Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bob Newhart Celebrates 50 Years in Show Biz

Even if you live and work in Hollywood, you don’t get many chances to be in the presence of greatness. And on those rare occasions when you do, you hardly ever get to be surrounded by it. Last night, we were fortunate enough to be on the red carpet at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences celebration of Bob Newhart’s 50th anniversary in show business.

So, not only did we get to interview one of our all-time TV favorites for the Archive of American Television, but we met a few of his friends, too. Lucky for us his best buddies include the mastermind insult comic Don Rickles, the sketch comedy king Tim Conway, and the historic sitcom sidekick Bill Dailey.

Along the way we heard tales of what a joy it is to work with Bob. And, even more importantly, stories about what an all around good guy he is.

The panel that followed featured discussions with members of the cast of The Bob Newhart Show including Marcia Wallace (Carol Kester), Dailey (Howard Borden), Jack Riley (Mr. Carlin), one-shot guest star Fred Willard, and one of the show’s directors, James Burrows.

Bob was also joined by some of his Newhart co-stars including Peter Scolari (Michael Harris), Julia Duffy (Stephanie Vanderkellen), and John Voldstad (Larry’s other brother Daryl). Comedian David Steinberg shared his memories of directing the stellar ‘80s sitcom ensemble.

Then there was a series of appearances by Bob’s funniest real-life friends. Tom Smothers came out and did his signature yo-yo act. Conway and surprisingly amusing Mannix star Mike Connors, delivered an uproarious bit about the greatest comedian of all-time, Bob Newhart… well, they ultimately decided he was among some of the funniest comedians on a long list that included Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Gleason, Don Rickles, and so-on… but Bob at least made the cut.

Still, the highlight of the night was watching long-time best friends Newhart and Rickles on stage together. Following a bit of home movie footage of various vacations that Bob and his wife Ginny have taken over the years with Don and “my Barbara,” as he calls his wife, an emotional Rickles talked about the decades long friendship. Notoriously nasty on-stage, the comedian showed his softer side, getting choked up as he recalled the joys of traveling the world with Bob and Ginny and laughed hysterically as Bob recounted some of his favorite travel travails.

It was a night to honor Bob Newhart, but it was hard not to feel honored being there. May Bob be around to entertain us for another 50 years.

We’ll be posting interview clips in the days and weeks to come to stay tuned. And thanks, Bob, there’ll never be anyone like you.

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