ABC's Prime-Time Puck, David Coulier Zips from America's Funniest People to Full House and Back Again

updated 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

As a kid, David Coulier was always hearing voices—cartoon voices. "I was a cartoon fanatic," he says. "I'd watch the credits at the end to see who was doing the voices." By the time he arrived in Hollywood in his late teens—he had lasted only a semester at a community college near his home in St. Clair Shores, Mich.—the aspiring comedian was fully fluent in Cartoon. "One of the first things I did," he says, "was put together a voice-over tape—I told a story with all these sounds—and sent it over to Hanna-Barbera on a Friday." The following Monday, H-B called with a message that thrilled Coulier to his very core: "We have work for you on Scooby-Doo."

Thirteen years later, Coulier, 31, can still be heard on such Saturday morning kiddie staples as Jim Henson's Muppet Babies and Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters, and he still fantasizes about creating his own cartoon series about a character named Mr. Woodchuck (the "Johnny Carson of the animal world"). But he's busier lending his body, along with his vocal cords, to two hit ABC shows: the sitcom Full House, on which he co-stars, and the season's highest-rated new show, America's Funniest People, which he co-hosts. Coulier (pronounced coolyay) is concerned that the latter program, which consists of dopey video gags, is difficult to distinguish from its parent show, America's Funniest Home Videos, but he's happy that Funniest People gives him a chance to make faces, throw in the occasional sound effect and even impersonate Richard Pryor.

"Dave is so versatile," executive producer Vin Di Bona says. "When you add up all the things he has going for him—stand-up comedy, the voices, the acting, the improvisation—no one can touch him." Although someone did, once: When he was a teenager, Coulier got bashed squarely in the face with a hockey stick. "It broke my cheekbone and part of my nose," says Coulier, who had been torn between his high school ambitions of either hockey or comedy. "It was kind of a sign from God"—go, thou, and act goofy. "I knew I was going to try to make it as a comedian from then on."

But Coulier admits that his comedy is rooted in a hurt even deeper than his hockey injury. Growing up in a "very Catholic" family of five children, the 9-year-old Coulier was devastated when his parents divorced. "A way of coping was just to think funny thoughts," he says. "I was the class clown. All the pain that I was feeling came through in jokes, and that eased the pain."

Comic-relief exercise No. 1: He and his brother, Dan, began doing impersonations of the neighbors. "I used to do this guy who patrolled his front lawn on his riding mower," Coulier says. "He'd sit on his mower with the motor idling, and if you cut across his grass, he'd put it in gear and start chasing you."

The Mad Mower of Michigan sounds almost like America's Funniest material. The show's producers decided Coulier had the right material when they saw him doing stand-up on The Arsenio Hall Show last year. The fact that he is friends with Bob Saget, who just happens to be his co-star on Full House and just happens to be host of America's Funniest Home Videos, had nothing to do with it, Coulier says. In the early, hungry days, he and Saget both tried out shtick at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and Coulier once stayed with him while searching for a permanent address. "Dave's the sister I never had," kids Saget.

There's a definite link, though, between Full House and Mrs. Coulier: David met Jayne Modean, 33, on the set last year, when the actress and former model (including four Seventeen covers) was featured in an episode. "Dave was so sweet," she says. "He won me over when he said, 'Wanna try holding hands?' "

Married last June, they live in North Hollywood in a modest A-frame house. Coulier has an even more modest waterfront retreat back home in Michigan. "Growing up, we could never afford to live on the water," he says (at the time, his father worked as a line foreman for Chrysler, and his mom was a waitress at a golf club). "I always thought, 'Someday, someday, I'm going to live on the water and get a boat.' " He has the boat and plans someday to sail from his hideaway through the Erie Canal and end up docking at his in-laws' in New Jersey.

The Coulier houses will be a bit fuller by the end of the month, when the couple is expecting the arrival of their first child, a boy, who will be named Luc. In the meanwhile, Coulier is ceaselessly nurturing new ideas and gags for America's Funniest People. He thinks he can recruit one such person, an old Michigan buddy, for a segment. "He can shoot things from the folds of blubber in his gut," Coulier says, envisioning the tummy-gun spitting breakfast onto a plate. Coulier himself could probably invent just the right sound effect for a slice of projectile toast. A buttery, lightly browned poing!

—Tom Gliatto, David Craig in Los Angeles

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