Jillette joined the chorus of celebrities and comedian friends honoring Saget following his unexpected death last week in a hotel room in Orlando, Fla. He penned a lengthy op-ed in The New York Times in which he discussed the nature of comedy. Specifically, how Saget’s propensity to be foul-mouthed and cover incredibly taboo subjects might be viewed through the lens of a younger, cancel-culture-oriented audience.
Jillett explained that he showed his 15 and 16-year-old kids Saget’s work because he was sad about his death, but their reception to him was not positive.
“When they saw clips of Bob on the internet, making hard-core jokes about pedophilia and incest, they were offended,” he explained. “They thought my friend must have been a bad person, and it was hard for them to understand how I could have loved him.”
He added: “I don’t know if I can blame them. How could they understand that doing transgressive comedy was, in Bob’s hands, not about hate and pain but, rather, a daredevil act of mutual trust?”
Jillette went on to lament that today’s culture often consumes media in small chunks, often devoid of its full context.
“When my children watched little snippets of Bob and read some quotes, they couldn’t know that Bob Saget didn’t do transgressive comedy to be mean,” he wrote. “He didn’t even do it to shock. He did it to make people laugh, to test himself, to let the audience test him and to form a connection with them.”
Jillette noted that many people were under a misconception about Saget, that his on-stage persona was the real him and his family-man role on “Full House” was an act. He explained that it was quite the opposite.
“His comedy proved his nice-guy image. Bob said the most offensive things anyone had ever heard, and we loved him not despite it, but because of it,” he said.
Jillette concluded his op-ed by noting that, while he doesn’t believe Saget deserves cancellation for his off-color comedy, he commends a new generation of consumers for rethinking things.
“I never heard Bob insult people who were marginalized, but other comedians do, and I don’t think that’s really fair. Even if everyone is equally fair game for comedy, our culture makes these jokes land unevenly,” Jillette explained. “I see that. I don’t have the right to say to someone else: “It’s a joke. Get over it.”
He wrote: “I want to teach my children what was beautiful about Bob Saget, but I also want to learn from them. Maybe trust and kindness are getting a little too scarce. We might need more unnuanced, unartistic, simple respect. I’m happy my children care so much about how we treat one another. But I hope their generation, which is pushing to have speech be more careful, can understand that artists like Bob were never trading in hate. He loved the world, and I loved him.”