Bob recently took time out from his busy schedule and answered some questions for me.
SUZY: Most people know you from Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos but may not know that you are one of the funniest stand-ups who ever stepped on a stage. Are you back doing standup or did you really never go away and I’m just not observant?
BOB: First I'd like to say how honored I am to be on a site whose byline has anything to do with 'comics going somewhere to die...' A lot of my favorite comedians have passed on and I truly look forward to seeing them all in open mic purgatory in the afterlife. I just hope I don't go on too early.
Your above question is a compliment, right? Yeah, I just reread it... Yeah people do know me from those two shows, but ya hope, through tragedy plus time, that people see, it was just great family gigs I had, but that wasn't my only comedy sensibilities. Who knew when left to my own facilities, I would be such a dirty bastard. It wasn't premeditated. I love the standup and always have—I started doing it when I was 17 and my stuff was always odd-- or 'edgy' as people say. I've never really stopped doing standup and never will in some form or another. Hosting a quiz show like "1 VS 100" is what it is, and it employs some of the craft of just doing standup. But the shows I've been doing this year, colleges, theaters, larger venues than I've ever played on a regular basis-- truly invigorate me. So I've never gone away, but I'd like to think I've grown to be whatever this spin-art is now that I do, and the audience I've always wanted to see my stuff and relate to it has somehow found me. Incredibly nice yet sick bastards that I love performing for.
SUZY: You wrote and directed the 2006 movie, The Farce of the Penguins, which is hilarious. As I read the end credits I saw that you used more funny people in one movie than anyone since Mel Brooks. A lot of comics and ‘comedic’ actors in Hollywood are afraid to surround themselves with funny people; why aren’t you?
BOB: First, thanks for even mentioning my name near Mel Brooks. I love that man. Yeah that penguin film I did was conceived as obviously as one may expect. I had watched the "March of the Penguins" at a friend of mine's screening and called my buddy David Permut the next day and said, "I couldn't stop voicing over this thing." He said, "Let's make a voice-over R-rated comedy out of it." It was kind of like what I did on that video show, voicing over cats and dogs who’d just been hit in the nuts, except there would be a 'story' and it would have to be completely made out of stock documentary footage since we weren't allowed to us one frame of National Geographic films. With our editor, Michael Miller, I'd cut together a twenty minute truncated version of the film with temporary voices on it, and Samuel L. Jackson read the script I'd written and saw the first twenty minutes and decided he'd like to be the narrator. Just before that, Lewis Black, Tracy Morgan, Mo'Nique and then Christina Applegate signed on to be the lead cast. And it kind of snowballed after that...A silly dirty penguin movie made completely out of stock footage where the eyes don't move...Friends of mine who did me the solid by being in the film, wanted to be part of the stoner movie of the moment. It’s exactly what I did in my early twenties....Sitting around with comedians, up all night, maybe a bit high on something or another and dubbing the TV with the sound off. Sounds pathetic, and it was, but it was also funny. And it's a gift to be surrounded by so many funny people. On this one, I got to do it in out-of-control voice-over form. I hope I didn't poach all my favors. ("I'd love you to be in my new film." "Oh sorry, you used me as the 'Bitch Slapped Penguin," and now my children won't speak to me anymore...Sorry, Bob, you’ve used up your favor of this life.”)
SUZY: Many people thought your part in The Aristocrats was the most twisted and the best. Anyone ask you out as a result of that movie?
BOB: I was asked out by an entire family. Much like the Aristocrats themselves. They brought me over and wanted to show me the act they were working on. I told them I'd seen it and ran away before they started dancing with their poo. I have a girlfriend, but did not at the time of "The Aristocrats" release. I don't think that performance secures a new relationship, but actually, yes, I did meet a couple of intriguing women who simply liked my cameo in that film and wanted to talk to me about it. But I don't think I've been 'asked out' technically, for twenty years. Does your girlfriend count?
SUZY: If I printed out your IMDb.com list of credits, it would take 3 people to lift it. Here are some comments people left for you:
- He’s a hottie
- The same as Stephen Colbert
- Do people really worship him?
Do you agree with any of those statements and why?
BOB: I'm a hottie? Weird right? I'm flattered. Some people call me a DILF. I guess women and men who dig my work may like (cause I've heard this) that I don't really work with a net. That I'm hopefully a nice guy, saying terrible things sometimes, because they're funny. Anyone who calls me a hottie I want to thank. They're really gonna think I'm cute when I get a full plastic surgery do-over in a few years. I'm going to put my ears where my eyebrows are. It's gonna be so friggin' hot!
Steven Colbert is immensely talented. I guess some people think we’re similar, 'cause we're both tall, (he's thinner) and maybe we look like we could be related or something, but our comedy isn't that similar. I'm not as smart as he is, but I do appreciate his work immensely. He's really great at what he does, so again, being compared to someone as good as he is flatters me.
In answer to your last thought-- Yeah there's this website that says it worships me and I am that holy guy people pray to. I get a little scared of that, 'cause we all know, 'I'm just a man,' but I met this guy who runs the site a few years back when I was out doing standup and he really seemed like a nice guy. Just a fan that makes a joke saying that I am to be worshipped. In my bedroom I do have a shrine of myself where you can light incense and hear the rap song "Rollin' with Saget" on a loop, while my girlfriend anoints me with Frankincense.
SUZY: One thing I picked up from your IMDb.com listing was that there is a Student Academy Awards and in 1977 you won with your film Through Adam’s Eyes. Were you contemplating standup back then or did you want to be a director?
BOB: I started making student movies when I was nine. All 8mm and then Super 8mm. By the time I got to college at Temple University in Philadelphia, I was shooting 16mm. I'd made like sixty hours of student films. Mostly terrible...A movie called "Beach Blanket Blintzes" where a fifty foot blintz turned people into sour cream. "Through Adam's Eyes" was a documentary I made in 1978 about a young boy who underwent facial reconstructive surgery and he narrated it. I'm very proud of it to this day. I always wanted to be a director, and throughout my career I have directed and produced projects that attracted me. I've got quite a few movies as director still in me. Maybe I should have them removed 'cause they really are impacting my bowel. Maybe I shouldn’t have wedged those DVDs so far up my ass. See I could've stopped on that train of thought sentences ago, but why deny millions of bloggers such “A” material… Sarcasm never reads well. Sorry.
SUZY: You’re also the champion of a cause that is dear to your heart. You lost your sister Gay to scleroderma and in 1996 directed the touching film, For Hope, for her. That must have been a very difficult part of your life. How does a person as funny as you cope with such a loss?
BOB: Yes, that was a crazy tough time for my family. My sister Gay was 47 when she passed away from complications of scleroderma. And we didn't know what we now know about the disease. I am certain her medical care should have taken a different path, but at the time, when those things happen to people, the family puts their faith in the practitioners. They just wouldn't treat her today with the techniques they were guinea pigging her with thirteen years ago. And my whole family, heralded by my late dad, Ben, would use humor as a mechanism to help us all deal with the horror of the situation. Even my sister Gay knew that sadly, it was her time, and chimed in with her own beautiful self-effacing gallows humor. She was an amazing, smart, wonderful person. In the movie "For Hope," the family joked about bringing Hope (played by Dana Delany) out to breakfast once she had passed, ALA "Weekend at Bernie's." ABC let us air it, and the script, written by Susan Rice, had so much more impact due to the sick comedic tone throughout what they would call in the day, a "disease of the week" TV movie. It was obviously horrific to go through the loss of my sister (I'd lost another sister, Andi, to a brain aneurysm ten years earlier) and that further motivates me to continue working for the Scleroderma Research Foundation. We put on three events within two years, called "Cool Comedy Hot Cuisine" where we raise as much as we can for the scleroderma research centers we fund throughout the country. The one at Johns Hopkins, funded by Dr. Fredrick Wigley, is one of the most impressive. Our next fund raiser event is November 6, at Caroline's Comedy Club in New York. This past year we raised almost $700,000 at the event in San Francisco with Dana Carvey and Lily Tomlin performing. This November’s at Caroline’s will definitely be an incredible event, with the food by Susan Feniger of the Border Grill restaurants and some of the best comedians alive. For more details check out the Scleroderma Research Foundation.
SUZY: One of the best things about you is that you look like the priest next door but then you open your mouth and you’re irreverent and dirty. In the beginning of your career as a standup, did anyone try to tell you to clean it up?
BOB: Yes, the Church. I guess as I've done standup for thirty years, it was always a voice that had a weird quirky sick humor instilled in it. No one has told me to stop anything. When I've done a theater or event and I see little kids or conservative adults in the audience, there's no reason for me to work blue. It'd be silly. What I do in my standup that I love, 'cause there's no censor except the one I police myself with, is just let my mind be open to what crazy assemblage of material is going to spew itself onto the audience. I guess I do look clean cut like people's friend, dentist, priest, although I'm Jewish...and maybe that serves the 'opposite day' of what the standup persona is. All I know is its fun. And also, I think we've all learned that analyzing comedy is the death of comedy. Soon as I talk about how and why I say things, it ceases to be funny to me. So this Q & A could be dangerous. Do not operate heavy powered machinery while reading this. It could put you to sleep and you could lose a foot.
SUZY: You have an HBO special airing tomorrow night called That Ain't Right. Anything you want to say about that except Watch It and Buy It?
BOB: I shot it at NYU in the Skirball Theater. It really was an exciting fun thing for me to do personally, taking seven years that I'd been skirting around the same hour or so, finding different ways to tell the same stories, jokes, and then let myself tirade off on my weird rants. When stuff really does come to my mind the first time and it's injected into that hour and in this case, on an HBO special, it's just organically rewarding as an artist. The name of the special is "That Ain't Right," because it really isn't. The things I talk about are silly-- I'm basically a nine year old boy speaking of perversion where the punch line may be, "Hey don't have sex with a goat..." But that should be a given-- which is why I sometimes feel the need to lecture my young audience on the rights and wrongs of nature and the incorrectness of trying to mate with a tiny animal just because you think you could overpower it. It's not natural. HBO's promo department came up with the byline: "Good Guy Gone Wrong," which could have also been the title of the special. But it's not. “That Ain't Right” is. I'm very proud of it, and just hope no one is offended by it and young kids don't see it. It's about what a lot of comedians’ standup is about-- relationships, kids, parents, the flip side of fame-- all laced with organic profanity and some music, 'cause, at the end of the day, that soothes the savage beast.