When a celebrity dies, especially a beloved one, there’s a tendency to overstate their popularity or cultural importance. As my fellow ’90s kids can attest, though, that’s impossible with Bob Saget, who has passed away at the age of 65. Full House‘s Danny Tanner and host of America’s Funniest Home Videos was a major and meaningful part of our childhoods. A position he deserved not just because of who he played on screen, but for who he was off of it.
When primetime TV still ruled supreme over the cultural landscape, Bob Saget was always on it. And for the best reasons. Every Friday night, he was the sweetest, most loving father in the world during a block of television made specifically for kids. And on Sundays, he showed us the most hilarious videos. On a series that ultimately served as the spiritual forerunner of YouTube. There was never any question about how popular both shows were either. We didn’t know what Nielsen ratings were, but we didn’t need them. Even if someone did not watch either series, they still knew about them and about him. Bob Saget mattered whether you were a fan or not.
If those two iconic ’90s series—and they surely are iconic artifacts of that decade—-had been the entire extent of his career, his passing would hit hard for those who grew up watching him. But he saved his funniest joke for a time when we could actually appreciate it. As we got older, he let us in on a secret that seemed impossible given his role as TV’s dorkiest dad: he was actually a foul-mouthed, filthy comedian. A comic so vulgar that, in retrospect, it’s amazing ABC ever let him around children at all.
Even now, it seems impossible that nerdy guy, the one who ended every episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos with a message to his wife, made Andrew Dice Clay look like Ned Flanders. If you go back in time and play one of his sets during a 1992 TGIF block, you’ll make millions of eight-year-olds’ heads explode. But that’s a testament to his talent. As children, we assumed the person we saw on camera was the same person behind it. Meanwhile, Danny Tanner was the complete opposite of Bob Saget. Which we only learned when we could appreciate why that was so funny. Talk about a great bit. It was like discovering Mother Teresa secretly worked blue at The Comedy Store every Sunday before Mass.
He wasn’t done with us just yet, though. He was still playing dad when we entered adulthood. When How I Met Your Mother needed someone to voice a father we’d willingly listen to week after week, they chose one we already loved. For those of us who knew every episode of Full House by heart (and I surely did, as my two sisters basically watched reruns 24 hours a day every day), it was like reconnecting with an old family member.
He was also perfect for the role. Older Ted was dorky enough to think his kids would enjoy hearing a long meandering story. Danny Tanner would have done the same. But just like Danny, he was funny enough to keep us interested in hearing it ourselves.
One thing has become clear in the immediate wake of his passing, though. Despite his own crass comedy stylings, we actually did know the real Bob Saget from watching him on TV. The universal outpouring of love and admiration from his friends and colleagues is unequivocal. Those who knew him personally say he was as warm and loving as the characters he played.
I don’t know what to say 💔. I have no words. Bob was one of the best humans beings I’ve ever known in my life. I loved him so much.— Candace Cameron Bure (@candacecbure) January 10, 2022
I am broken. I am gutted. I am in complete and utter shock. I will never ever have another friend like him. I love you so much Bobby.— John Stamos (@JohnStamos) January 10, 2022
I had so much imposter syndrome when HIMYM started, thought I’d be found out, kicked off set & sent home. When I'd run into Bob on the Fox lot in those early days he'd gush over my performance & tell me how he was studying me to make sure his vocal performance felt right. 2/7— Josh Radnor (@JoshRadnor) January 10, 2022
We had a very special bond from Day 1, were never out of touch for long. We found a way to grab dinner once a year, even after HIMYM wrapped. We went to see each other in our Broadway plays. We talked a lot about how to live a meaningful life amidst all the chaos. 4/7— Josh Radnor (@JoshRadnor) January 10, 2022
I know that people lose loved ones, good people, every day. No one gets a pass. But the loss of Bob Saget hits deep. If you didn’t know him, he was kind and dear and cared about people deeply. He was the definition of “a good egg”. Too soon he leaves. #RipBobSaget— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) January 10, 2022
I will always love Bob Saget. He was the same age as me, so we shared the same references. Having experienced tragedy in his own family, he was hilariously irreverent about everything. As a person he was extremely sweet and kind. #RipBobSaget— Andy Kindler (@AndyKindler) January 10, 2022
Bob Saget was as lovely a human as he was funny. And to my mind, he was hilarious. We were close friends and I could not have loved him more. pic.twitter.com/TM8r1hzCfO— Norman Lear (@TheNormanLear) January 10, 2022
I’m shocked and saddened to learn that Bob Saget is gone. A great friend and one of the funniest and sweetest people I have ever known. My love to his beautiful family.— Billy Crystal (@BillyCrystal) January 10, 2022
Full House, even at its most popular, was never one of TV’s best shows. Neither was America‘s Funniest Home Videos. They were among TV’s most important, though. Which is exactly what Bob Saget was to an entire generation. He was a talented performer who could just as easily play a dorky sitcom dad as he could sing about unnatural acts on stage. And by all accounts, just as every kid “knew” growing up, he was an even better person.
After a lifetime of entertaining us, Bon Saget has left us. Far too soon. He’s survived by his wife and three children. As well as countless fans that will always love him. We don’t have to exaggerate why he mattered to so many.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.