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George Robert "Bob" Newhart (born September 5, 1929) is an Americanmarker stand-up comedian and actor who is best known for playing psychologist Dr. Robert "Bob" Hartley on the 1970s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show and as innkeeper Dick Loudon on the 1980s sitcom Newhart.

Newhart also appeared in film roles such as Major Major in Catch-22, and Papa Elf in Elf. He provided the voice of Bernard in the Walt Disney animated films The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. One of his most recent roles is the library head Judson in The Librarian franchise.

Early life

Newhart was born in Oak Park, Illinoismarker and raised on the west side of Chicagomarker. His parents were Julia Pauline (née Burns), a housewife of Irish descent, and George David Newhart, a part-owner of a plumbing and heating-supply business, who was Irish and German. Newhart has three sisters, Virginia, Mary Joan (a nun, who taught at a Chicago high school), and Pauline.

He was educated at Roman Catholic schools in the area, including St. Catherine of Sienna grammar school in Oak Park, and attended St. Ignatius College Prepmarker, where he graduated in 1947. He then enrolled at Loyola University of Chicagomarker where he graduated in 1952 with a bachelor's degree in business management.

He was drafted in the U.S. Army and served stateside during the Korean War until discharged in 1954. Newhart briefly attended Loyola Law School but did not complete a degree.


After the war he got a job as an accountant for United States Gypsum. He later claimed that his motto, "That's close enough," shows he didn't have the temperament to be an accountant. He also claimed to have been a clerk in the unemployment office who made $55 a week but who quit upon learning weekly unemployment benefits were $45 a week and "they only had to come in to the office one day a week to collect it."

Comedy albums

In 1958, Newhart became an advertising copywriter for Fred A. Niles, a major independent film and television producer in Chicagomarker. It was at the company that he and a coworker would entertain each other in long telephone calls which they would record then send to a radio station as audition tapes. When his coworker ended his participation, Newhart continued the recordings alone, developing the shtick which was to serve him well for decades. In addition to his various standup bits, he incorporated that shtick into his television series at appropriate times. The auditions led to his break-through recording contract. A disc jockey at the radio station—Dan Sorkin, who later became the announcer-sidekick on his NBC series—introduced Newhart to the head of talent at Warner Bros. Records, which signed him in 1959 — only a year after the label was formed — based solely on those recordings. He expanded his material into a stand-up routine which he began to perform at nightclubs.

Newhart became famous mostly on the strength of his audio releases, in which he became the world's first solo "straight man." This is a seeming contradiction in terms--by definition, a straight man is the counterpart of a more loony comedic partner. Newhart's routine, however, was simply to portray one end of a conversation (usually a phone call), playing the straightest of comedic straight men and implying what the other person was saying. Newhart told a 2005 interviewer for PBS's American Masters that his favorite standup routine is "Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue," in which a slick promoter has to deal with the reluctance of the eccentric President to agree to efforts to boost his image. The routine was suggested to Newhart by a Chicago TV director and future comedian -- Bill Daily, who would be Newhart's castmate on the 1970s Bob Newhart Show for CBS. Newhart became known for using an intentional stammer, in service of his unique combination of politeness and disbelief at what he was supposedly hearing. Newhart has used the delivery throughout his career. In his 2006 book I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This, he included the following anecdote:
"When I was doing The Bob Newhart Show, one of the producers pulled me aside and said that the shows were running a little long. He wondered if I could cut down the time of my speeches by reducing my stammering. "No," I told him. "That stammer bought me a house in Beverly Hills."

His 1960 comedy album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, went straight to number one on the charts, beating Elvis Presley and the cast album of The Sound of Music. Button Down Mind received the 1961 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Newhart also won Best New Artist, and his quickly-released follow-on album, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, won Best Comedy Performance - Spoken Word that same year. Subsequent comedy albums include Behind the Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart (1961), The Button-Down Mind on TV (1962), Bob Newhart Faces Bob Newhart (1964), The Windmills Are Weakening (1965), This Is It (1967), Best of Bob Newhart (1971), and Very Funny Bob Newhart (1973). Years later he released Bob Newhart Off the Record (1992), The Button-Down Concert (1997) and Something Like This (2001), an anthology of his 1960s Warner Bros. albums.


Newhart's success in stand-up led to his own NBC variety show in 1961, The Bob Newhart Show. The show lasted only a single season but earned Newhart an Emmy Award nomination and a Peabody Award. The Peabody Board cited him as:
a person whose gentle satire and wry and irreverent wit waft a breath of fresh and bracing air through the stale and stuffy electronic corridors. A merry marauder, who looks less like St. George than a choirboy, Newhart has wounded, if not slain, many of the dragons that stalk our society. In a troubled and apprehensive world, Newhart has proved once again that laughter is the best medicine.

In the mid-1960s, Newhart appeared on The Dean Martin Show 24 times, and The Ed Sullivan Show eight times. He appeared in a 1963 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Newhart guest-hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 87 times, and hosted Saturday Night Live twice, 15 years apart (1980 and 1995).

In addition to stand-up comedy, Newhart became a dedicated character actor, including a guest role on an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. That led to other series such as: Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Captain Nice, 2 episodes of Insight, and It's Garry Shandling's Show. He reprised his role as Dr. Bob Hartley on Murphy Brown and The Simpsons.

More recently, Newhart guest-starred on three episodes of ER as well as on Desperate Housewives (see below in "Other Appearances"). He also appeared on Committed.


Primarily a television star, Newhart has been in a number of popular films, beginning with the 1962 war story Hell Is for Heroes starring Steve McQueen. His films have ranged from 1970's Barbra Streisand musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and the Mike Nichols-directed war satire Catch-22 to the 2003 Will Ferrell holiday comedy Elf.

Newhart played the President of the United States in a 1980 comedy, First Family. He appeared as a beleaguered school principal in 1997's In and Out, starring Kevin Kline.


The Bob Newhart Show

Newhart's most notable exposure on television came from two long running programs centering on him. Newhart guest-starred on the Smothers Brothers show which was written by David Davis and Lorenzo Music. Soon after, in 1972, he was approached by his agent and his managers, producer Grant Tinker and actress Mary Tyler Moore (the husband/wife team who founded MTM Enterprises), to work on a pilot series called The Bob Newhart Show, to be written by Davis and Music. He was very interested in the starring role of dry psychologist Bob Hartley, with Suzanne Pleshette playing his wryly loving wife, Emily, and Daily as neighbour and friend Howard Borden. The show faced heavy competition from the beginning, launching at the same time as the popular shows M*A*S*H, Maude, Sanford And Son, and The Waltons; although M*A*S*H, Maude, and The Waltons also appeared on CBS.

Nevertheless, The Bob Newhart Show was an immediate hit. (The show eventually referenced what made Newhart's name in the first place---in later seasons, it used an opening-credits sequence featuring Newhart answering a telephone in his office.) According to co-star Marcia Wallace, (who played wisecracking, man-chasing receptionist Carol Kester), the entire cast got along well, and Newhart became close friends with both Wallace and co-star Suzanne Pleshette. According to Wallace, "I had a dog that I used to bring to the set by the name of Maggie. And whenever there was a line that Bob didn't like --- he didn't want to complain too much --- so, he'd go over, get down on his hands and knees, and repeat the line to the dog, who invariably yawned; and he'd say, 'See, I told you it's not funny!'"

The cast also included Peter Bonerz as dentist Jerry Robinson, whose offices were on the same floor as Newhart's Hartley; Jack Riley as Elliot Carlin, the most misanthropic among members of Dr. Hartley's most frequently-seen group therapy sessions; Legendary character actor and voice artist, John Fiedler (the voice of Piglet); Florida Friebus (once the mother on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) as another group member; and, scattered over two seasons, Pat Finley as Hartley's sister, Ellen, a love interest for Howard Borden.

Future Newhart regular Tom Poston had a briefly recurring role as Cliff Murdock; veteran stage actor Barnard Hughes appeared as Hartley's father for three episodes spread over two seasons; and, film actress Teri Garr appeared twice in the 1973-74 season.

By 1977, the show was suffering lackluster ratings and Newhart wanted to end it, but was under contract to do one more season. The show's writers tried to rework the sitcom by adding a pregnancy, but Newhart objected: "I told the creators I didn't want any children, because I didn't want it to be a show about 'How stupid Daddy is, but we love him so much, let's get him out of the trouble he's gotten himself into'." Nevertheless, the staff wrote an episode that they hoped would change Newhart's mind. Newhart read the script and he agreed it was very funny. He then asked, "Who are you going to get to play Bob?"

Newhart's wife gave birth to their daughter Jenny late in the year, which caused him to miss several episodes. Newhart finally pulled the plug on his own sitcom in 1978, after six seasons, and 142 episodes.


In 1982, Newhart was interested in a new sitcom. After discussions with Barry Kemp and CBS, the show Newhart was created, in which Newhart was to play Vermontmarker innkeeper Dick Loudin. Mary Frann was cast as his wife, Joanna Loudin. Like The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart was an immediate hit, and like the show before that, it was also nominated for Emmys, but Newhart didn't win any awards. During the time he was working on the set of Newhart in 1985, his smoking habits finally caught up to him, and he was taken to the emergency room for polycythemia. The doctors ordered him to stop smoking.

Newhart himself "warmed up" the studio audience with a five-to-eight-minute routine before the filming of every show. According to co-actor Peter Scolari, after Newhart gave up smoking, he dealt with the issue during his routine, by having the spotlight operator move around the spotlight on the stage, while Newhart said, "And I haven't had any of the problems that people usually talk about having with the... with the smoking --- impatience, outbursts of anger, appetite. I haven't really... look, put it on me or get it off me! Just make up your mind!"

In 1987, ratings began to drop. Newhart was canceled in 1990 after eight seasons and 182 episodes. Newhart's last episode ended with a scene in which Newhart wakes up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette, who had played Emily, his wife from The Bob Newhart Show. He realizes (in a satire of a famous plot element in the TV series Dallas a few years earlier) that the entire eight-year Newhart series had been a single nightmare of Dr. Bob Hartley's, provoked by "eating too much Japanese food before going to bed." Recalling Mary Frann's buxom figure, Bob closes the segment and the series by telling Emily, "You should really wear more sweaters." before the typical closing notes of the old Bob Newhart Show theme played over the fadeout. The twist ending was later chosen by TV Guide as the best finale in television history.

Other TV series

In 1992, Newhart returned to television with a series called Bob, about a cartoonist. An ensemble cast included a pre-Friends Lisa Kudrow, but the show did not develop a strong audience and was canceled shortly after the start of its second season. In 1997, Newhart returned again with George and Leo on CBS with Judd Hirsch and Jason Bateman; the show was canceled during its first season.

Other TV appearances

In 2001, Newhart made an appearance on MADtv (Season 6), playing a psychiatrist who yells "Stop it!" in a skit. Other television work includes:

Newhart guest-starred on ER in a rare dramatic role that earned him an Emmy Award nomination, his first in nearly 20 years. In 2005, he began a recurring role in Desperate Housewives as Morty, the on-again/off-again boyfriend of Sophie (Lesley Ann Warren), Susan Mayer's (Teri Hatcher) mother.

On the 2006 Emmy Awards, hosted by Conan O'Brien, Newhart was placed in an airtight glass prison that contained three hours of air. If the Emmys went over the time of three hours, he would die. This gag was an acknowledgment of the common frustration that award shows usually run on past their allotted time (which is usually three hours).


Newhart is known for his deadpan delivery and a slight stammer which early on he incorporated into the persona around which he built a successful career. On his TV shows, although he got his share of funny lines, often he worked in the Jack Benny tradition of being the "straight man" while the sometimes somewhat bizarre cast members surrounding him got the laughs.

Several of his routines involve hearing one half of a conversation as he speaks to someone over the phone. In a bit called King Kong, a rookie security guard at the Empire State Buildingmarker seeks guidance as to how to deal with an ape who is "18 to 19 stories high, depending on whether we have a 13th floor or not". He assures his boss he has looked in the guards manual "under 'ape' and 'ape's toes'". Other famous routines include "The Driving Instructor," "The Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson Airline ", "Introducing Tobacco To Civilization", "Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue," "Defusing a Bomb" (in which an uneasy security division commander tries to walk a new and nervous security guard through defusing a live shell discovered on a California beach), "The Retirement Party," "A Neighbour's Dog," "Ledge Psychology," and "The Khrushchev Landing Rehearsal."


Bob on pleasure: "All I can say about life is, Oh God, enjoy it!" (Source:

Bob on his ritual: "This stammer got me a home in Beverly Hills, and I'm not about to screw with it now." (Source:

Bob who knows there's nothing wrong with laughter: "Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on." (Source:

Bob when he realized it was difficult talking to people on his own phone: "It's getting harder and harder to differentiate between schizophrenics and people talking on a cell phone. It still brings me up short to walk by somebody who appears to be talking to themselves." (Source:

Bob on drinking alcoholic beverages on airplanes: "I'm one of those passengers who arrives at the airport five or six hours early so I can throw back a few drinks and muster up the courage to board the plane. Apparently I'm not alone because I've never been in an empty airport bar. I don't care what time you get there. Even at 8:00 a.m. you have to fight your way to the bar. At that hour, everyone drinks Bloody Marys so no one can tell it's booze- at least until they fall off their chair." (Source:

Bob when asked to do a new sitcom: "My manager, I was surprised was one of the founders of MTM Enterprises, by Mary Tyler Moore and Grant Tinker, and Mary's show was such a big hit. He came to me and said, 'Would you like to do a sitcom?' I was traveling on the road a lot, so, the sitcom I could stay home, and said, yeah!" (Source: A&

Bob: "I don't have a show anymore. I don't have a check coming in every week. This is important to me, I got to score a million tonight or it could all be over." (Source: A&

Bob: "My friends were getting married, buying houses, buying cars, and I wasn't doing anything. There was the point was I talk to myself to you, every screw up nature, look at what you've done with your life. But there was always something on the horizon, that was holding, maybe, you know, this will make you different." (Source: A&


On September 20, 2006, Hyperion Books released Newhart's first book, I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This. The book is primarily a memoir, but features comic bits by Newhart as well. As comedian David Hyde Pierce notes, "The only difference between Bob Newhart on stage and Bob Newhart offstage – is that there is no stage."


In addition to his Peabody Award and several Emmy nominations, Newhart's recognitions include:
  • Three Grammy awards in 1961: Best New Artist, Best Comedy Performance (Spoken Word) and Album of the Year for The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart.
  • In 1993 Newhart was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
  • In 1998, Billboard magazine recognized Newhart's first album as #20 on their list of most popular albums of the past 40 years, and the only comedy album on the list.
  • On January 6, 1999 Newhart received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker.
  • In 2002 he won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
  • In 2004, Newhart was #14 on Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.
  • On July 27, 2004, the Americanmarker cable television network TV Land unveiled a statue of Newhart on the Magnificent Mile in his native Chicago, depicting Dr. Robert Hartley from The Bob Newhart Show. The statues depict Dr. Hartley sitting in his therapy practice chair with a pencil held between his hands, and a patients' sofa next to him. The bronze set is now located in the small park in front of the entrance of Navy Piermarker.

Personal life

Newhart was introduced by Buddy Hackett to Virginia "Ginnie" Quinn, the daughter of late character actor Bill Quinn. She became his wife on January 12, 1963. The couple have four children (Robert, Timothy, Jennifer and Courtney), and several grandchildren. They are Catholic and raised their children as such, but "Ginnie" said they did not want them to have "the fears" that came from their upbringing. His son Rob (who portrayed his father in 1993's Heart & Souls, with Robert Downey Jr.) maintains his father's official website. Newhart is good friends with comedian Don Rickles.

In 1985, Newhart was rushed to the emergency room, suffering with polycythemia, after years of heavily smoking. He made a recovery, several weeks after.


Further reading


  1. American Masters . Bob Newhart | PBS
  4. [1]
  5. From: Jeff Sorensen, Bob Newhart, St. Martin's Press: New York (1988) via

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