is perhaps the only man in the world to talk to himself on the
phone without people looking at him strangely? Not only that,
he has become a household name to two generations. You got it
right if you said Bob Newhart. Known the world over for his two
long running television shows, Bob's real start came in standup
comedy, yes -- talking to himself on the telephone.
It began when Bob, after Army service, 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 comedy jobs.
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 disc jockey to the head
of talent at Warner Bros. Records, George Avakian, 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
number 1 on the charts. He was an immediate sell out in comedy
concerts, nightclubs and theater stages all over America.
Seven more albums followed, each extremely successful, selling
in the millions. In fact, his album sales records, set in the
1960's, actually stood unbroken until 1993! (And typical of Bob,
he didn't even know he had set the record for having the Number
1 and Number 2 albums for more than eight months, until someone
accidentally told him the record had been broken.)
So the television networks, always in need of the biggest possible
audiences, looked to Bob Newhart to supply them. But could he
act? Until Bob's first 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, to do the routines they had done from burlesque days onward.
Indeed, Bob's own first series was on NBC, a variety program called
"The Bob Newhart Show." It was a prestigious hit, winning both
an Emmy and the Peabody Award, perhaps the most coveted award
Such was the skyrocketing popularity of Bob Newhart, actor and
stand-up comedian, that he was also cast in a number of motion
pictures, with some of the biggest film 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 Voigt, "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. So famous was his
voice and style of delivery, that he was selected to become the
cartoon voice of Bernard the Mouse in two films, "The Rescuers"
and "The Rescuers Down Under."
"The Bob Newhart Show" debuted in 1972, on CBS, marking the beginning
of a seven-year run. It co-starred Suzanne Pleshette as Bob's
wife, Emily, and one of the finest casts of feature players on
television, according to television critics and historians to
this day. But by 1978, Bob felt it was time to move on to new
He missed live, standup performances, for which he didn't have
much time with the rigors of a weekly series and film roles during
the hiatus months. He toured for nearly two years, when 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 ensemble of quirky characters (another trademark of Bob
Newhart's television career), ending only against the wishes of
the network, but 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, proclaiming he had had the strangest dream! Critics
and fans alike have called this the single best and most surprising
episode in television comedy history.
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 and politicians and other world notables,
and his induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
Hall of Fame in 1993.
Bob and his wife, Virginia, live in Bel Air. They have four children,
Rob, Tim, Jennifer and Courtney. An avid golfer, Bob spends as
much time as he can on the links, but he has less and less hours
for his sports pastime with his continuing tours of comedy concerts.
Biography courtesy of Bob Newhart's office