Dave Coulier is best known for his portrayal as the lovable Uncle Joey on the quintessential TGIF sitcom, Full House, which ran from 1987 to 1995. Now 54 years old, the actor who started his career as stand-up comedian and voice-over artist spoke with BuzzFeed ahead of his appearance on Oprah: Where Are They Now? about his memories making the iconic show, what happened to Mr. Woodchuck, and those Alanis Morissette rumors.
BuzzFeed: So you’re back to doing stand-up. Why did you decide to go into doing the whole clean comedy thing?
Dave Coulier: Well, it wasn’t really a route that I chose; it was a route that was kinda chosen for me. Because, back in the day, The Tonight Show was the only showcase, nationally, for comedians on television and if you wanted to get on The Tonight Show, you had to work clean; you had to be able to perform in front of a national audience on network television. So I just didn’t want to veer away from that. I didn’t want to edit myself. I wanted jokes to ring true for that national audience.
Jay Leno said something to me early on in my career, when I was only 19 years old on stage at The Comedy Store in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd, and he came up to me after the show one night and said [imitating Leno’s voice], “Hey Coulier, I saw your set. That’s really good clean stuff. You know, if you work clean, you’ll work everywhere.” And it was the smartest thing another comedian ever said to me. I thought about it afterwards and thought, What does that mean? Oh, what it means is, I’ll never have to edit myself. I’ll be able to play corporate dates, colleges, television, and never have to edit a joke. And it’s not like I am reinventing the wheel. We’ve been seeing clean comedy sets on Letterman and The Tonight Show for decades. But, if you look at the top-touring comedians right now, Jim Gaffigan and Brian Regan, completely clean. I think I’m just a little more vocal about it.
Everyone knows you as Joey from Full House, but many people from the same generation might be surprised to know you did lots of voice acting in cartoons throughout the ’80s, like Muppet Babies and Ghostbusters. How did you fall into that?
DC: I had always done voices as a kid. I was always a jock growing up, played a lot of hockey in Detroit. I was always the funny guy in the locker room and when you got 20 guys sitting around, you have a captive audience. So I would just do impressions of teammates, or coaches, or guys that we knew and that’s kinda how I started – then people started telling me, “You know you’re pretty good at that.” And, so I guess, enough people told me to the point where I started to believe it myself and I guess it turned into a career, didn’t it?
As a kid, it started with Bullwinkle and Popeye, ‘cause I loved watching those shows. So I would just mimic cartoons that I really loved and other people would respond to that. It was fun. And when I moved to L.A., when I was 20 years old, I put an audition tape together and I sent it to Hanna-Barbera on a Friday, and on Monday, they called and said, “Listen, we love your voice, Dave. Can you come in and work on Scooby-Doo?” and I said, “Absolutely!” And that was my first voice-over job working for Scooby-Doo, believe it or not.
Coulier as stand-up comedian Joey Gladstone on Full House.
How did you land the part on Full House?
DC: I went on a cattle-call audition — they were auditioning every comedian from New York and Los Angeles. And it actually turned out, to be honest with you, to be one of the easiest jobs I ever auditioned for.
I went in and auditioned for the role of Joey, which the character hadn’t been named Joey Gladstone at that time. I can’t even remember what the character’s name was that I was auditioning for. But I read the part and I said, Ah, that was great.
Then I was walking out and Tom Miller, one of the Full House executive producers, said, “Can you read for the role of the father as well?” and the light bulb that went off in my head was, “Well, I didn’t get this part.” So I came back in five minutes later and read for the role of the father. As I was leaving Bob Boyett, who was one of our Full House executive producers — and who, years before I had pitched a pilot I had written to — said, “If you don’t get this role then maybe we can talk about that show that you pitched me all those years ago.” And I said, “You remember that?” to which he responded, “Heck yeah, I remember that. That was a great idea! You have no idea how close [I was] to putting something together with that script.”
So I went home and there was a message – back when we had answering machines – and it was from my manager Brad Grey, who is now the head of Paramount Studios, but was my manager then. He said, “Dave, you’ve got this Full House pilot.” And I just thought, Wow, that was so easy. I was only in there like 10 minutes. No callbacks. Nothing. That’s it.
And that’s how it happened.
Full House seemed to work in a lot of your voice-over talents, and it became iconic for your character. Was that something that you worked with the show’s writers on or were they ad-libs?
DC: They did and you’re absolutely right on track there. I did work with them and they actually came to watch me perform in nightclubs a couple of times and they got a lot of ideas from watching me work live, as to what they could incorporate in the show. So they were very, very generous with me.
Sometimes – it didn’t happen until Season 3 – in the script, they would let me improv. And in the script it would just say: Dave will come up with something funny here.
One of the most enduring things about your Joey is his trademark phrase “Cut. It. Out.” Did you come up with that?
DC: (Laughs.) I stole that from a good friend of mine named Mark Cendrowski, who now directs The Big Bang Theory. We’ve been friends since we were 8 years old and we used to shoot little 8mm film comedies with a camera his dad had given us.
But Mark and I, we were a comedy duo for a couple of minutes and he would do this Mark Suave character and he would always do this: He would look at a lady in the front row and go, “You’re in love with me, now cut. it. out.” And so I told him, “I’m going to steal that. I’m going to use that someday.” And he said, “Ah, you can’t steal that.” So I starred on a show on Nickelodeon called Out of Control and it became my hook on the show. And when Full House started, I just brought it over and it stuck.
To this day Mark is like, “You owe me money for that.”
Coulier with co-stars Bob Sagat (Danny Tanner) and John Stamos (Uncle Jesse Katsopolis).
What is your fondest memory of making Full House?
DC: It’s going to sound really cheesy, but the enduring friendships that I still have. That’s really the biggest takeaway is that they really feel like family to me.
What is the weirdest thing that ever happened on set?
DC: Oh man, there’s a bunch of weird things. Me, John [Stamos], and Bob [Saget] used to get in trouble from the Full House moms all the time, because a lot times we didn’t know the kids were back in their dressing rooms watching on their monitors what was going on on the set. We’re acting like idiots, we’re acting like adults and we’re, you know, pulling our pants off and trying to make the crew laugh, and the moms would go, “Um, gentlemen, the kids are watching you. What are you doing?” It was usually Bob and me, and then sometimes, because John was with us, he was guilty by association.
The show’s never been off the air since it premiered. It’s on syndication and still airs multiple times a day – it’s everywhere. Is that something that you hated or learned to embrace early on?
DC: Well, when you’re a struggling comedian, you pray for a Full House every single day of your life. And so I never the had the thought process, after we were finished with the show, of turning around and kicking Full House. It never entered my mind because it was something that I wished for and it was something that just was such a thing to have in a career.
When we reached 25 million viewers a week and we were on the cover of TV Guide, I just thought, It’s never going to be bigger or better than Full House, so just enjoy the ride and embrace it.
OK, whatever happened to Mr. Woodchuck?
DC: (Laughs.) The producer gave him to me. And actually, a very famous puppet builder named Randy Simper, who made ALF and some other really famous puppets, built Mr. Woodchuck. So, Mr. Woodchuck was very expensive to make and build and I had a hand in what his design looked like.
So when we wrapped Full House, the producers gave him to me and I brought him home and my dog Ranger, who is now 15 years old, just hated that puppet. I had it sitting in my office and he would just growl at it every day until one day, I walked in my front door and I saw Mr. Woodchuck’s mouth ripped to shreds and I was like, Uh-oh, where’s the puppet? I looked over and I saw that my dog had eaten his face, so all you see is just two eyeballs.
But when John, Bob, and I reprised our Full House characters on Jimmy Fallon a few months ago, Jimmy had his prop people make me a new Mr. Woodchuck and was kind enough to give it to me after we finished shooting our sketch.
So now, I have new Woodchuck and one without a face.
Where do you think Uncle Joey would be today?
DC: Well, he’d be married to Kimmy Gibbler, they’d have three kids and he’d probably be running a comedy club in Iowa. (Laughs.)
Did you reveal anything that people might not know about you on Oprah: Where Are They Now?
DC: I love doing carpentry and I’m always building stuff in my house in Los Angeles. And we also talked about how I’m Instrument Rated pilot [an additional training pilots can go through that allows them to fly in more extreme weather conditions].
I guess those are the two things that are very different than the run of the mill stuff we talk about.
It’s been almost 20 years since Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” was released. How do you feel about the song today?
DC: I never think about it. I think it’s just really funny that’s it’s become this urban legend, so many years after the fact.
I dated Alanis in 1992. You know, it’s just funny to be the supposed subject of that song. First of all, the guy in that song is a real a-hole, so I don’t want to be that guy. Secondly, I asked Alanis, “I’m getting calls by the media and they want to know who this guy is.” And she said, “Well, you know it could be a bunch of people. But you can say whatever you want.” So one time, I was doing a red carpet somewhere and [the press] just wore me down and everybody wanted to know so I said, “Yeah, all right, I’m the guy. There I said it.” So then it became a snowball effect of, “OH! So you are the guy!”
It’s just become this silly urban legend that I just have to laugh at.
Lastly, have you ever sang “You Oughta Know” at karaoke?
DC: (Laughs.) No! ‘Cause, I don’t think I could get that drunk.