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Drawn Off Topic: Comedian Bob Saget on silence (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Drawn Off Topic: Comedian Bob Saget on silence (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

Drawn Off Topic

Comedian Bob Saget on silence Add to ...

Comedian Bob Saget hosted America’s Funniest Home Videos and starred in Full House. He will be performing at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax on March 2 and at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto on March 3.

Do we need silence in our lives?

We do. It’s something that has taken me a long time to learn. If it’s all output you can’t take anything in. There is no flow. There is no receiving and that is one of the problems we have. Just turn on the news and watch the split screen [debates]. People are arguing with each other and no one is really wanting to hear the other person’s point of view.

Silence seems to be on the wane. Everywhere we are surrounded by people talking, yelling into cellphones, clacking away texting, nodding to tunes coming through ear buds.

Yes, and all that clatter is destructive. Destructive of being centred – of zen, in a way. You can’t even form your opinion of what you’re doing [when you’re] just outputting and listening to output. When I was 16 years old, I went to see a Woody Allen movie with my Uncle Joe. The movie hadn’t started and I was silly. I was a very neurotic young man who believed I needed to talk a lot and it came out of nerves. I believe a lot of people’s clatter comes out of nerves. Fear. People are fearful of quiet because then they have to just be. Be with their own thoughts. God forbid there should be nothing said for a moment.

The movie was Sleeper and I was excited and I talked and talked and talked. And my uncle turned to me and said, “Do you have to fill every moment of silence with the sound of your own voice?” I never forgot it. It stayed with me. It’s become a little bit of a mantra. In my mid-50s, it’s finally sinking in. Some of the most fun times I have as a human being are to sit with people I like or love and not have to speak.

Can silence be golden?

Silence can be platinum. “Meditation,” it sounds so “whoo-whoo.” All it’s about is sitting in silence and just being. That’s when things can come in.

In Ontario, they are instituting a pilot project of “silent trains” on commuter routes, carriages where no mobile devices, radios or even loud conversation are permitted. Good idea? Do we have to legislate quiet?

It’s funny, but it does work sometimes, doesn’t it? I’ll go into an airport lounge, the clubs that people pay to join, and there’s a room there and there’s no cellphone use and no talking. They don’t want to hear anything and it’s a nice thing to do. To collect your thoughts.

Have you ever done a retreat or meditation?

I have not. I’ve done things by myself, gone away and done my own little version, a mini vision quest. Nothing extreme.

Did you come out better for the silence?

It definitely doesn’t last long enough, but yes. I’m a big output creature. Obviously, when I go out and do standup, the reverse side is true. I don’t like to talk to anybody before I work. I’m gonna talk for the whole time and there’s a gestation period. The worst performances I’ve ever given were when I was scattered beforehand, talking to people. You learn: A half-hour before you work is quiet. You go off and get yourself together. Anything good – anything – requires focus. In sports, you don’t see people running around chatting to everyone, checking their cellphone before they are about to go compete in some major event. They’re not yapping like a lot of people [who] don’t have something to focus on.

Have you ever considered mime?

No. I have not done mime, but before I was a film student, I was a kid. I had every Chaplin and Harold Lloyd movie. I have, in my home right now, Super 8 silent movies, not even with the music track they end up putting on these things, and my favourite comedian, which started my love of film, was Charlie Chaplin. That says it right there. No speak. My first draw was silent comedy. It was all about watching something happen. A guy falling in a manhole, a guy tripping.

Pretty elemental stuff, but it works.

And it always will. You are sitting on a park bench and the moments you remember from your day are not the husband and wife yelling at each other, it is the husband and wife walking and the dog has a crap and the husband steps in it. No talk whatsoever. And you can see a whole relationship in 30 seconds.

Maybe we can finish with 30 seconds of silence.

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