You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Publicists Guild Celebrates Life and Career of Bob Newhart

After 55 years of standup, albums and TV shows, the comedian continues to entertain

Not long before his 1960 debut comedy album “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” soared to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart, the now legendary comedian was nearing 30, living at home with his parents in Chicago and working as an accountant and a copywriter.

“People kept telling me, you’re funny, you should go to New York, go on Broadway,” says Newhart, who will be honored with the Publicists of the Intl. Cinematographers Guild Lifetime Achievement Award at the org’s 52nd annual luncheon on Feb. 20. “I had to find out if I could make a living doing comedy.”

But the runaway sales of “Button-Down,” which earned Newhart his first of three Grammys and remains the 20th best-selling album of all time, took the neophyte by surprise.

“You’d have to coin a new word for shock,” says Newhart of his reaction to this sudden fame. “I thought if we got really lucky it might sell 25,000 copies and maybe seven or eight people would know who I was when I went into a club — but then it sold a million. It was a blessing and curse because I wasn’t prepared to deal with that kind of success.”

Newhart may not have been prepared for his rapid ascent, but audiences, slayed by his deadpan brand of stand-up humor, certainly were. Whether impersonating a submarine commander at work or a security guard who spots King Kong clinging to the Empire State building his first night on the job — he made people laugh.

“Comedians watch people and then people pay to see us do them,” says the comic. “You’re never on vacation because you’re always watching,” Newhart says.

Soon the comedian was selling out nightclubs and theater venues across America. Then came television.

The Bob Newhart Show,” a snappy variety format on NBC, bowed in 1961, followed by numerous film and TV appearances (Newhart has guest-hosted “The Tonight Show” 87 times), including the top-rated, landmark CBS sitcoms for which he’s best known, “The Bob Newhart Show” (not to be confused the identically titled variety show), which ran from 1972-78 and “Newhart,” from 1982-90.

For the past 55 years, the comedy icon has kept the laughs coming. He has recorded eight albums, received the 2002 Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and, in 2006, penned the best-selling memoir. Most recently, Newhart was profiled on PBS’s “American Masters: Bob Newhart: Unbuttoned.” Yet despite these numerous accolades, an Emmy remained elusive for Newhart until 2013, when he nabbed the award for guest actor in a comedy series for his work on “The Big Bang Theory.”

“I was in pretty tough company when I first started out,” he says of Emmy snubs early on in his career. “I was up against actors like Carroll O’Connor and Alan Alda, so at some point I stopped submitting my name. Who knows? I probably would have won if I had kept my name in.”

Today, Newhart shows no signs of slowing down. This spring he’ll embark on a stand-up tour.
“For 55 years I’ve been on the road,” says Newhart. “It’s the story of my life. I can’t imagine ever not doing standup.”

More Biz

  • Harvey Weinstein arrives in court, in

    Time's Up Criticizes 'Flawed' Weinstein Settlement

    Time’s Up issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the proposed settlement in the Harvey Weinstein civil cases, saying they are the product of a “broken system.” Weinstein has reached a tentative $25 million deal with most of his accusers, including the plaintiffs in a class action suit. The women with the most serious claims would [...]

  • Boris Epshteyn

    Sinclair Drops Political Commentary Segments From Boris Epshteyn, Ameshia Cross

    Sinclair Broadcast Group has decided to scrap the political commentary segments that have aired across its vast station group since 2017. Boris Epshteyn, former Trump campaign official turned chief political analyst for Sinclair, has been delivering commentary segments that were mandated to run adjacent to local newscasts on all Sinclair stations since the spring of [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York

    Harvey Weinstein Close to $25 Million Civil Settlement with Accusers

    Harvey Weinstein is close to a $25 million settlement that would resolve most of the civil litigation against him, including a broad class action case accusing him and his board of directors of a systemic pattern of sexual misconduct. The general terms of the agreement have been in place for several months, though it has [...]

  • Def Leppard Signs Admin Deal With

    Def Leppard Signs Admin Deal With Sony/ATV Publishing

    On the heels of the announcement of Def Leppard’s North American stadium tour next summer comes news that the group has signed a global administration agreement with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. The British group has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, particularly of its ‘80s blockbuster albums “Pyromania” and “Hysteria.” Both of which are certified [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Harvey Weinstein, Who Entered Court on Walker, Gets Bail Hiked to $5 Million

    A judge on Wednesday increased Harvey Weinstein’s bail to $5 million, following repeated violations of his ankle monitor system. Justice James Burke agreed to the prosecution’s request to hike his bail, which had been set at $1 million. The defense claimed that the lapses in monitoring were due to technical glitches. Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi alleged [...]

  • Time Person of the Year Greta

    Greta Thunberg Named Time Magazine's Person of the Year

    Time magazine has named Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, as its 2019 Person of the Year. Thunberg, the youngest recipient of the annual honor, was selected from a shortlist that included Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, the Trump impeachment whistleblower and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Thunberg gained national attention for skipping school [...]

  • Hipgnosis Acquires Catalog From Jeff Bhasker

    Hipgnosis Acquires Catalog From Bruno Mars-Harry Styles Collaborator Jeff Bhasker

    Hipgnosis Songs Fund has acquired a music catalog from five-time Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and musician Jeff Bhasker. Terms of the deal were not announced, but Bhasker has worked extensively with such artists as Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars (on “Uptown Funk” and Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” album), Kanye West (“808s & Heartbreak” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content