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A Chat with Bob Newhart

Bob Newhart
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He’s been making people laugh for more than 50 years, and now he’s coming our way.

Bob Newhart will be on stage at Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood, Saturday night at 8:00pm, all part of Grand Falls’ Comedy Weekend.

Bob has an unmistakable style that’s been a part of classic comedy for more than five decades, but he told me certain things have changed in comedy since he first started:

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And while some comedians have made a living doing a healthy amount of political humor over the years, it’s never been a big part of Bob’s shows.  He says that was a decision he made years ago – and he’s stuck to it:

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Bob Newhart burst onto the national scene in 1960 with the release of his album ‘The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart’.  That album, featuring classic bits like ‘Driving Instructor’ and ‘Merchandising the Wright Brothers’, went to #1 on the charts and earned Bob a Grammy for ‘Best New Artist’ in 1961.

The premise of all of the material on that record was a series of one-sided conversations, requiring the audience to use their collective imaginations to fill in the blanks.  Nobody else was doing that kind of humor at the time, but Bob didn’t see the risk:

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Bob’s next stop was television.

So did he seek out a TV career, or did TV find him?

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Bob Newhart Show
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Armed with the lessons of that first TV experience, Bob was ready the next time TV came calling – and it did in 1972,

Producer Grant Tinker and his wife, Mary Tyler Moore, asked Bob to star in a show about a Chicago psychologist.  That show eventually became ‘The Bob Newhart Show’ and ran for six seasons on CBS.

Bob says the success of that show, and later his second sitcom ‘Newhart’, was built on the strength of the cast, not just him trying to hog the spotlight as the star of the show:

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Newhart
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After four years away from TV, Bob decided it was time to try another show, and in 1982 ‘Newhart’ made its debut on CBS.

And while was Bob was a household name and a proven sitcom performer by then, there was no guarantee that audiences would accept him as a Vermont innkeeper, rather than a Chicago shrink.

So did that make doing show number two easier or harder?

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Bob Newhart - 2013 Emmys
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 15: Actor Bob Newhart poses with the award for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for “The Big Bang Theory” during the 2013 Creative Arts Emmy Awards held at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the success of those two shows was a lack of Emmys for either.  Bob says a number of factors played a part in the Emmy drought, but he finally got his this year, winning for ‘Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series’ for his recurring role on ‘The Big Bang Theory’:

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But Bob admits, it’s not the awards that give him the greatest satisfaction, it’s the impact he’s had on people over the years:

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Bob turned 84 last month, and says he’s seen a lot over the years, from magical times with Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin, to his successes on television.

One thing he says hasn’t changed over the years is his definition of success:

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No Bob, we were the lucky ones.

Thanks for all the laughs!

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