at any Jewish ceremony presided over by the 51-year-old with the Bar Mitzvah boychick appeal.

But that notion that nice guy finishes first works well in "1 vs. 100," in which contestants divine how a mob of 100 players might answer a question.

The bets go up to a million bucks. But Saget played his own hunch in taking the show.

"I think all the comics, all the comedians and comediennes hosting a game show" — his buddy, Howie Mandel, helped break down barriers by hosting "Deal or No Deal" — "emulate 'You Bet Your Life' and wish they could do that, wish they could just riff on the people."

What happens when a riff is R-rated? Odds of that happening on "1 vs. 100" are more than 10 million to one. But … "they let me get away with some; I get to say we're going to do this for shiggles, which is just cute little PG-13 code."

But that's why he stakes out stand-up gigs at clubs, says Saget, whose funny foul comic fulminations make him a frisky choice to have his mouth cleaned out with some chicken soup.

Of course, it's quite possible that the fowl who gave his life for that soup attended the show just before and got a kick out of the humor.

"When I was 17," begins Saget, "I started to do standup, and used to go to New York and wait 12 hours in line and sign the list [at comedy clubs] and go with people, most of [whom] are pretty known today, a lot of them. And my act was always bluish."

Funny, he doesn't look … bluish.

"The HBO special that I did last year was probably the harder edge of what I do, that and 'The Aristocrats.' I never would go that dark. That was just an odd thing that happened."

Odd couple all in one character: The sweet Saget, the raunchy Saget. The … controversial Saget? Last week, Loyola University of Chicago's loyal fans protested, denouncing the school administration's decision to dis-invite Saget for an appearance because, according to Rev. Richard Salmi, veepee of student affairs, Saget's act is "inconsistent with Christian values."

How does his Jewish family value his act?

"My aunt didn't want to talk to me for two weeks," he says teasingly of a tanta who didn't take too kindly to seeing a performance.

What made her cry uncle? "She saw it in a night club, and I got [her] a prime rib. As long as there's prime rib and alcohol, she's fine."

Can't wait to see if she pours the Mogen David over his head at the next seder, a gathering that will be much diminished with the recent death of his father, whom Saget gives much credit for his funny face on life.

"When I was a little kid, my dad proved to me that humor was the only thing that was going to get us all through it," he says of a family history in which his father "lost four brothers and my parents horrifically lost four children."

Which may explain why Saget is never at a loss for compassion coating his comedy. And after so many down times, it's always good to look up and find an audience awaiting you anxiously.

No joke, life is good. "I've been very, very fortunate. I've got a healthy three daughters and a mother and a girlfriend," he says.

And as for direction in his life? For that, he's covered, too: "I've got a GPS woman," laughs Saget, the road warrior.


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