Bob Newhart was nearly 30 years old and working as an accountant in Chicago when he struck comic gold with his first comedy album. His incredible journey was thoroughly explored in American Masters Bob Newhart: Unbuttoned on PBS. More recently, Newhart’s TV contributions have been highlighted on PBS’ popular series, Pioneers of Television.
His career as an entertainer has spanned 56 years, including multiple television series, 14 feature films and millions of albums sold worldwide, and he is the recipient of many honors, including the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor presented by the Kennedy Center. Newhart has also been inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame. In 2013, he won his first Emmy® for recurring appearances on the hit show Big Bang Theory and he also appears in the series The Librarians on TNT.
Bob Newhart’s career began in a quite unassuming fashion, while working as an accountant in Chicago. To break the monotony of working as accountant, Bob would improvise phone calls with partner Ed Gallagher, a friend from a suburban Chicago Stock Company. It was suggested that they record and syndicate them. They did and were imminently unsuccessful. Ed, an advertising executive, was offered a job in New York and accepted it, leaving Bob with the difficult job of going it alone. He knocked around Chicago finding occasional work in voice-overs and commercials while still writing additional material.
Through disc jockey friend Dan Sorkin, Bob met with the head of the newly-launched Warner Brothers Records, whom upon hearing Bob’s material, offered him a contract. And so, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart came into being, which became the first comedy album to go to #1 on the charts. He was an immediate sell-out in nightclubs and on theater stages all over America. Seven more albums followed, each extremely successful multi-platinum projects. In fact, Bob’s cumulative recording career earned him three Grammy® Awards. His record for holding the number #1 and #2 Billboard chart positions was not broken until recently by the rock band Guns ‘N Roses. It is still ranked as the 20th Best Selling Album of All Time, according to Billboard.
Bob has enjoyed much success in television and films as well and has hosted The Tonight Show an astonishing 87 times. His early TV effort, The Bob Newhart Variety Show, earned an Emmy® and a Peabody Award, and was quickly followed by the television success of The Bob Newhart Show (1972 – 1978) and Newhart (1982 – 1990). He has also appeared in over 14 feature films, including Elf (2003), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), Catch-22 (1970) and Legally Blonde 2 (2003), and has starred with the likes of Steve McQueen, Bobby Darin, Barbara Streisand, Madeline Kahn and Walter Matthau. He’s also provided character voices for major animated films.
Despite his successful run in television and feature films, Newhart has never strayed far from his first love of performing stand-up comedy and his classic routines have stood the test of time.
The Bob Newhart Show received TV Land’s Icon Award at a gala televised ceremony and dedicated a statue in his honor in Chicago. Over the last decade, Newhart has headed back to the small screen on a recurring basis. In 2005, he appeared as Morty, the estranged boyfriend of Susan’s mom, Sophie (guest star Lesley Ann Warren), on ABC TV’s runaway hit Desperate Housewives. The veteran television star was also recently featured in a TNT original adventure drama, The Librarian: Quest For The Spear, filmed on location in Mexico City and also starring Noah Wyle. Newhart has also enjoyed acting turns on the NBC drama ER, for which he also received an Emmy® nomination. A second and third installment of The Librarian has also been broadcast on TNT. Also in 2005, PBS featured Newhart in a special one-hour American Masters presentation which has since been broadcast in prime-time numerous times.
A DVD, Button Down Concert, based on his classic routines (featuring the “Driving Instructor” and “The Nude Police Line-Up”) was released in 2006. The first season of The Bob Newhart Show was released for the first time on DVD in April 2005 via Fox Home Entertainment, followed by seasons two, three and four. The Paley Center (formerly the Museum of TV & Radio) held a special tribute in honor of the show’s 35th anniversary in 2007.
In addition, Bob’s first ever book, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This, was published by Hyperion Books and became a New York Times best seller. In 2010, the TV Academy honored Bob’s half-century in show business and Newhart made a noteworthy guest appearance on the CBS hit NCIS playing a retired coroner opposite series star Mark Harmon. More recently, he guest-starred multiple times on The Big Bang Theory on CBS.
In mid-2014, the Shout! Factory released The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series, a 19-DVD box set of the iconic TV show. Shout! Factory has also released DVD versions of Newhart, seasons one through seven. The box set includes new interviews with Bob Newhart, Jack Riley, Bill Daily, Peter Bonerz and Michael Zinberg, The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary from 1991, the original unaired pilot, audio commentaries, a gag reel and a 40-page book including an essay by the Emmy®-winning writer Vince Waldron.
Among Newhart’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. In 2012, Loyola University Chicago, which Newhart attended for one and a half years and graduated from in 1952, dedicated The Newhart Family Theatre.
Newhart and his wife Ginnie have four children, and Newhart also has three siblings, Mary Joan, Pauline and Ginny, none of whom are in show business. www.bobnewhart.com