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 and a designation as an American Master by PBS.
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 a friendship with disc jockey Dan Sorkin, Bob met with the head of Warner Brother’s Records, who, upon hearing Bob’s material, offered him a recording 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.
Newhart 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, Barbra 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, Newhart 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 has 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. The Paley Center (formerly the Museum of TV & Radio) held a special tribute in honor of the show’s 35th anniversary in 2007. The first season of his second prime-time series, Newhart, was also recently released on DVD. 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. A paperback edition is now available.
In 2010, both the Paley Center and the TV Academy honored Newhart’s half-century in show business and he recently made a noteworthy guest appearance on the CBS hit NCIS playing a retired coroner opposite series star Mark Harmon. More recently he guest-starred on The Big Bang Theory.
Among Newhart'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.
Newhart and his wife, Virginia, live in Bel Air, California. They have four children, Rob, Tim, Jennifer and Courtney.
Bob Newhart was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1993.