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Comedian Bob Newhart coming to Seattle to reflect on his 60-year career

Bob Newhart (Photo by Howie Grapek)

Legendary 89-year-old comedian Bob Newhart is still performing standup comedy and he’ll be on the McCaw Hall stage in Seattle on May 20 talking about his long career.

I recently chatted with Mr. Newhart over the phone and we started at the beginning of his comedy career. In 1959, Newhart was a 30-year-old accountant who had never performed comedy. So how did he get signed by Warner Bros. Records?

“It came about through a friend of mine. He was a major disc jockey in Chicago. The Warner Brother record people were coming through Chicago because apparently Warner Brothers were in trouble at that point. We did a television show locally in Chicago, I’d left accounting and just decided to devote two or three years to trying to break into comedy and if it didn’t work out, I’d tried. So anyway, Dan (the DJ) was familiar with some comedy stuff I did. He said, ‘I have this friend of mine that I think is very funny.’ They said, ‘Well, have him put down some of his stuff.’ So I borrowed a tape recorder and recorded my routines, Dan played it for them and they liked it. They said, ‘Okay, we’ll record you at your next night club.’ And I said, ‘Well, we’ve got a problem because I’ve never played a nightclub.’ And they said, ‘We’ll have to get you into a nightclub.’ That took them almost a year to find a club to take a chance on someone who had never done standup before. They found a club in Houston.”

To be clear, his first comedy album, The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart, is a recording of Newhart’s very first time ever performing standup comedy. That album saved Warner Bros. Records. In 1961, Newhart won three Emmy’s for Album of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Spoken Word album. It’s the first comedy album to hit #1 on the Billboard Charts and is the 20th best-selling album of all time, of any category.

Sixty years later, the man is still working.

“I’ve always said, how can you say, ‘I’m really tired of making people laugh. I don’t think I want to do that anymore.’ I love it. Laughter is one of the greatest sounds in the world to me. I cut back on how often I do it but I still do four or five standups a year. As long as I’m physically able, as long as I make sense; it’s been part of my life for 60 years. I just can’t ever imagine giving it up.”

And he still writes his own material.

“I’ve had some help along the way but I’d say 90 percent of it I write myself. That’s the best part of it. Taking an idea and having it work and expanding on it until it’s a full blown piece. That’s the joy of it, as far as the standup is concerned.”

Get tickets to see Bob Newhart at Seattle’s McCaw Hall on May 20, 2019.

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