John Stamos is used to being a pervasive pop-culture reference. He recalls a screening of 2008’s Step Brothers when everyone in the theater turned to stare at him when the titular characters simultaneously blurted out his name as the man they’d both sleep with if they were women; how he got used to having his name dropped in movies like Mean Girls and Guardians of the Galaxy; how he even played along by doing all those Greek yogurt commercials. “If you’re not in on the joke, then you’re a joke,” Stamos tells Rolling Stone from his Fuller House office in Los Angeles. “You can’t fight it.”
But Riot Fest’s obsession with John Stamos started to cross over into a different realm.
It began about four years ago, when the Chicago-based festival first tried to get Stamos to re-form his Full House band. “It started out with a fun tweet joking about getting Jesse and the Rippers back together,” says a rep for the festival, who goes by Riot Fest Twitter Guy. “And our fans just seem to latch onto that.”
There was only one problem: Jesse and the Rippers was never an actual band. “The Rippers were like whatever friend was nicest to me that week, I put them in that band,” Stamos says. “If you watch, it’s 30 different guys. Some of them weren’t even musicians.”
So Stamos ignored the tweet – and that’s when things got weird. When Riot Fest didn’t hear back from the former Tiger Beat cover star, the team hired an artist to carve Stamos’ image into butter, a temporary statue that came to be known as “Butter Stamos.” (His initial reaction? “What the hell are these people doing,” Stamos recalls.)
But for the festival, the obsession only grew. “The year after the butter sculpture, a chainsaw sculptor came out and sculpted John Stamos out of a big block of tree stump,” recalls the rep, noting that their festival-themed restaurant also has his likeness stamped in their butter pats. “This all just sounds so ridiculous when you say it out loud.” But it didn’t stop them from pursuing the erstwhile Uncle Jesse. “It’s John Stamos,” says the rep. “Everyone loves John Stamos.”
The fest has never given up hope that he might grace them with his presence – “I put his name on my personal guest list every year, and he’s never taken us up on the offer,” says the rep – but this year, they decided to give others the chance to interpret his likeness. They put out a call for entries to the John Stamos art show, and ended up receiving about 50 pieces. At a bar event last month, a panel of judges narrowed that number down to 10, which will be displayed at the Riot Fest restaurant until the festival in September. The 10 finalists will eventually go on display and head to auction, with all proceeds going to a charity of John Stamos’ choosing.
To further implicate Stamos in this meta-celebrity mess, Rolling Stone reached out for his opinions on the portraits that made the cut. As he says, “You can’t fight it.” Here, John Stamos reviews the John Stamos Art Show.