Almost 30 years ago, a jet-lagged Bob Saget at the height of his career sat down for 15 minutes with a shy teenage reporter attending his alma mater.
As tributes pour in for the late comedian, Jeremy Rothman decided to share that moment of Saget's kindness — along with the original audio of the 1994 interview for The Abingtonian, the newspaper for Abington Senior High School outside Philadelphia.
In 1994, Saget was hosting "America’s Funniest Home Videos" and starring as Danny Tanner in "Full House," arguably his two most famous roles. He was back in town to perform a benefit show at his old synagogue, Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, where Rothman was also a member. With some encouragement from the teacher who advised the newspaper, Rothman called the synagogue and was put through to someone on Saget's team. Before long, Rothman had secured a conversation with the TV star in the synagogue lobby.
“He sat there for 15 minutes and answered my stupid little questions,” the grown-up Rothman told NBCLX. “I thought I might just give people a glimpse, if they're curious, as to actually how nice he was."
Saget, a father of three, died Sunday night at the age of 65 after a show near Orlando, Florida, in the middle of a comedy tour.
Some will remember Saget for his raunchy stand-up routines, but in his interview with teenage Rothman, Saget exudes the kindness and sincerity that so many who knew him have said they'll miss most.
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While Saget was only at Abington for his senior year, graduating in 1974, it’s clear how grateful he was for his English teacher Mrs. Zimmerman, who helped him catch up on schooling he'd missed while moving often during childhood. But he didn’t enjoy some of the books like “The Scarlet Letter” or “Moby Dick.” He just wanted to make funny movies on Super 8 film with his friends.
“Call me Ishmael? I didn’t want to call him anything,” Saget joked to Rothman.
He did find some books he enjoyed, though, like “The Grapes of Wrath” and the works of Ernest Hemingway. And he showed the comedy movies to Zimmerman, who encouraged him to keep up with it. Although the Abingtonian interview was two decades after Saget graduated, he still remembered what she wrote in his yearbook.
“She knew I wanted to be a comedy film person. She called me Groucho Fellini, which is like the highest compliment she could have paid me,” Saget recalled.
“I really really loved her,” Saget told Rothman. “She really saw something in me. And I’ll never forget, she’s the person who told me, 'Don’t become a doctor. You love film, you love show business, that’s what you should be doing. You’re a writer, you’re a singer. … You’re not a doctor, I’ve seen your grades.'”
Rothman, by the way, is now vice president for artistic planning at the Philadelphia Orchestra, arranging shows from Carnegie Hall to Europe and Asia. During the pandemic lockdown, he had time to sift through a box of his old possessions from his parents’ house after they moved out of Abington.
“As I was listening to it, as an adult and knowing what I know now … [I thought] my God, this guy really paid attention to me,” Rothman said.
“He was a guy who was at the peak of his fame in prime-time, top-rated TV shows, and he spent 15 minutes jet-lagged and exhausted. … It was so patient and so kind.”