Bob Newhart is perhaps the only man in the world who can talk to himself on
the phone without people looking at him strangely. He of the world-famous one-way
phone conversations is also a household name to generations, thanks to his two
extremely successful, long-running television series. And he is picking up new
fans every day, from youngsters to college students, who watch him nightly on
"Nick At Nite" and who attend his comedy concerts in large numbers.
Bob recently starred in the Showtime original film The Sports Pages, directed
by Richard Benjamin and executive produced by Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy
and George Zaloom. Bob starred alongside Kelsey Grammer in the tale How Doc
Waddems Finally Broke A 100, the story of a man (Bob) on trial for the murder
of his rule quoting, by-the-book golf partner (Kelsey Grammer). Even though the
film is a comedy, the role represents quite a departure for Newhart. In addition,
Bob was recently profiled in an unprecedented two-hour A&E Biogaphy on his
life and career.
Bob still performs in comedy concerts, opting to continue live performances
before sellout audiences all over the country and the world. With routines created
by Bob from today's newspapers in his unique style, and some of his early classic
routines (which audiences demand he perform), he is garnering critical raves
and pleasing audiences at the same time.
In 1995, he entered another arena in the world of comedy, with the release of
his very first video, filmed at a live performance, where an appreciative audience
got to see him perform his greatest one-man telephone comedy classics, including
"Abe Lincoln's PR Man," "The Nervous Driving Instructor,"
"Sir Walter Raleigh Explains Tobacco," "King Kong and the New Security
Guard," and many more.
Nick at Nite Records has also released the audio portion of the video as a
CD. It is available in record stores everywhere.
In the feature film world he co-starred in Paramount's smash hit comedy, In
and Out, produced by Scott Rudin, directed by Frank Oz, and co-starring Kevin
Kline, Tom Selleck, Debbie Reynolds, Matt Dillon and Wilford Brimley.
His career began when, after Army service, Bob worked as an accountant and
an advertising copywriter. He was also performing in a theatrical stock company
(his real love) in his hometown, Chicago.
During this time, Bob and a friend at the ad agency, Ed Gallagher, used to
amuse themselves by making long, antic phone calls to each other, which they
recorded as audition tapes for what Bob calls "a poor man's Bob & Ray
syndicated radio show." When Gallagher decided to drop out and opted, instead,
for an advertising career, Bob simply "picked up the slack," as he
puts it, and thus was born his famous one-man, two-way telephone conversations.
In 1959, he was introduced by a Chicago deejay to the head of talent at Warner
Bros. Records, who immediately signed him to a contract. Thus was born The
Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, which became the first comedy album to go
to #1 on the charts. He was an immediate sellout in comedy concerts, in nightclubs
and on theatre stages all over America.
Seven more albums followed, each extremely successful, selling in the millions.
In fact, his longevity record for holding the #1 and #2 chart positions simultaneously
was not broken until 1995 (by Guns 'n Roses), though it was set 35 years earlier!
When Billboard issued their 100 Most Popular Albums of the past 40 years, Bob
was not only the only comedian on the list, but he came in at #20, besting some
of the greatest recording talents, like the Beatles, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston,
Elvis Presley and many more.So the television networks, always in need of the
largest possible audiences, looked to Bob Newhart to supply them. His first
series was a variety show, and it won the coveted Peabody Award and an Emmy.
But could he act? Until Bob's first comedy series, comedians had been invited
on television either to do their old nightclub routines on variety shows like
The Ed Sullivan Show, or, if given their own series, like Milton Berle
and Sid Caesar, to do the routines they had done from burlesque days onward. Sketch
comedy was the only game at that time.
Of course the answer was a resounding yes! The Bob Newhart Show made its
debut in 1972 on CBS, marking the beginning of a six-year run. It co-starred Suzanne
Pleshette as Bob's wife, Emily, and one of the finest casts of feature players
ever on television, according to most critics/historians. But by 1978, Bob felt
it was time to move on to other projects.
By now, his skyrocketing popularity carried him into motion pictures, where he
was cast in a number of films with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood: Hell
Is For Heroes with Steve McQueen; On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
with Barbara Streisand; Catch 22 with Jon Voight; Little Miss Marker
with Walter Matthau; Hot Millions with Peter Ustinov; Cold Turkey
with Dick Van Dyke; Thursday's Game with Gene Wilder and First Family
with Gilda Radner.
But he never gave up live, standup performances, his first love as well as
his first show business profession. He didn't have much time with the rigors
of a weekly series and film roles during the hiatus months, though he continued
his comedy work whenever he could work it into a demanding schedule. When he
took the first series off the air, it seemed a good time to tour again, which
he did for nearly four years, before television got him back into a new series
with a new format.
In 1982, he returned to CBS with Newhart, playing a New York, do-it-yourself
book author turned Vermont innkeeper. Again surrounded by an exceptional ensemble
of quirky characters (yet another trademark of Bob Newhart's television career),
the series went on to enormous success for eight seasons, ending against the
wishes of the network, but only because Bob felt it was better to put the show
to rest while it was at its peak.
Television fans remember the final episode of Newhart, in which he "awoke"
in his old bedroom from The Bob Newhart Show, with his "wife,"
Suzanne Pleshette, next to him, when he proclaimed he had the strangest dream!
Critics and fans alike have called this the single best and most surprising episode
in television comedy history, including Entertainment Weekly Magazine, which put
it at the top of its "Best All-Time Episodes" list.
Among Bob's favorite honors are his selection as Grand Marshall of the 102nd
Tournament of Roses Parade, joining 101 other world-famous leaders, stars, politicians
and other world notables. Two years ago, he was introduced into the Academy
of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
Bob and his wife, Virginia, live in Bel Air, California. They have four children,
Rob, Tim, Jennifer and Courtney. An avid golfer, he spends as much time as he
can on the links. He has managed to make time for his family, his sports pastime
and his professional work by limiting his concert dates, doing an occasional
film and then returning home to resume his personal life.
© 2001. All Right Reserved. Licensed by the Mark Twain Foundation Trust.
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