The Bob Newhart Show
“When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, I loved watching comedians on television. I'd hear a joke and ask myself why it got a laugh. What made it work? Could I ever make it as a standup comic?” Bob Newhart
American standup comedian and actor Bob Newhart first came to prominence with his best selling debut comedy album “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” (1960), which skyrocketed to No.1 on the Billboard 200. The album has remained on Billboard's 200 Top Selling Albums list for over 45 years and is the only comedy record to stay on that list. The former accountant took home his first two Grammy Awards for the album. He won his third Grammy Award for the follow up “The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back” (1960) and a nomination in 2007 for his album “I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This” (2006). First making an impact on television as the star of the short lived variety show “The Bob Newhart Show” (NBC, 1961), where he earned his first Emmy nomination for his writing contribution, Newhart gained huge success for his starring roles of psychologist Dr. Robert 'Bob' Hartley on the 1970s sitcom “The Bob Newhart Show” (CBS, 1972-1978) and innkeeper Dick Loudon on the 1980s sitcom “Newhart” (CBS, 1982-1990). He collected two Golden Globe nominations and a 2005 TV Land Award for the first and three Emmy nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, a Viewers for Quality Television Award and an American Comedy nomination for the latter show. His subsequent attempts, “Bob” (1992-1993) and “George & Leo” (1997-1998), however, failed to attract strong audiences. More recently, he became known for his recurring roles on the popular series “ER” (2003, earned an Emmy nomination) and “Desperate Housewives” (2005) and as Judson in the TNT trilogy “The Librarian: Quest for the Spear” (2004), “The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mine” (2006) and “The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice” (2008, earned an Emmy nomination). Newhart has also acted in many motion pictures, including his debut “Hell Is for Heroes” (1962), “Catch-22” (1970), “Little Miss Marker” (1980), “In & Out” (1997), “Elf” (2003) and “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde” (2003). He voiced Bernard in “The Rescuers” (1977) and its sequel “The Rescuers Down Under” (1990).
Newhart was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 6, 1999, for his contribution to television. He won a Sir Peter Ustinov Award at the 1998 Banff Television Festival and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2002. He was also honored with a Career Tribute at the 2001 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and the Career Achievement Award at the 2005 Television Critics Association Awards.
On the personal front, Newhart has been married to Ginnie Newhart since 1963. They have four children (two girls and two boys).
Childhood and Family:
George Robert Newhart, who would late be famous as Bob Newhart, was born on September 5, 1929, in Oak Park, Illinois, to an Irish mother and a German and Irish father. His father, George David Newhart, was part owner of a plumbing and heating supply business and his mother, Julia Pauline Newhart, was a homemaker. He has three sisters named Joan (Catholic nun), Pauline and Virginia. Bob graduated from Chicago's St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in 1947 and the Loyola University of Chicago in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. Also in 1952, he was drafted into the Army and served stateside during the Korean War until he was discharged in 1954.
Bob married Virginia “Ginnie” Quinn, the daughter of late character actor Bill Quinn, on January 12, 1963. He was introduced to his wife by fellow comedian Buddy Hackett. They have two sons, Robert William Newhart, who played his father in “Heart & Souls” (1993), and Timothy Newhart, and two daughters, Jennifer Newhart (born in 1972) and Courtney Newhart (born in 1978).
In 1985, Bob was hospitalized of polycythemia. He recovered several weeks later.
The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart
“I left the world of accounting and took a series of part time jobs to tide me over, hoping for a big break. These were lean years for me. I avoided starvation by living in my parents' house until I was 29. One year, and this was in the late 1950s, I earned all of $1,100.” Bob Newhart
After his discharge from the U.S. Army, Bob Newhart, with a business management degree in his pocket, found work as an accountant for United States Gypsum and later as an advertising copywriter for a Chicago based independent feature and television producer named Fred A. Niles. During this period, he started writing and performing radio comedy sketches and occasionally participated in a local theatrical stock company. It was while at the ad agency that he and a co-worker, Ed Gallagher, began developing a series of comedy routines that would later become the keystone of his stage act. Newhart recorded many of these acts and sent them to Chicago disc jockey Dan Sorkin, who then sent the audition tapes to Warner Bros. Records head of talent development George Avakian. Impressed with the recordings, Avakian signed the aspiring comedian to a recording contract in 1959.
After expanding his material into a standup act, Newhart began performing at nightclubs and recorded the best of his routines for his debut comedy album. “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” was launched on May 6, 1960, on Warner Bros. and went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums (Billboard 200) chart. The album earned a 1961 Grammy for Album of the Year, making it the first comedy record to win the category, and Newhart was handed the Best New Artist Award. Newhart became the first and only one of four artists to win both awards in the same year. His successors are Christopher Cross in 1981, Lauryn Hill in 1999 and Norah Jones in 2003. Newhart's sophomore effort, “The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back” followed in 1960 and won a 1961 Grammy for Best Comedy Performance - Spoken Word. The third album, “Behind the Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” was released in 1961 and was also a success.
Newhart started performing his comedy act on television in 1960 with stints on shows like “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Garry Moore Show,” but quickly worked his way up the television ladder to series headliner on the NBC variety show “The Bob Newhart Show” in 1961. Premiering in October 1961, the show only lasted until June 1962 despite good reviews. It won a 1962 Emmy for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Humor (now known as the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series) and a nomination for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy, which Newhart shared with Roland Kibbee, Don Hinkley, Milt Rosen and Ernest Chambers, to name a few. The show also won a Peabody Award.
In 1962, Newhart was honored with a Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star-Male, which he shared with John Daly. The same year, he made his film acting debut in “Hell Is for Heroes,” a movie directed by Son Siegel that starred Steve McQueen. In the movie, he played the supporting role of Driscoll. Newhart also released the comedy album “The Button-Down Mind on TV” in 1962. The following year, he appeared as Gerald Swinney in an episode of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” called “How to Get Rid of Your Wife.” His controversial LP “Bob Newhart Faces Bob Newhart” hit the music stores in 1964 and was followed by the albums “Windmills Are Weakening” and “This Is It” in 1965 and 1966, respectively.
By the mid 1960s, Newhart reduced his number of nightclub acts to focus on his acting career. Following guest appearances in “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre” (1965, as Charles Fenton) and “Captain Nice” (1967, as Lloyd Larchmont), he landed the significant role of Willard C. Gnatpole in the film “Hot Millions” (1968), opposite Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith and Karl Malden. It was helmed by Eric Till and co-scripted by Ustinov and Ira Wallach. He then supported Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand in the Alan Jay Lerner adaptation “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (1970, directed by Vincente Minnelli), appeared in director Mike Nichol's “Catch-22,” based on the book of the same name by Joseph Heller, and costarred with Dick Van Dyke in Norman Lear's satirical comedy “Cold Turkey” (1971).
In 1972, Newhart returned to series television as a regular when he starred as Chicago psychologist Dr. Robert 'Bob' Hartley on the well liked situation comedy “The Bob Newhart Show,” which ran on CBS from September 16, 1972, to April 1, 1978. The show was nominated for four Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series (1977) and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Suzanne Pleshette, 1977 and 1978) and Newhart earned two Golden Globe nominations for Best TV Actor - Musical/Comedy (1975 and 1976) for his performance. He later shared an Icon Award from the 2005 TV Land with costars Suzanne Pleshette, Marcia Wallace and Bill Daily and director Peter Bonerz.
Newhart also starred with Jean Simmons in the NBC film “Decisions! Decisions!” (1972), guest starred in “The Don Rickles Show” (1972) and played Marvin Ellison in the ABC made for TV comedy film “Thursday's Game” (1974), which was directed by Robert Moore and written by James L. Brooks. In 1976, he served as a guest host on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (2 episodes), a gig he reprised in one more episode in 1978. He also did voiceover work on the animated film “The Rescuers” (1977, as Bernard) and released the 1973 album “Very Funny Bob Newhart.”
After “The Bob Newhart Show” left the airwaves, Newhart made a return to standup comedy. He next starred as Walter Burton in the TV film “Marathon” for director Jackie Cooper and writer Ron Friedman, had the famed supporting role of Regret in Walter Bernstein's movie “Little Miss Marker,” starring Walter Matthau, and starred as an awkward U.S. President in the box office flop “First Family,” which was written and directed by Buck Henry. He also made a guest appearance in “Saturday Night Live” that year and hosted the primetime specials “Ladies and Gentlemen...Bob Newhart, Part I and Part II” in 1980 and 1981, respectively.
In 1982, Newhart starred with actress Mary Frann in his new sitcom “Newhart,” which was created by Barry Kemp. The show was an instant success and ran on CBS from October 25, 1982, to May 21, 1990. It received 5 Viewers for Quality Television Awards, 25 Emmy nominations and 6 Golden Globe nominations, to list a few, and Newhart picked up three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1985-1987), four Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical 1983-1986), a 1987 Q Award for Best Actor in a Quality Comedy Series and a 1990 American Comedy nomination for Funniest Male Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication.
In 1990, Newhart reprised his voice role of Bernard for the animation sequel “The Rescuers Down Under” and starred as Todd Wilson in the TV film “The Entertainers” in 1991. He also recreated his role of Robert Hartley on “The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary Special” (1991) before creating the situation comedy “Bob,” which he starred in as comic book creator Bob McKay. Debuting on CBS on September 12, 1992, the show suffered from low ratings and was canceled. “Bob” was nominated for a 1993 Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music (composer Lee Holdridge)
After “Bob” left the airwaves, Newhart recreated his role of Bob Hartley from “The Bob Newhart Show” on an episode of “Murphy Brown” called “Anything But Cured” (1994), hosted the “Saturday Night Live” episode “Bob Newhart/Des'ree” (1995) and released the album “The Button-Down Concert” (1997). He revisited the large screen when he landed the role of high school principal Tom Halliwell on Frank Oz's comedy “In & Out” (1997), which starred Kevin Kline. It was followed by the voice role of Leonard the Polar Bear on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie” (1998), also starring the voices of John Goodman, Whoopi Goldberg, Debbie Reynolds and Eric Idle. Newhart attempted to return to series television with the CBS short lived sitcom “George & Leo” (September 1997- March 1998), starring Newhart as George Stoody and Judd Hirsch as Leo Wagonman. Created by Rob Long and Dan Staley, the show was axed because of poor ratings.
In 2001, Newhart launched “Something Like This,” a compilation of his 1960s Warner Bros. albums, and played Doc Waddems in the segment “How Doc Waddems Finally Broke 100” of Showtime's film “The Sports Pages.” Two years later, he appeared as Sid Post in the Reese Witherspoon popular vehicle “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde,” portrayed Papa Elf in Jon Favreau's “Elf,” opposite Will Ferrell and James Caan, and had the recurring role of Ben Hollander, an elderly architect who befriends Dr. Susan Lewis after his failed suicide, on the NBC hit medical drama “ER” (3 episodes), a role that brought him a 2004 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. In 2004, Newhart played Judson in the TNT TV film “The Librarian: Quest for the Spear,” opposite Noah Wyle and Sonya Walger.
After guest starring in “Committed” (2005), Newhart portrayed Morty Flickman in three episodes of the ABC hit drama “Desperate Housewives” (also 2005) and reprised his role of Judson on TNT's “The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mine” (2006) and “The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice” (2008), for which he was nominated for a 2009 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.
Newhart published his first book, “I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This” in 2006. He was nominated for a 2007 Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for the audio version of “I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This.”
Television Critics Association: Career Achievement Award, 2005
TV Land: Icon Award, “The Bob Newhart Show,” 2005
U.S. Comedy Arts Festival: Career Tribute, 2001
Banff Television Festival: Sir Peter Ustinov Award, 1998
Viewers for Quality Television: Q Award, Best Actor in a Quality Comedy Series, “Newhart,” 1987
Golden Globe: Best TV Star - Male, 1962
Grammy: Best Comedy Performance - Spoken Word, “The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back,” 1961
Grammy: Album of the Year, “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” 1961
Grammy: Best New Artist, “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” 1961