As an accountant, Bob Newhart was a great comedian. How, after all, could anyone whose motto was "That's close enough" expect to flourish among bean counters? On the other hand, his success as a professional comic also seemed to defy logic. Television executives could not comprehend how a slow-talking deadpan comedian with a slight stammer could enthrall audience with imaginary phone conversations. Against every expectation, though, Newhart became an authentic media icon and even a cult figure. This hilarious autobiography confirms Newhart's playful assertion that laughter is a tranquilizer without side effects.
[Newhart] was about a decade older than we were, but we considered him both our contemporary and our spokesman. He, meantime, smoothly moved into a long, successful and highly visible career: "I recorded several comedy albums. . . . I starred in several television series, all of which have my name in the title. . . . I acted in several movies that didn't have my name in the title. . . . All the while, I've been married to the same woman for forty-three years, had four children, played countless rounds of golf, and met some interesting people." Into the bargain, he gives every evidence of being a nice guy. He's certainly written a very nice, and richly amusing, book.
The Washington Post
Newhart's deadpan delivery, slight stammer and expert comedic pauses make this audiobook memoir an indispensable purchase for fans. Newhart's persona was always the everyman ("Men usually think I was in the army with them. And the women think I was their first husband and usually say, `Hey, stupid, I haven't had a check...' and then catch themselves."). He modestly explains his comedy origins, which led to a recording career (his first two comedy albums won him three 1960 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year). Nightclub appearances segued to movies (he hilariously explains how he tried to get fired from Hell Is for Heroes) and TV sitcom success (The Bob Newhart Show from 1972-1978 and Newhart from 1982-1990). Newhart peppers his breezy memoir with a sampling of some of his classic comedy routines (including "The Driving Instructor," "Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Co." and "King Kong and the Night Watchman"), and his timing remains impeccable. Simultaneous release with the Hyperion hardcover (Reviews, July 10). (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Now in his mid-70s, comedian Newhart riffs lightly on his life and career, publishing along the way portions of his most popular routines. His book is a memoir only in the most superficial sense. There are no revelations, dark or otherwise, only an amusing and repetitive PowerPoint presentation by a writer determined to keep himself concealed. Oddly, Newhart's observations about the art of comedy often veer close to banality-e.g., "Comedy can help us make it past something very painful like death." He opens with some comments on comedy and comedians, then segues into chapters about his youth in Chicago. His father drank a lot; we don't learn much about Mom. Newhart attended Catholic schools, got a bachelor's degree in management and left Loyola's law school sans degree. He was drafted, spent two years as an army clerk, then worked as an accountant. On the side, he wrote comedy routines, selling a few to radio stations. He lived at home until he was 29. His first comedy album (The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart) skyrocketed, as did the follow-up. The ensuing years were filled with stand-up dates in Vegas, TV shows, movies and lunches with glitterati. A treacly sequence about meeting his wife and some Erma Bombeckian pages about a disastrous family trip in a Winnebago are among the weaker sections. More interesting behind-the-scenes segments discuss his TV shows and films, especially Hell Is for Heroes and Catch-22. Playing one scene in the latter with a wicked hangover, Newhart was taken aback when director Mike Nichols declared that was exactly the quality he was looking for in the character. It's one of the book's many drinking stories; the author writes with less good cheer aboutsmoking, which nearly killed him. His best friend is Don Rickles; he met Stan Laurel; he wishes he'd met W.C. Fields. He still loves doing stand-up. More of a routine than a memoir, but full of the wry, understated self-deprecation that Newhart has perfected.