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L E’s Stories – “The Button-Down Mind Of A Comic Genius” – Tribute To Comedian Bob Newhart

It seems to me that the period from 1950 to 1990 was the Golden Age of Comedy….for this was a time that created so many legends of comedy….and like the myriad of things that really took root during this era….all had the same catalyst that projected them into to legendary status….and that was the television.  Growing up in West Texas (Midland) during this Golden Age of Comedy provided Bone Daddy with a wonderful sense of humor and ear for good humor…..as evidenced by this incredible comedy video library currently posted here at ImaSportsphile.  The truth be known, Bone Daddy grew up with many of those legends of comedy…..and today story showcases one of his very favorites….Bob Newhart….for BD has always loved “deadpan humor’ and those that could deliver it properly….which Bob Newhart was a master of….as he could really make folks laugh.                                                                                                                  

Comedy – 1961 – The Gary Moore Show – With Bob Newhart Stand-Up Routine

Bob Newhart is an American stand-up comedian and actor….who was noted for his deadpan and slightly stammering delivery style….as  Newhart came to prominence in 1960 when his album of comedic monologues, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, became a bestseller and reached # 1 on the Billboard pop album chart….while it remains the 20th-best selling comedy album in history.  The follow-up album, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!, was also a success, and the two albums held the Billboard # 1 and # 2 spots simultaneously.                                                                                                                  

Comedy – 1963 – Bob Newhart Stand-Up Routine – “The Air Traffic Controller”                                                               

Newhart later went into acting, starring as Chicago psychologist Robert Hartley in The Bob Newhart Show during the 1970’s….and then as Vermont innkeeper Dick Loudon on the 1980’s series Newhart.  He also had two short-lived sitcoms in the 1990’s….with Bob and George and Leo.  Newhart had film roles such as Major Major in Catch-22….and Papa Elf in Elf.  He provided the voice of Bernard in the Disney animated films The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under.  In 2004, he played the library head Judson in The Librarian…. which was a character that continued in 2014 on the TV series The Librarians.  In 2013, Newhart made his first of six guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory as Professor Proton….for which he received his 1st Primetime Emmy Award in September of 2013.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Comedy – 1961 – Bob Newhart – “The Krushchev Landing Rehearsal”                                                                               

After returning stateside from World War II, Newhart worked for United States Gypsum as an accountant…..as he later said that his motto, “That’s close enough”…..while his habit of adjusting petty cash imbalances with his own money showed he did not have the temperament to be an accountant.  He also said he was a clerk in the unemployment office who made $55 a week….but quit upon learning unemployment benefits were $45 a week and he “only had to come in to the office one day a week to collect it.”                                                                                                                                                                              

Comedy – 1989 – Donahue From Los Angeles Show – With Bob Newhart + Don Rickles

In 1958, Newhart became an advertising copywriter for Fred A. Niles…. who was a major independent film and television producer in Chicago…..when while there, he and a co-worker entertained each other with long telephone calls about absurd scenarios….which they later recorded and sent to radio stations as audition tapes…..then when the co-worker ended his participation by taking a job in New York….that is when Newhart continued the recordings alone….while developing this type of routine.  Dan Sorkin, a disc jockey at a radio station….who later became the announcer-sidekick on Newhart’s NBC series….. introduced Newhart to the head of talent at Warner Bros. Records.  The label signed him in 1959, only a year after it was formed, based solely on those recordings. Newhart expanded his material into a stand-up routine he began to perform at nightclubs.                                                                                                              

Comedy – 1995 – National Press Conference Luncheon – With Bob Newhart

Newhart became famous mostly on the strength of his audio releases….in which he played a solo “straight man”…..for Newhart’s routine was to portray one end of a conversation (usually a phone call) ….while playing the comedic straight man….and implying what the other person was saying.                                                 

Comedy – 1962 – Bob Newhart – “Defusing A Bomb”                                                                                                           

His 1960 comedy album The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart was the 1st comedy album to make # 1 on the Billboard charts.  It won the 1961 Grammy Award for Album of the Year and peaked at # 2 in the UK Albums Chart…..as Newhart also won Best New Artist.                                                                                                      

Comedy – 1969 – The Dean Martin Show – With Bob Newhart – “The Toupee Skit”                                                           

Newhart told a 2005 interviewer for PBS’s American Masters that his favorite stand-up routine is “Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue”….which appears on this album….when in the routine, a slick promoter has to deal with Lincoln’s reluctance to agree to efforts to boost his image. Chicago TV director and future comedian Bill Daily….who was Newhart’s castmate on The Bob Newhart Show….suggested the routine to him.  Newhart became known for an intentional stammer, in service to his unique combination of politeness and disbelief at what he was supposedly hearing….as Newhart has used the delivery throughout his career.                                                                                                                                                             

Comedy – 1968 – Bob Newhart Special – “Abe Lincoln Vs. Madison Avenue”                                                               

A follow-up album, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, was released six months later and won Best Comedy Performance – Spoken Word that year….while subsequent comedy albums include Behind the Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart in 1961….The Button-Down Mind on TV in 1962….Bob Newhart Faces Bob Newhart in 1964…..The Windmills Are Weakening in 1965….This Is It in 1967……Best of Bob Newhart in 1971…..and Very Funny Bob Newhart  in 1973.  Years later, he released Bob Newhart Off the Record in 1992….The Button-Down Concert in 1997….and Something Like This in 2001….which is an anthology of his 1960’s Warner Bros. albums.

 

Comedy – 1974 – The Bob Newhart Show With Suzanne Pleshett – “The IQ Test”
 

On December 10, 2015, publicist and comedy album collector Jeff Abraham revealed that a “lost” Newhart track from 1965 about Paul Revere existed on a one-of-a-kind acetate, which he owns.  The track made its world premiere on episode 163 of the Comedy on Vinyl podcast.                                                                                           

Comedy & Music – The Dean Martin Show – With Bob Newhart + Sid Caesar Singing A Medley – “When Dean Martin Screws Up Bob Newhart’s Singing Debut”                                                                                                         

Newhart’s success in stand-up led to his own short-lived NBC variety show in 1961, The Bob Newhart Show…..as the show lasted only a single season….but it earned Newhart a Primetime Emmy Award nomination and a Peabody Award….as the Peabody Board cited him as a person whose gentle satire and wry and irreverent wit waft a breath of fresh and bracing air through the stale and stuffy electronic corridors. A merry marauder, who looks less like St. George than a choirboy, Newhart has wounded, if not slain, many of the dragons that stalk our society. In a troubled and apprehensive world, Newhart has proved once again that laughter is the best medicine.”                                                                                  

Comedy – 1966 – Bob Newhart Live – “Suicide Jumper On The Ledge”                                                                             

In the mid-1960’s, Newhart appeared on The Dean Martin Show 24 times….and on The Ed Sullivan Show eight times….plus, he appeared in a 1963 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “How to Get Rid of Your Wife”…..and on The Judy Garland Show.  Newhart guest-hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 87 times….while hosting Saturday Night Live twice, in 1980 and 1995.                                                                  

Comedy – 1983 – The Late Show With Johnny Carson – With Guest Bob Newhart

In addition to stand-up comedy, Newhart became a dedicated character actor…..which led to other series, such as Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre….Captain Nice…. two episodes of Insight….and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.  He reprised his role as Dr. Bob Hartley on Murphy Brown….while appearing as himself on The Simpsons….and played a retired forensic pathologist on NCIS.  Newhart guest-starred on three episodes of ER….for which he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award….as well as on Desperate Housewives…..and a role on NCIS as Ducky’s mentor and predecessor….who was discovered to have Alzheimer’s disease.  In 2013, he also appeared on Committed….and in an episode of the 6th season of The Big Bang Theory…..for which he was awarded a Primetime Emmy Award….along with subsequent episodes in its 7th, 9th and 11th seasons.                                                                                                       

Comedy – 2013 – Big Bang Theory TV Show 6th Season – “The Professor Proton” – With Bob Newhart

Although primarily a television star, Newhart has been in a number of popular films, beginning with the 1962 war story Hell Is for Heroes.  In 1968, Newhart played an annoying software specialist in the film Hot Millions….as his films include 1970’s Alan Jay Lerner musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever…..the 1971 Norman Lear comedy Cold Turkey…..Mike Nichols’s war satire Catch 22…..the 1977 Disney animated feature The Rescuers….and its 1990 sequel The Rescuers Down Under as the voice of Bernard….and the Will Ferrell holiday comedy Elf  in 2003.                                                                                                                           

Comedy – 1977 – The Bob Newhart Show – “Interview Nightmare – Should Have Read His Book”                                   

Newhart’s most notable exposure on television came from two long-running programs that centered on him…..when in 1972, soon after Newhart guest-starred on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour….that is when he was approached by his agent and his managers, producer Grant Tinker and actress Mary Tyler Moore (the husband/wife team who founded MTM Enterprises), to work on a pilot series called The Bob Newhart Show….which was to be written by David Davis and Lorenzo Music.  He was very interested in the starring role of dry psychologist Bob Hartley…..with Suzanne Pleshette playing his wry, loving wife, Emily….and Bill Daily as neighbor and friend Howard Borden…..as The Bob Newhart Show faced heavy competition from the beginning….while launching at the same time as the popular shows M*A*S*HMaudeSanford And Son and The Waltons….. nevertheless, it was an immediate hit….as the show eventually referenced what made Newhart’s name in the first place….when apart from the first few episodes, it used an opening-credits sequence featuring Newhart answering a telephone in his office.  According to co-star Marcia Wallace, the entire cast got along well….and Newhart became close friends with both Wallace and co-star Suzanne Pleshette.  In addition to Wallace as Bob’s wisecracking, man-chasing receptionist Carol Kester….for the cast included Peter Bonerz as amiable orthodontist Jerry Robinson….Jack Riley as Elliot Carlin, the most misanthropic of Hartley’s patients….character actor and voice artist, John Fiedler as milquetoast Emil Petersen….and Pat Finley as Bob’s sister, Ellen Hartley, a love interest for Howard Borden.  Future Newhart regular  Tom Poston had a briefly recurring role as Cliff “Peeper” Murdock…. who was a veteran stage actor Barnard Hughes….who appeared as Bob’s father for three episodes spread over two seasons….and Martha Scott appeared in several episodes as Bob’s mother.                                                                                                                                                                                    

Comedy – 1972 – The Bob Newhart Show – “The Famous Thanksgiving Episode”                                                 

 

Comedy – 1976 – The Bob Newhart Show Special – “Season 4 Bloopers”
 

By 1977, the show’s ratings were declining….and Newhart wanted to end it….but was under contract to do one more season. The show’s writers tried to rework the sitcom by adding a pregnancy….but Newhart objected by saying “I told the creators I didn’t want any children, because I didn’t want it to be a show about ‘How stupid Daddy is, but we love him so much, let’s get him out of the trouble he’s gotten himself into’.”  Nevertheless, the staff wrote an episode that they hoped would change Newhart’s mind….so, Newhart read the script…. and he agreed it was very funny…..then he asked, “Who are you going to get to play Bob?”  Coincidentally, Newhart’s wife gave birth to their daughter Jenny late in the year….which caused him to miss several episodes.

 

Comedy – 2007 – Paley Center For Media Live – “The Bob Newhart Show 35th Anniversary Reunion” – With Bob Newhart And The Cast

In the last episode of the fifth season, not only was Bob’s wife, Emily, pregnant….but his receptionist, Carol, was, too.  In the first show of the sixth season, Bob revealed his dream of the pregnancies and that neither Emily nor Carol was really pregnant.  Marcia Wallace spoke of Newhart’s amiable nature on set while saying….“He’s very low key, and he didn’t want to cause trouble. I had a dog by the name of Maggie that I used to bring to the set. And whenever there was a line that Bob didn’t like—he didn’t want to complain too much—so, he’d go over, get down on his hands and knees, and repeat the line to the dog, which invariably yawned; and he’d say, ‘See, I told you it’s not funny!'” Wallace has also commented on the show’s lack of Emmy recognition….“People think we were nominated for many an Emmy, people presume we won Emmys, all of us, and certainly Bob, and certainly the show. Nope, never!”                                                    

Comedy – 2013 – The Big Bang Theory TV Show – 6th Season – “Professor Proton Returns”                                                 

Comedy – 2013 – The Big Bang Theory TV Show – “Bill Nye The Science Guy Meets Professor Proton”                                    

Newhart discontinued the series in 1978 after six seasons and 142 episodes. Wallace said of its ending, “It was much crying and sobbing. It was so sad. We really did get along. We really had great times together.”  Of Newhart’s other long-running sitcom, Newhart, Wallace said, “But some of the other great comedic talents who had a brilliant show, when they tried to do it twice, it didn’t always work. And that’s what… but like Bob, as far as I’m concerned, Bob is like the Fred Astaire of comics. He just makes it look so easy, and he’s not as in-your-face as some might be. And so, you just kind of take it for granted, how extraordinarily funny and how he wears well.”  She was later reunited with Newhart twice, once in a reprise of her role as Carol on Murphy Brown in 1994….and on an episode of Newhart’s short-lived sitcom, George & Leo, in 1997.                                                                                                                                              

Comedy – 1985 – Saturday Night Live – With Bob Newhart Opening Monologue – “King Kong”                                         

By 1982, Newhart was interested in a new sitcom….so, after he had discussions with Barry Kemp and CBS, the show Newhart was created ….in which Newhart played Vermont innkeeper and TV talk show host Dick Loudon….as Mary Frann was cast as his wife, Joanna…..and Jennifer Holmes was originally cast as Leslie Vanderkellen….but left after former daytime soap star Julia Duffy joined the cast as Dick’s inn maid and spoiled rich girl Stephanie Vanderkellen…..when  Peter Scolari (who had been a fan of Newhart’s since he was 17) was also cast as Dick’s manipulative TV producer, Michael Harris, in six of the eight seasons…..while character actor Tom Poston played the role of handyman George Utley….who earned three Primetime Emmy Award nominations as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1984, 1986 and 1987.  Like The Bob Newhart ShowNewhart was an immediate hit….and again, like the show before it, it was also nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards….but failed to win any.  During the time Newhart was working on the show, in 1985, his smoking habit finally caught up to him….and he was taken to the emergency room for secondary polycythemia.  The doctors ordered him to stop smoking.                                                                                                                                                                           

Comedy – 1982 To 1990 – Special – TV Show Newhart Outakes Part 1 – With Bob Newhart + Mary Frann + Tom Poston

 

Comedy – 1982 To 1990 – Special – TV Show Newhart Outakes Part 2 – With Bob Newhart + Mary Frann + Tom Poston

In 1987, ratings began to drop….so, Newhart ended in 1990 after eight seasons and 182 episodes.  The last episode ended with a scene in which Newhart wakes up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette….who had played Emily, his wife from The Bob Newhart Show….and he realizes (in a satire of a famous plot element in the television series Dallas a few years earlier) that the entire eight-year Newhart series had been a single nightmare of Dr. Bob Hartley’s….which Emily attributes to eating Japanese food before he went to bed.  Recalling Mary Frann’s buxom figure and proclivity for wearing sweaters, Bob closes the segment and the series by telling Emily, “You really should wear more sweaters” before the typical closing notes of the old Bob Newhart Show theme played over the fade-out. The twist ending was later chosen by TV Guide as the best finale in television history.                                                                                                                      

Comedy – 1983 – Episode Of TV Show Newhart“World’s Smallest Horse” – With Bob Newhart

In 1992, Newhart returned to television with a series called Bob, about a cartoonist. An ensemble cast included Lisa Kudrow, but the show did not develop a strong audience and was cancelled shortly after the start of its second season, despite good critical reviews…..when on The Tonight Show following the cancellation, Newhart joked he had now done shows called The Bob Newhart ShowNewhart and Bob, so his next show was going to be called The.

 

Comedy – 1971 – The Dean Martin Show – With Bob Newhart – “The Bar”                                                                       

In 1997, Newhart returned again with George & Leo on CBS with Judd Hirsch and Jason Bateman (Newhart’s first name being George)….but the show was cancelled during its first season….cuz even though Hirsch and Newhart are both very funny guys….and albeit the show had some really good laughs, the truth be known is a Bob Newhart comedy sit-com in 1997 just wasn’t the same as it was during the 1970’s….as the world was a different place.                                                                                                                         

Comedy – 2012 – Bob Newhart Live In Concert – “Being Politically Correct”                                                                    

In 1995, Newhart was approached by Showtime to make the first comedy special of his 35-year career, Off The Record….which consisted of him performing material from his 1st and 2nd albums in front of an audience in Pasadena, California.  In 2003, Newhart guest-starred on three episodes of ER in a rare dramatic role that earned him an Primetime Emmy Award nomination….which was his first in nearly 20 years.  In 2005, he began a recurring role in Desperate Housewives as Morty, the on-again/off-again boyfriend of Sophie (Lesley Ann Warren), Susan Mayer’s (Teri Hatcher) mother.  In 2009, he received another Primetime Emmy nomination for reprising his role as Judson in The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice.

 

Comedy – 1970 – The Dean Martin Show – With Bob Newhart – “The Topless Club”
 

On August 27, 2006, at the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Conan O’Brien, Newhart was placed in a supposedly airtight glass prison that contained three hours of air. If the Emmys went over the time of three hours, he would die. This gag was an acknowledgment of the common frustration that award shows usually run on past their allotted time (usually three hours). Newhart “survived” his containment to help O’Brien present the award for Outstanding Comedy Series (which went to The Office).

 

Comedy – 1997 – The George & Leo Show – With Bob Newhart + Judd Hirsch – “The Pilot”                                             

During an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Newhart made a comedic cameo with members of ABC’s show Lost lampooning an alternate ending to the series finale.  In 2011, he appeared in a small but pivotal role as a doctor in Lifetime’s anthology film on breast cancer Five….and in 2013 he made a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory as the aged Professor Proton (Arthur Jeffries), a former science TV show host turned children’s party entertainer….for which he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series…..which was Newhart’s first Emmy.  At that year’s Emmy ceremony, Newhart appeared as a presenter with The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons….and they received a standing ovation…..as he continued to play the character periodically through the show’s 12th and final season.                                                                                                                                                 

Comedy – 2013 – The Emmy Awards – Bob Newhart Wins His 1st Emmy Award For Playing Professor Proton In Gig Bang Theory

Comedy – 2014 – Bob Newhart + Jim Parsons Present Emmy Award For Best Comedy Writing

In December 19, 2014, Newhart made a surprise appearance on the final episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson….where he was revealed to be the person inside Secretariat, Ferguson’s on-set pantomime horse. The show then ended with a scene parodying the Newhart series finale….with Ferguson and Drew Carey reprising their roles from The Drew Carey Show.  In June 2015, Newhart appeared on another series finale, that of Hot in Cleveland…..while playing the father-in-law of Joy Scroggs (Jane Leeves)…..which marked a reunion with Betty White….who was a cast member during the second season of Bob 23 years earlier. The finale ends with their characters getting married.

 

Comedy – 1986 – Bob Newhart – “A Friend With A Dog”                                                                                                    

Newhart is known for his deadpan delivery and a slight stammer that he incorporated early on into the persona around which he built a successful career.  On his TV shows, although he got his share of funny lines, he worked often in the Jack Benny tradition of being the “straight man”….while the sometimes rather bizarre cast members surrounding him got the laughs.  But Newhart has said, “I was not influenced by Jack Benny”….and cites George Gobel and Bob and Ray as his initial writing and performance inspirations.                                                                                                                                                                           

Comedy – 1968 – Bob Newhart – “A Call From Sir Walter Raliegh About Tobacco”                                                                                          

Several of his routines involve hearing half of a conversation as he speaks to someone on the phone. In a bit called “King Kong”, a rookie security guard at the Empire State Building seeks guidance as to how to deal with an ape that is “between 18 and 19 stories high, depending on whether there’s a 13th floor or not.”….as he assures his boss he has looked in the guards’ manual “under ‘ape’ and ‘ape’s toes’.”  Other famous routines include “The Driving Instructor”….“The Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson Airline (and Storm Door Company)”…..“Introducing Tobacco to Civilization”…..“Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue”…..“Defusing a Bomb” (in which an uneasy police chief tries to walk a new and nervous patrolman through defusing a live shell discovered on a beach)….“The Retirement Party“…. “Ledge Psychology”…..“The Krushchev Landing Rehearsal”…..and “A Friend With a Dog.”                                                                                                             

Comedy – 1972 – The Dean Martin Show – With Bob Newhart – “The Driving Instructor” 

 

Comedy – 1967 – Bob Newhart Stand-Up Comedy – “King Kong”

 

Comedy – 1965 – The Jack Paar Show – With Bob Newhart – “The Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson Airline (and Storm Door Company)”                                                                                                                                                                                                

In a 2012 podcast interview with Marc Maron, comedian Shelley Berman accused Newhart of plagiarizing his improvisational telephone routine style….but in interviews of  both years before and after Berman’s comments, Newhart has never taken credit for originating the telephone concept….which he has noted was done earlier by Berman and predating Berman…..with Nichols and May, George Jessel (in his well-known sketch “Hello Mama”) and in the 1913 recording “Cohen on the Telephone”. The technique was later also used by Lily Tomlin, Ellen DeGeneres, and others.

 

Comedy – 1971 – Bob Newhart – “Buying A House”                                                                                                 

On September 20, 2006, Hyperion Books released Newhart’s first book, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This. The book is primarily a memoir but also features comic bits. Transcripts of many of Newhart’s classic routines are woven into the text. Actor David Hyde Pierce said, “The only difference between Bob Newhart on stage and Bob Newhart offstage is that there is no stage.”                                                                              

Comedy – 1971 – The Dean Martin Show – With Bob Newhart – “The Pet Cemetery”                                                            

When I give consideration to the fact that Bob Newhart had been performing his comedic genius from 1958 to 2020….which is a mere 62 years….and I couple that with having reviewed all the videos that I posted here in this story….it becomes readily obvious that he had a wonderfully special way of making folks laugh for such an extended time….which lends me to believe that Bob Newhart deserves his showplace  here at ImaSportsphile….cuz he adds so much to our Comedy library in such a quite unassuming way.  He made people laugh about “human situations” as a story teller and humorist…for the kind of laugh for which Bob Newhart was the catalyst, was easy to respond too and pleasant to the soul long after the punch-line has passed.

 
Comedy – 1989 – Archive Of American Television – Bob Newhart Discusses Working With Johnny Carson

Comedy – 1983 – The Johnny Carson Show – With Bob Newhardt – “Comedians Will Always Have Comedic Material As Long As People Do Stupid Things”

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