Have Mercy! John Stamos talks ‘Full House’ legacy, embracing Uncle Jesse

WTOP's Jason Fraley talks 'Full House' with John Stamos (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — He entered our living rooms as Uncle Jesse Katsopolis in TV’s “Full House.”

Now, John Stamos dishes on his career before hosting “A Capitol Fourth” on Tuesday night.

“My grandfather came over from Greece to Ellis Island, wanting a better life for his family,” Stamos told WTOP. “If my grandfather could turn on the TV and see his grandson standing at the Capitol, hosting a show about being an American, I mean, my God! How incredible is that?”

This patriotic stop in the nation’s capital comes midway through production on Season 3 of Netflix’s “Fuller House,” the popular “Full House” spinoff following the adult lives of D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and Kimmy (Andrea Barber), with fun cameos by Danny (Bob Saget), Joey (Dave Coulier), Jesse (Stamos) and Becky (Lori Loughlin).

“We’re shooting 18 episodes this year, which is cool. That’s more than normal,” Stamos said, as Season 1 & 2 each had 13 episodes. “We’re right in the middle of it. We’ve shot nine so far.”

Not only is the show a rebirth for the Tanner household, it’s an internal rebirth for Stamos, who admits that he ran away from Uncle Jesse for years — bucking the notion of being typecast in a family sitcom with swelling music — but he’s since come home to embrace it.

“Me, more than any of them, I was the first guy to say, ‘I don’t want anything to do with it,'” Stamos said. “When I realized there was no getting away from it, I embraced it. I’m glad I did.”

He says the cast has been pleasantly surprised to learn how much the show meant to people.

“Back then, it wasn’t [acclaimed],” Stamos said. “It wasn’t No. 1 all the time, but Top 5, Top 10. But we were never on the cover of magazines, we never got nominated for awards, we weren’t hip, we weren’t cool. There wasn’t social media, so we didn’t know how important it was. You couldn’t just post a picture and see how many people liked it; you had to go to the mall to see if you were popular! So it’s nice to sit back and go, ‘Oh, this did mean something.'”

Why does “Full House” still thrive in syndication 30 years after its ABC debut in 1987?

“No matter what the package or wrapping is, whether it’s sophisticated or the writing’s great, the message is what was important,” Stamos said. “You heard it loud and clear because you needed it. … The reason why it’s back now and still appreciated is because what we’re talking about is family values and heart. Those shows that were winning all of the awards and were on the covers of magazines 30 years ago, you don’t hear from them now. [It’s] ‘Full House.'”

Need pop-culture proof? An entire generation can still quote the catchphrases, from Joey’s “Cut it out,” to Stephanie’s “How rude,” from D.J.’s “Oh, Mylanta,” to Michelle’s “You got it dude.” Still, the best may be Uncle Jesse’s “Have mercy!”

How did Stamos come up with it?

“[‘Happy Days’ creator] Garry Marshall was one of my mentors and said, ‘You’ve gotta come up with a catchphrase! Fonzie had, ‘Eyy’ and ‘Sit on it,'” Stamos said. “We used to say ‘have mercy’ in my band when we saw a hot girl, but I got it from ‘Pretty Woman,’ when Roy Orbison says, ‘Mercy!’ It’s a good catchphrase because people say it back as a form of, ‘Hey, you’re looking good!’ It’s better than ‘sit on it.’ I’d much rather hear ‘have mercy’ than ‘sit on it!'”

Fittingly, it was Marshall who presented Stamos with TV Land’s Timeless Icon Award for his television work, including his Emmy nomination for “General Hospital” (1983), his People’s Choice Award for “Grandfathered” (2016) and his current gig on “Scream Queens” (2016).

“Unbelievable,” Stamos said. “I grew up watching [Marshall’s] shows. That was as high as I wanted to go: I wanted to be on a show like ‘Happy Days.’ I guess I ended up with that; the guy who created it was one of my dearest friends. It’s been a really wonderful life. Now more than ever, I don’t go a minute or hour without realizing how lucky I am and showing my gratitude.”

Listen below to our full conversation with John Stamos:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with John Stamos (Full Interview) (Jason Fraley)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up