A few weeks after Bob Saget unexpectedly died in his hotel room after a stand-up gig in Florida, some of his closest friends in Hollywood, comedy, and music gathered together to pay tribute to him at The Comedy Store, in front of a live audience. Since they filmed it for posterity, it was possible for Netflix to acquire and share it with the rest of us. Was that a good idea, though?
The Gist: The all-star tribute to Bob Saget took place at the end of January at The Comedy Store, with the audience there as a fund-raiser for the Scleroderma Research Foundation. The foundation’s home page still pays tribute to Saget, for good reason: The late comedian hosted and produced benefits in an attempt to research better therapies, and ultimately, a cure for scleroderma, which had killed his sister. He regularly attracted the biggest names in comedy and music to his cause. Now they were paying it back for him.
The tribute, produced by Mike Binder (who’d known Saget since they both started performing at the Store fresh out of school) and hosted more or less by John Stamos and Jeff Ross, also included Chris Rock, Jim Carrey, John Mayer, Darren Criss, Bob’s widow Kelly Rizzo-Saget, Mike Binder, Jackson Browne, Seth Green, Mike Young, Michael Keaton, Candace Cameron Bure, Dave Coulier, Dave Chappelle, Tim Allen, Paul Rodriguez, Jon Lovitz, and two of Bob’s kids, Lara and Aubrey Saget.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: Netflix also just recently released a tribute special of a different sort for Norm Macdonald, although Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special starts with almost an hour of posthumously new jokes from the comedian before settling into its celebrity tribute panel, without a live audience.
Memorable Jokes: With Ross the “Roastmaster” helping to preside over the tribute, you knew to expect more than a few barbs or zingers.
The best came early, thanks to Chris Rock, who in the course of a couple minutes, noted: “I think it’s sad that the motherf—-er had to die to get Jim Carrey back up onstage,” then followed it shortly thereafter with this tag to someone else’s reference to Saget as a father figure to many comedians and TV viewers: “He’s America’s Dad — that’s not a convicted rapist.”
But first, they welcomed Saget’s widow, Kelly, to the stage to offer a few words, touching, funny and tender as she reminisced about the jokes Bob would tell her while giving her tours of the comedy club. “The most important thing to him was belonging to this club, to this group, to being a comedian.”
Not the funniest, but this was a public memorial, after all.
Which meant the most memorable moments came from those who clearly knew and loved him the longest, such as Stamos, or from the musical performances by Mayer and Browne. Browne performed “For A Dancer”; Mayer, “Stop This Train”; together, they jammed on Browne’s early songwriting hit, “These Days.” All of those songs favorites of Saget, and even more heartbreakingly bittersweet to hear now. Of course, they ended the tribute with a much lighter singalong, as a video screen behind them broadcast Saget singing his own song, “My Dog Licked My Balls.”
Our Take: When someone famous of cultural importance dies, we’ve become accustomed to the idea of tuning in to a livestream or televised memorial for that person. But when did we reach the point of sitting at home, bored, thinking, hey, why don’t we click on that memorial service from months or years ago? Is this a thing now? Are we already living in this world, and I’m just finding out about it now?
The Netflix tribute to Macdonald carried a different feel to it, precisely because they didn’t share any footage from the actual memorial tribute his friends put on for him last month during the Netflix Is A Joke Festival. Instead, only a few of them participated in a closed-door, no-audience discussion about Macdonald and his final performance.
This Saget tribute, on the other hand…
Stamos at one point said the tribute was cathartic for him, and he hoped it’d prove cathartic for viewers, too. All of the famous people in Saget’s life talked about how Saget made everyone around him feel good, and about how he felt best about himself once he was onstage performing. So why would we want to sit around and watch something to make us feel sad about Saget when we could watch him do what he did best: Make us laugh. Give us comfort. Share that “cathedral of love, cathedral of laughter” that Carrey said Saget represented.
Is it because Netflix doesn’t have any of Saget’s comedy specials on the platform?
Because if you really want to pay tribute to Saget, you’d seek out his comedy, and you’d support his foundation.
True crime may have proven popular and profitable for podcasting and streaming platforms alike, but I really don’t want to see a world in which celebrity or comedian tributes also become a subgenre of streaming. I really don’t want to be writing a Top 10 Comedian Tributes On Streaming list at any point.
Our Call: Which means the very idea of saying STREAM IT or SKIP IT to a comedian tribute just feels nuts to me. But if you’re going to make me pick, then take note that Bob Saget’s name is on Netflix, then skip this and instead search for actual comedy from Saget. So, yeah … SKIP IT.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.