Comic brought innovation to TV

The original “The Bob Newhart Show” doesn’t seem especially edgy by today’s standards.

But when it premiered in 1972, the notion of a main character who was a psychologist was considered risky.

“There was some trepidation,” Newhart remembers. “There still was some feeling ‘all those people, they’re nuttier than their patients.’ That was the prejudice we had to overcome.

“It suited me particularly because standup comics are really in a way psychologists, because we are observers of people. … I always said that as a standup, the amazing thing to me was, ‘We got all our material from you, the audience, and you pay to see us do you. Why don’t you pay each other and eliminate the middleman?’

“Playing a psychologist I didn’t find difficult because it was what I did anyway.”

It’s 50 years now since he shifted from accounting into standup comedy. He faced as big a change when he moved from clubs to television with “The Bob Newhart Show.”

As he prepares to be inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame on Monday, the comedy icon has grown quite comfortable with his current mix of work and relaxation.

“I have no desire to do a weekly television show — that’s for younger people than me,” Newhart says. “I had my turn in the light, and I enjoyed it. I work about as much as I want to in standup and an occasional film role. So it’s a good kind of life.”

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