Turner Classic Movies
Newhart, Bob
Written by Diana Saenger   

bobnewhart.jpgMulti-talented stand-up comedian, lead character in his own TV shows and live performance artist, Bob Newhart is still enjoying the art of performing, but what him and his wife Virginia (Ginnie) enjoy most these days is, "Our family and grandchildren," he said in our interview.  

Building a career in show business can be tough on a family life and Newhart learned the lesson the hard way as many celebrities who are struggling to balance work, career and family often do. After to coming to terms that golf games sometimes were not as important as family meals, the Newharts are still together and happy as ever. "We focused on family," who said Newhart. who admits his wife did most of the coping. "She was level headed and never let me get caught up in the celebrity. We were always family oriented. When I worked in Vegas she would bring the kids up on Friday nights, stay the weekend, and then take them home on Sunday night."  

Newhart was born in 1929 and grew up in Illinois with three sisters. His father was a plumbing and heating salesman. "My dad and I weren't close," Newhart admitted. "Maybe that's why I went into comedy. I know times were tough, and he was often out of a job. So I imagine that was scary."  

Even amid rough times Newhart's parents insisted he attend college. He graduated from Loyola University in, Illinois. "Getting an education and a degree was probably the best thing they did for me. I don't think a college education hurts no matter what you field you go into."  

After serving in the army, Newhart took a job as an accountant, an advertising copywriter and performed in theater company in Chicago. His now-famous one-man two way telephone conversations for radio talk shows were stated by Newhart and his friend Ed Gallagher who later decided against a show biz career. Newhart landed a contract with Warner Bros. Records in 1959 and made "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart," the first comedy album to hit #1 on the charts.  

From that success Newhart was booked into comedy clubs and theaters all across America. He began appearing as a guest in the early '60s on TV shows such as Andy Williams, Milton Berle and "The Tonight Show." It was only a matter of time before Newhart got his own show. His TV show career spanned 22 years - "The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78)," "Newhart (1982-1989)" "Bob (1992-94)," for which he received many Emmy nominations and some wins among other awards for his shows.  

He appeared in many major films and in the past few years has been enjoying a continued respect of his career through live performances. So which venue has he enjoyed the most? "All of it for different reasons," he said. "I enjoyed the movie part because of the great people I got to work with like Walter Matthau and Peter Ustinov. I enjoyed the stand up because that's where I started. It's a great satisfaction to being able to make people laugh. The diversity is wonderful of my career is wonderful. I love the live shows for the interaction of hearing the audience's responses and the immediacy of the response."  

Newhart also enjoys the range of age groups in audience. "I've found the audiences runs from 12 year olds because of the exposure from Nick at Nite network to 70 year olds and that's a great satisfaction to have that breath of people."  

In addition to traveling around the country for his live shows, Newhart is working on writing some material, another talent he learned early on. "I had to write to do my own comedy writing when I first started because I couldn't afford to pay anyone else," Newhart said. "Writing is still one of the loneliest jobs in the world, looking at that blank piece of paper. But once you get caught up in it, it's very rewarding.  

Although he found them quite fun, Newhart admits doing a regular TV show was very hard work. So what would his answer be if he was offered another TV show? "Just watching the Emmys the juices start flowing again," said Newhart, his jovial laugh a heartfelt sign of nostalgia. I miss a funny script and doing it on Friday. But I don't miss all the sound stage sessions or the Tuesday morning critiques. But I do miss the work, and I'm open to offers but it would have to knock me off my feet because the last two times were painful. It takes a lot out of you emotionally. The apprehension of will the material work and will the audience show up it takes its toll. But when it works the gratification is great."  

New technology has embraced everyone but is very predominant in the entertainment industry; almost everyone has a website  . Newhart's Website http://www.bobnewhart.com/ receives cooperation from him. "I'd always shied away from fan clubs because I was embarrassed by it," he said. "But when the Web page came about and I saw how much trouble these guys had gone to and realized that were such fans, I said I would do what ever I could to help them." Newhart's son Rob helped infuse the site with historical facts."  

Newhart's TV project, the Showtime film "The Sports Pages," aired in 2001, and the same year he was profiled in an A&E Biography on his life and career.  

Past times for the Newhart family include playing golf and traveling. "We like to

go places with our friends the Rickles (Don)," Newhart said. "We all just returned from a Mediterranean trip." Other Hollywood friends of the Newharts include the Dick and Dolly Martin, Tim Conway and Jim Garner. "We have a regular group that gets together for dinner and just go out to have fun." Do they ever try to best each other with their comedic talents? "No. Sometimes the others in the restaurant look over at us when we get to laughing, but we enjoy each other's company."  

The Newharts are also devoted to their family - Rob, who is into computers, Tim a teacher has a son (Will), and   Jennifer Newhart Bongiovi is a teacher's assistant and   mother to Taylor Joy,   Madison Quinn and Courtney,. "We're really thrilled that our daughter and her husband Joseph have relocated to Los Angeles from Northern California so we can see so much more of the grandchildren."  

If he had to choose all over again would Newhart choose the same career? "Oh yes," he replied without hesitation. "It's a hard career, we kind of the high wire act of the entertainment field because there's no net to catch us if the jokes fail. But there's such great satisfaction when they do and in making people laugh.  

Has he thought about retirement? "I can't imagine that, unless for health reasons. I can't imagine not doing stand up."  

So what has Newhart found most rewarding in his long career?   "Mostly I enjoy making people laugh," said Newhart who recently played a round of golf with Billy Crystal and relayed a comment the two comedians shared. "We've seen so many comedians who get a motion picture career and then they stop stand up. We agreed that comedians have an obligation to do their job," Newhart said. "To be able to make people laugh is a gift that must be shared."




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