Hi Bob!

A few years back, Billboard magazine compiled its list of the 100 top-selling albums of all time. Right up there among The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Pink Floyd and Garth Brooks was . . . Bob Newhart. Yup, that Bob Newhart. He was the only comedy artist on the entire list. It's easy to forget that Newhart was once a wildly popular comic who pretty much created the market for comedy albums. His sitcom work from the '70s and '80s is what people think of when they hear his name. But long before he achieved rerun immortality, he was among the '60s' unique standups.

Newhart's comedic persona is a lot like his television work. He's the sane man surrounded by insanity wherever he turns. It was an era of big social change when nothing was staying the same, and Newhart was just trying to make sense of it all. His shtick wasn't to attack the changes around him, just question them. Coming as he did from a nine-to-five accounting job background, he was a perfect reflection of one aspect of suburban American life. While many of his contemporary comics (Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Alan King) took an aggressive approach in their commentary, Newhart kept it low-key. His character was gentler, more nervous and slightly intimidated by the changes happening around him.

This shtick proved to be perfect for the then-new medium of the comedy record. It was an intimate style that translated effortlessly to vinyl. The series of albums beginning with The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart sold in huge numbers. Newhart was the first comic ever to have a number-one album on the Billboard charts. At one point, he actually had comedy albums holding down the number-one and number-two positions simultaneously.

His television career has included two long-running sitcom classics: The Bob Newhart Show lasted six years and Newhart ran for eight. His shows were among the first examples of building a sitcom around a standup comic's act. Before there was Roseanne, Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond or Seinfeld, there was the modest and unassuming Bob Newhart.