Bob Newhart was nearly 30, still living with his parents in Chicago and working as an accountant, when he struck comic gold with his first comedy album. His incredible journey was recently thoroughly explored in AMERICAN MASTERS Bob Newhart: Unbuttoned on PBS.
More recently, Newhart’s historic TV contributions have been highlighted on PBS’ popular series, “Pioneers of Television.”
Bob Newhart’s career has spanned 50 years, several successful television series, fourteen feature films and millions of albums sold worldwide and he is the recipient of many honors, including the prestigious “Mark Twain Prize for American Humor,” presented by the Kennedy Center.
In 2013, he won his first Emmy for recurring appearances on the hit show “Big Bang Theory” and he is again nominated for an Emmy in 2014. He also appears in the fall 201 series, “The Librarians,” on TNT.
Newhart’s revered career began in a quite unassuming fashion, while working as an accountant in Chicago.
Bored with his accounting work, Bob would call Ed Gallagher, a friend from a suburban Chicago Stock Company, and improvise comedy routines.
It was suggested that they record and syndicate them. They did and were imminently unsuccessful. Ed, an advertising executive, was offered a job in New York and accepted it, leaving Bob with the difficult job of going it alone.
He knocked around Chicago finding occasional work in voiceovers and commercials while still writing additional material.
Through disc jockey friend Dan Sorkin, Bob met with the head of Warner Brother’s Records, who, upon hearing Bob’s material, offered him a contract.
And so, “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” came into being, which became the first comedy album to go to #1 on the charts. He was an immediate sell-out in nightclubs and theater stages all over America.
Seven more albums followed, each extremely successful multi-platinum projects. In fact, Bob’s cumulative recording career earned him three Grammys.
As proof of this, his record for holding the number #1 & #2 Billboard chart positions was not broken until recently by the rock band Guns ‘N Roses. It is still ranked as the 20th Best Selling album of all time, according to Billboard.
Bob has enjoyed tremendous success in television and films as well and has hosted the “Tonight Show” an astonishing 87 times.He earned an Emmy and a Peabody Award for his work on the “Bob Newhart Variety Show,” which was quickly followed by the phenomenal television success of “The Bob Newhart Show” (1972 – 1978) and “Newhart” (1982 – 1990).
He has appeared in over 14 feature films, including “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever,” “Catch 22” and “Legally Blonde 2,” and has starred with the likes of Steve McQueen, Bobby Darin, Barbara Streisand, Madeline Kahn and Walter Matthau.
Most recently, he can be seen opposite Tom Selleck, Kevin Kline, Will Ferrell, Reese Witherspoon and Noah Wyle.
He’s also provided character voices for major animated films.
Despite his successful run in television and feature films, Bob has never strayed far from his first love of performing stand-up.
His classic routines have stood the test of time.
“The Bob Newhart Show” received TV Land’s prestigious “Icon Award” at a gala televised ceremony and a few years ago Newhart headed back to the small screen on a recurring basis, his first such venture in over a decade.
In 2005, he appeared as Morty, the estranged boyfriend of Susan’s mom, Sophie (guest star Lesley Ann Warren), on ABC TV’s runaway hit, “Desperate Housewives.”
The veteran television star was also recently featured in a TNT original adventure drama, “The Librarian: Quest For The Spear,” filmed on location in Mexico City and also starring Noah Wyle and has also enjoyed acting turns on the NBC drama, “ER,” for which he received an Emmy nomination, and the feature film, “Elf.”
A second and third installment of “The Librarian” has also been produced for broadcast on TNT.
In July 2005, PBS featured Newhart in a special one-hour “American Masters” presentation which his since been broadcast in prime-time numerous times.
The ground breaking entertainer has a variety of projects planned for 2011, his 50th anniversary in show business.
A DVD, “Button Down Concert,” based on his classic routines, featuring the “Driving Instructor” and “The Nude Police Line-Up,” was released in 2006.
The first season of “The Bob Newhart Show” was released for the first time on DVD in April 2005 via Fox Home Entertainment, followed by seasons two, three and four.
The Paley Center (formerly the Museum of TV & Radio) held a special tribute in honor of the show’s 35th anniversary in 2007.
In addition, Bob’s first ever book, “I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This,” was published by Hyperion Books and became a New York Times best seller.In 2010, both the Paley Center and the TV Academy honored Bob’s half-century in show business and Newhart recently made a noteworthy guest appearance on the CBS hit “NCIS” playing a retired coroner opposite series star Mark Harmon and more recently he guest-starred on “The Big Bang Theory.”
In mid-2014, Shout! Factory released The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series, a 19-DVD box set of the iconic TV show.
The box set includes new interviews with Bob Newhart, Jack Riley, Bill Daily, Peter Bonerz, and Michael Zinberg, The Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary from 1991, the original unaired pilot, audio commentaries, a gag reel, and a 40-page book including an essay by the Emmy®-winning writer Vince Waldron.
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, politicians and other world notables.
He has also been inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.Bob and his wife, Virginia, live in Bel Air, California. They have four children, Rob, Tim, Jennifer and Courtney.
MORE CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
September 5, 1929
George Robert Newhart, known as Bob, is born in Oak Park, Illinois to George David Newhart and Julia Pauline Burns. He is one of four children.
Graduates from Loyola University in Chicago with a business degree in management.
Drafted into the U.S. Army and serves during the Korean War until 1954.
Gets a job as an accountant at the United States Gypsum Company.
Becomes a copywriter at Fred Niles Films Company.
Begins recording comedy routines with Ed Gallagher. The two friends muse themselves by making long, antic phone calls to each other, which they record as audition tapes for comedy jobs.
A Chicago disc jockey introduces Newhart to the head of talent at Warner Bros. Records, and he is immediately signed to a contract.
Releases his first comedy album, The Button-Down Mind. Becomes the first comedy album to reach the top of the album charts, and earns Newhart three Grammy Awards (album of the year, best new artist, best comedy performance: spoken word).
Invited to perform on the Emmy Awards telecast.
Moves to Los Angeles.
Stars in his own variety show. The Bob Newhart Show is critically acclaimed and wins an Emmy as the best comedy series of 1961-62, but is canceled after one season due to low ratings.
Releases The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back.
Appears in Hell Is For Heroes with Steve McQueen.
Receives an Emmy and a George Foster Peabody Award for The Bob Newhart Show.
Marries Virginia Quinn. They have four children, Robert, Timothy, Jennifer and Courtney.
Releases Bob Newhart Faces Bob Newhart.
Appears on the TV show The Entertainers with Carol Burnett and Caterina Valente.
Releases Windmills are Weakening.
Releases This Is It.
Appears in Hot Millions with Peter Ustinov.
Appears in On a Clear Day with Barbra Streisand, and Catch 22 with Alan Arkin.
Releases The Best of Bob Newhart.
Appears in Cold Turkey with Dick Van Dyke.
Wins critical and popular acclaim as Chicago psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley in The Bob Newhart Show.
Releases Very Funny Bob Newhart.
Receives the Sword of Loyola Award.
Is the voice of “Bernard the Mouse” in the cartoon movie The Rescuers.
Voluntarily ends The Bob Newhart Show after six successful seasons.
Returns with a new TV series, Newhart, in which he plays Dick Loudon, a New York writer of “how-to” books who decides to open an inn in Vermont.
Appears in First Family with Gilda Radner.
Appears in The Rescuers Down Under.
Voluntarily ends Newhart.
Appears in made-for-TV movie The Entertainers.
Stars in the sitcom Bob, playing cartoonist Bob McKay. The show has a brief run, is revamped, but ends in 1993.
Inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
Appears in the Kevin Kline comedy In and Out.
Co-stars in George and Leo, which goes off the air in 1998.
Is the voice of “Polar Bear” in the cartoon movie, Rudolph.
Receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Releases Something Like This.
Wins the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Appears in Legally Blond 2: Red, White and Blue with Reese Witherspoon.
Appears in Elf with Will Ferrell.
TV Land unveils a statue of Newhart on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, depicting Dr. Robert Hartley sitting in an armchair next to an empty couch.
Receives an Emmy nomination for dramatic acting turn on the NBC drama, ER.
Makes guest appearances on the popular ABC series Desperate Housewives.
The Bob Newhart Show receives TV Land’s prestigious “Icon Award.”
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