By MANI THANGADURAI
How would you feel about an opportunity to witness a beloved personality from your childhood entertain you in the flesh? Especially if it’s a personality whose appeal has transcended all age groups since his youth and still continues to do so today? It’s quite certain that an enjoyable trip back in time by 10 to 20 years would ensue, and the ride would be memorable.
For me and everyone who ensured a “full house” on Thursday Jan. 18, that’s what transpired when arrived at the University of Tampa’s Falk Theater to perform a special stand-up routine organized by UT Student Productions. While he’s best known for his role as Joey Gladstone on Full and Fuller House, Coulier is an established comedian and has been so for many years. It was clear that we weren’t going to get a performance based on his Full House acts. Having said that, fans of Coulier and his craft are well aware of his unique style and talent, which have helped set him apart from other comedians. His ability to use different voices and his knack for imitating many personalities and cartoon characters have been a collective hallmark of his brand of comedy, as have his immaculate comic timing and flair for musical ability.
As a child I was always an admirer of his versatile abilities, and I knew that his act would be memorable. In fact, having had visions myself of becoming a voice actor growing up, Dave Coulier was one of my idols. One thing which stuck out was that in stark contrast to a number of more contemporary comedians, and particularly his Full House colleague Bob Saget, Coulier stayed away from using foul language, with perhaps a few select and strategic words thrown in for maximum shock value.
After a warm welcome, Coulier joked that he wasn’t John Stamos, and then began speaking about his current work on Fuller House, which is currently in its third season. Paying tribute to his castmates, he gave a shout-out to Stamos who recently announced that he was soon to be a father.
Coulier then launched into his act by speaking about many of his personal experiences, both past and present. From his satirical views on air travel to his contempt for the commercialization of sports and the slowness of golf and baseball, he was at his zany and irreverent best, with many recognizable voices thrown in including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matthew McConaughey, Shaquille O’Neal and Tom Brady.
As the act progressed, he adopted a disappointing style of “restroom humor” in an attempt to keep the fans engaged. Aside from the inevitable flatulence jokes and an “unfortunate incident” while in the bathtub at age four with his two-year-old brother, we were also treated to a more serious segment when he dealt with his colonoscopy and his treatment. While we were all as happy as he was with his recovery, it’s fair to say that the details of his treatment were perhaps a little too vivid for my taste.
Probably the most inspiring and heartening segment of Coulier’s act was when he spoke with fondness about his time with his son, and his youth, with a few more mentions of his family thrown in. It’s rather easy to overlook that Coulier was famous before the era of computers, never mind the era of cellphones and social media. So as a youngster he remembered the simpler times only too well, and spoke about how Facebook these days is now a substitute for good old face-to-face contact. While time with his son is primarily spent playing on his son’s XBox (an upgrade from Coulier’s Super Mario days), he spoke with pride at the way he grew up and how he was able to connect well with his son.
Similarities abounded here with Coulier and his own father, who he credited as a source of inspiration for his comedy despite perhaps being a little racist. In fact, as a possible prelude to his stint as co-host of America’s Funniest People, it was Coulier’s father who taped the unfortunate bathtub incident.
It’s rather interesting how so many of the world’s best comedians have gained inspiration from their family lives, and Coulier spoke fondly about growing up as a part of a big family in a small house as one of five siblings. This isn’t to mention his grandmother and nine uncles. As part of a big family, it’s fair to say that Coulier found out that being funny had its benefits and helped him stand out, even if people mocked him at first. And studying in a catholic school, while perhaps intending to teach him discipline, ended up further strengthening his desire to pursue comedy as a career. He certainly didn’t hold back in his descriptions of his experiences and his superiors!
Finally, Coulier ended his act by speaking with gratitude for his long career in comedy and entertainment. People may not realize that in addition to starring in Full House and Fuller House and co-hosting America’s Funniest People, Coulier has done extensive voice work for programs such as Muppet Babies and the animated Ghostbusters series. Coulier’s career has seen him stay true to his talents and focus on his strengths, while also being savvy enough to expand his repertoire to avoid being pigeonholed as simply a beloved children’s TV star. After customarily thanking the audience, he sounded off with a few notes and bars on his harmonica. While it is fair to say that John Stamos was more of the musical star on Full House, Dave Coulier was and is a talented musician in his own right. Not exactly Stevie Wonder, but his jamming signed and sealed a wonderfully delivered performance that is ours to remember.
Mani Thangadurai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org