Best-known for playing Uncle Joey on the long-running sitcom “Full House,” a career break that led to a long and varied subsequent career on TV, Dave Coulier is also a veteran stand-up comic who began performing in comedy clubs as a teenager.
In addition to performing with the Clean Guys of Comedy, Coulier also tours regularly as a solo performer, specializing in impressions and a family-friendly approach to material. You can catch his solo act Jan. 18 at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake.
We caught up with Coulier mid-tour to talk about working clean, performing live and how it felt to beat up Wimpy on TV’s “Robot Chicken” when he didn’t gladly pay Popeye Tuesday for a hamburger today.
Q: Why have you decided to specialize in family-friendly comedy? Is that a philosophical position or a personal preference or do you think of it as a viable niche — since there are so many comics throwing f-bombs around?
A: It’s not really a conscious decision. I don’t ever say to myself: “Dave, make sure you work ‘family-friendly’ tonight.” I’ve been working clean for 35 years now and it’s just the way that I naturally think when writing material. I’ve also starred on some iconic family-friendly TV shows, and there’s a huge audience out there who come to see my standup.
Back in the day, “The Tonight Show” was the only show for a standup to be seen on national, network TV. And if you wanted to appear on “The Tonight Show” you had to work clean. As luck would have it — when I was 19 years old, I finished a set at the Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. When I walked to the back of the club, Jay Leno approached me and said: “Hey, Coulier. I liked your set. Good, clean stuff. You know, if you work clean, you’ll be able to work anywhere.” It was great advice and it’s been my operating system ever since. By the way, I did my first “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson as the host when I was 24. Working clean got me there.
You can hear f-bombs anywhere nowadays. I think it’s kind of lost it’s edge. When Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison and George Carlin used visceral language there was a clever point to go along with it. Now filthy words are just part of the cadence and rhythm of a lot of comedians’ performance. I’m not a prude — filthy comedy makes me laugh, sometimes really hard. But as a comic, I could never pull it off.
Q: In the context of that commitment to wholesomeness, do you have any regrets about beating up Wimpy on “Robot Chicken”? Did he just push Popeye past the limits of tolerance?
A: No regrets. Seth Green was laughing really hard while we recorded that episode. He’s the producer, so I was there to give him what he wanted with the character. I can’t explain any “Robot Chicken” episodes.
Q: Is it true you were the ex-boyfriend referred to in Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know”? If so, were you ever tempted to write a song in reply?
A: Maybe it’s true. Maybe not. We dated in 1992-93, so this is a really old story. I’ve always taken the high road when talking about Alanis. She’s an amazingly talented, great person. Nope, never been tempted.
Q: You’ve done a lot of TV, even after “Full House,” but you seem to be focusing more on stand-up these days.
A: Standup is really the heart of who I am. And I think I’m having more fun with it now than ever. To me, there’s nothing more exhilarating than writing a funny concept and then being able to hear an audience laugh at it in a live venue.
Q: Can you give us an idea of which celebrity and cartoon-character voices appear in your act these days?
A: My act is always evolving. Audiences still love to hear voices that I did on “Full House” like Bullwinkle and Elmer Fudd. I’m constantly adding new voices...like Matthew McConaughey and the Bane character from “The Dark Knight Rises.” Some voices have a shelf life because audiences change with the times. I’m sure I’ll have a few new ones coming up that I haven’t even heard yet.