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Bob Newhart was born in 1929 in Chicago. He grew up in a working-class household, and after graduating from Loyola University of Chicago in 1952, he was drafted into the army during the Korean War. Following his discharge, he began working as an accountant and then as an advertising copywriter. It was here that a friendship with a co-worker inadvertently launched Newhart’s acting career; the two of them would frequently record comedic conversations and send them out to radio stations. The tapes eventually led to a recording contract, and Bob Newhart was signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1959.
Bob Newhart began performing stand-up around the same time, but the strength of his early career lay in the audio recordings, which fully established his schtick of straight man comedy, but with the twist of only presenting one end of the conversation. In 1960, Newhart released The Button-Down mind of Bob Newhart, an album which rocketed to the top of the charts and becoming the first comedy album to hit number one. A series of comedy albums followed for the next few decades, including: 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.)
In 1961, NBC launched the Bob Newhart Show, which only lasted one season, but it did not deter Newhart from numerous television appearances in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and beyond. Newhart appeared on the Dean Martin Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Saturday Night Live, and Committed. He has also appeared in the films Hell is for Heroes (1962), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), Cold Turkey (1971), First Family (1980), In & Out (1997), and Elf (2003.)
But Newhart’s career high point came in the early 1970’s, when the series The Bob Newhart Show launched. The show was an enormous hit and ran until 1978, after nearly one hundred and fifty episodes. It was followed by Newhart, which also ran successfully for eight seasons. Since that time, Newhart continues to perform and appear regularly, including the comedy special Off the Record (for Showtime) and a guest appearance on the show ER that earned him an Emmy nomination. He has also appeared on Desperate Housewives and at the 2006 Emmy Awards.
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