Bob Newhart was nearly 30 years-old and working as an accountant in Chicago, when he struck comic gold with his first comedy album.
His incredible journey was thoroughly explored in AMERICAN MASTERS Bob Newhart: Unbuttoned on PBS.
More recently, Newhart’s TV contributions have been highlighted on PBS’ popular series, “Pioneers of Television.”
His career as an entertainer has spanned 56 years, including multiple television series, 14 feature films and millions of albums sold worldwide and he is the recipient of many honors, including the “Mark Twain Prize for American Humor,” presented by the Kennedy Center, He and induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ “Hall of Fame.”
In 2013, he won his first Emmy® for recurring appearances on the hit show “Big Bang Theory” and he also appears in the series, “The Librarians,” on TNT.
Bob Newhart’s 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 the newly-launched Warner Brothers 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 Grammy® Awards.
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 much success in television and films as well and has hosted the “Tonight Show” an astonishing 87 times.
His early TV effort, the “Bob Newhart Variety Show,” earned an Emmy® and a Peabody Award and was quickly followed by the television success of “The Bob Newhart Show” (1972 – 1978) and “Newhart” (1982 – 1990).
He has also appeared in over 14 feature films, including “Elf,” “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.
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, comedy stand-up, and his classic routines have stood the test of time.
“The Bob Newhart Show” received TV Land’s “Icon Award” at a gala televised ceremony and dedicated a statue in his honor in Chicago, and over the last decade Newhart has headed back to the small screen on a recurring basis.
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 he has also enjoyed acting turns on the NBC drama, “ER,” for which he also received an Emmy® nomination.
A second and third installment of “The Librarian” has also been broadcast on TNT.
Also in 2005, PBS featured Newhart in a special one-hour “American Masters” presentation which his since been broadcast in prime-time numerous times.
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, and 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, the TV Academy honored Bob’s half-century in show business and Newhart made a noteworthy guest appearance on the CBS hit “NCIS” playing a retired coroner opposite series star Mark Harmon.
More recently, he guest-starred multiple times on “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS.
In mid-2014, the Shout! Factory released The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series, a 19-DVD box set of the iconic TV show. Shout Factory! Has also released DVD versions of “Newhart,” seasons 1 thru 7.
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.
In 2012, Loyola University Chicago, which Bob attended for one and a half years and graduated from in 1952, dedicated The Newhart Family Theatre.
Bob and his wife, Ginnie, have four children, and Bob also has three siblings, Mary Joan, Pauline and Ginnie, none of whom are in show business.
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.”
Bob’s book, “I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This,” debuts, becomes a best seller and best selling celebrity memoir of the year.
A variety of national media appearances for the book, including the Today show
Emmy magazine features a cast reunion of the “Bob Newhart Show”.
American Masters on PBS dedicates an hour program to Bob’s career.
Newhart is nominated for a 2006 Grammy® award for the spoken word version of his book and appears alongside host Conan O’Brien at the 2006 Emmy® awards, becoming a part of TV history as the man who kept the awards show from running past three hours.
The Librarian 2 debuts on TNT.
Bob regales audiences with anecdotes from a life in show biz, when he speaks in Houston at the Barbara Bush-hosted “A Celebration of Reading.”
Museum of TV & Radio (aka Paley Center) celebrates 35th Anniversary of the “Bob Newhart Show” and the entire cast assembles, including a final public appearance by Suzanne Pleshette.
TV Land stages a “Bob Newhart Show” Marathon.
A “Newhart” cast reunion on the TODAY show, hosted by NBC’s Peter Alexander.
First season of “Newhart” released on DVD.
The veteran television star was featured in a TNT original adventure drama, “The Librarian, Return to King Solomon’s Mines.”
Featured in READERS DIGEST, “How To Be Funnier.”
Nominated for an EMMY.
In April, the NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, presented the veteran entertainer with its “Hall of Fame” Award at a gala in Las Vegas, the site of some of Newhart’s biggest stand up triumphs, performed alongside friends such as Frank Sinatra.
American CINEMTHEQUE pays tribute, in Los Angeles, features Bob’s starring role in Norman Lear-directed “Cold Turkey”.
GRAMMY MUSEUM tribute top Bob.
Los Angeles Times full page profile.
TV Academy Tribute, “Bob Newhart, 50 Years in Show Business”.
CBS Evening News profiles 20th anniversary of legendary “Newhart” show finale; full page story in Entertainment Weekly magazine.
Paley Center 50th Anniversary” Tribute to Bob’s career.
Emmy®-nominated as “Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series” for his turn in TNT’s “The Librarian.”
Guest stars on CBS’ NCIS opposite Mark Harmon.
Headlines a homecoming concert at the famed CHICAGO THEATRE.
Induction into the Illinois Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
12-hour “Bob Newhart Show” marathon on the Hallmark Channel.
Dedicates the Newhart Family Theatre at Loyola Chicago.
Featured on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show.
Special Section, VARIETY, saluting Bob’s career.
Bob debuts in a recurring role on the “Big Bang Theory”.
Bob wins his first ever EMMY Award for guest role on ”Big Bang Theory”.
Lester Holt interviews Bob for NBC News.
Bob and Betty White are featured in PEOPLE Magazine’s 40th anniversary edition.
Bob is a featured guest on the “Craig Ferguson Show”.
Featured in PBS’ on-going series “Pioneers of Television”.
Bob receives a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Publicists Guild of America, alongside Motion Picture Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
“The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series” released in May in a 19-disc DVD set by the Shout Factory!