Opinion: I was a lawyer — until the night I met Bob Saget

I waited, hoping someone would say it wasn’t true, but it was later confirmed: Saget has died at age 65.
In the days that followed, many people, especially comedians, have shared stories about Saget’s talent, as well as his kindness and support. To some, he was a father figure from his time at “Full House.” To others, he was their favorite comedian – one with a… unshakable sense of dark humor.

For me it was personal: Bob Saget literally changed the whole arc of my life.

On April 1, 2011, I was a partner at a small law firm in Chicago. The combative world of judges and lawyers exhausted me mentally and physically. I ran out of time for my personal passions, including playing the guitar and managing musicians. Seeking a creative outlet, I started taking weekly improv classes with a friend at the legendary Second City theater. I thought it might help me become a better trial attorney.

This friend also happened to be performing, and on that April day, he opened for a sold-out Bob Saget show in nearby Hammond, Indiana. He invited me to come along to keep him calm and ‘manage’ him, given my background in talent management.

As I walked to the theater, I saw Saget get out of his limousine. Thanks to a few drinks from the Cubs opening game (they lost), I had the courage to approach him. When I introduced myself as a friend and “manager” of his opening act, Saget immediately shook my hand.

Noticing my Cubs gear, he disarmed me with a discussion of baseball and guitars, the latter of which he played in part of his stand-up set. I remember how nice and sincere he was, asking follow-up questions as we walked around the room in search of the green room. What celebrity is affectionate to a manager, let alone a pseudo-manager? Such a person was Saget. When we ran into each other backstage before the show, he even invited me to hang out in his green room while he tuned his guitar so I could try playing it myself.

As I started to strum, I filled the empty space with a comedic yet self-deprecating anecdote about my music days, telling him how I played in multiple bands and got fired from multiple bands, even though I was the one bringing the bands together. My head was down, focused on the guitar, but I heard a clear and familiar sound: a genuine laugh. I made a famous person laugh! And not just anyone; Danny Tanner! Bob Saget from “The Aristocrats!” He laughed. Loud. On something I said. What happened next was even more surreal.

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“You should do that on stage tonight,” he told me. I thought maybe he mistook me for my boyfriend, so I told him I wasn’t performing and it wasn’t a rehearsed piece — I’d never done stand-up before, I said, and had basically sued for a living. Saget was unfazed and actually seemed more convinced that I should go upstairs. (In hindsight, it makes sense; he shocked people for a living when he worked blue on stage, especially those who knew him as the virtuous single father of “Full House.” What could be more shocking than a funny lawyer?)

Although he kept pushing me to keep going, I knew I had to stop as I led the way. I had made Bob Saget laugh. That was enough for the night.

But his encouragement lingered in my mind as I watched his show. It felt like the kind of approval I’ve been looking for all my life. I can’t tell you what judges or juries have said about me during my years as a lawyer, but even as I write this 11 years later, I clearly remember Bob Saget’s laugh in that green room. While I was a fan of watching stand-up comedy, it was never on my radar to stage it.

I don’t know what he was thinking, or why he seemed interested in seeing me perform. And maybe my interpretation was clouded by the drinks I drank at that Cubs game. But because of my newfound confidence in my comedic skills, I performed at my first open mic the next day.

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When it was my turn, I repeated the story that had tickled Saget, and it was another hit. I was addicted. The immediate adrenaline rush of the crowd’s response surpassed any victories I’d had, even in high-profile cases. The power of that smile propelled me to heights I’d never had in a courtroom. And this was an open mic with 20 people in the room, for zero payment.

I’ve become a better – and funnier – lawyer for a while. But after a few years of acting alongside comedy, I left my law firm to pursue my natural calling. Today I am a full-time stand-up comedian.

I often think about what would have happened if I hadn’t made that show and never met Bob Saget. Would I have finally found my way into comedy? Or would I still be miserable attending court cases during the week and looking for creative purpose on the weekends, playing in a Dave Matthews cover band in the suburbs of Chicago?

I recently reached out to Saget to make sure he knew this story, as I’ve told it in nearly every interview when asked about my comedic “origin story.” I heard through the vine that he knew. But last year, 10 years after we met, I texted him directly to make sure he realized what he meant to me — and not just for his encouragement, but for his stand-up; Documentary on “The Aristocrats”; his autobiography “dirty daddy”; are hilarious tweets; and of course “Full House” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos”, which were the staples of my childhood.

As he recalled in his book, when comedians came to him for advice, Saget recounted what Don Rickles had once told him about the public: “They want to stop you. Nobody wants to help you. Just move forward…like a tank. .”

Offstage, Bob Saget did the opposite. All he ever did was support and help. For better or worse, Bob Saget is the reason I’m a stand-up comedian. He’s the reason I know I’m funny. He’s the reason I’m happy. I might have eventually found another way to get up, but my journey began with Bob’s kindness and encouragement. Along with our fellow comedians and fans, I am eternally grateful for the positive influence he spread while he was alive.

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