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Bob Newhart - Comic Genius and All Around Great Guy
on September 30, 2006
Bob Newhart's book, I SHOULDN'T EVEN BE DOING THIS, is what one would expect from a man of his character: well-written, insightful, humorous, and kind to others. I feel very fortunate that he has been an acquaintance of mine for the past 13 years or so. I say "acquaintance" because we aren't close friends that remember each other at Christmas and on birthdays, but we do e-mail each other from time-to-time. Actually, now that I think about it, he has remembered to snail mail me when I've had an operation or two. However, I digress.
The book is well written, it is brief as compared to most tomes these days; however, it hits on the main points of his life. I have listened to the abridged audio version (I haven't found an unabridged version), and found it to be enjoyable; however, the book has so much more of his antedotes that I would recommend it first to a Newhart fan.
The beginning wasn't always easy and the book describes in detail his evolution from accountant to comedian, sharing comicial moments along the way, and his having the top two albums on the Billboard chart for one year. As Bob describes it, the following year he received a Grammy, a Peabody, and a pink slip (when his first TV show, a variety program, was cancelled). That setback did not deter him as it allowed him to place more emphasis on his stand-up comedy routines.
If you are younger than 45, you probably aren't familiar with his comedy routines, and his book will introduce you to several, notably "The USS Codfish," "Sir. Walter Raleigh," and his "Abe Lincoln PR" routines. If you are familiar with them, he gives you insight into their development. The routines are as fresh today as they were then. The routines are available on CD, and one might be tempted to buy just THE BOB NEWHART ANTHOLOGY, but let me warn you, not all of his routines are on that one, so peruse BEHIND THE BUTTON DOWN MIND, and the other CD's, too.
While Bob touches on "comedy," he tells you that this book is not an esoteric dissertation on what is comedy and how you write it; however, he offered enough insights to make the reader realize that successful comedy is a serious business.
Several highlights for me in his book were:
1. Him talking about his romance with his wife Virginia, Ginny. It gives the reader a true insight into as aspect of him that most don't know about.
2. How the closing scene of "Newhart" came about. I remember it being described by TV Guide's editors as the most famous TV finale, and critics and viewers consistently rank it alike as one of the Top 5 scenes from any TV show.
3. Bob's description of his lack of ability as a handyman around the house. I can also confirm that he is probably not a computer genius just from the manner in which we both evolved from the Prodigy computer network, and its relative friendly way of handling e-mail, to other Internet Service Providers (ISP). I remember it was a long six-weeks (or was it six-months?) before Bob made the transition from replying to my e-mails by just hitting reply to where he had to type-in my new ISP's address. An equally trepidatious moment for me was when Bob changed to a different ISP.
4. His friendship with Don Rickles, which to some may seem unusual, but it gave me new insight to that time he wrote, "sorry to be so long in replying. We went to China with the Rickles and I caught the flu." Now, I can picture Bob, with camcorder, on the Great Wall, head uncovered, taking the shots of everyone else.
I would recommend this book to any and everyone who has enjoyed Bob Newhart over the years. It is not a "tell-all" book, that is not the nature of this very nice man, who over the years has been so kind as to provide so many autographed pictures of himself to all of my relatives that many outsiders to our family think we are related to him. If only we were so lucky.
BTW, for accuracy, since I am a little ADHD, I asked Bob to glance over this review. His comment was..."Thanks for the review. As Fox would say, I found it "fair and balanced" especially the part of about being friends." I guess we're not just acquaintances.