For two years after graduation, he served in the US Army as a personnel manager in Korean War. Relieved from his duties in 1954, he took up job as an accountant and later in 1958, as an advertising copy editor. In his pastime, he wrote comedy sketches for radio.
It was during his years at the ad agency that he made long telephonic calls to Ed Gallagher, his co-worker, wherein they entertained each other. Later, they recorded these calls and started using them as tapes for audition for comedy work.
Though Gallagher lost interest in the same with time, he continued the recordings and developed a lingo which remained with him for the rest of his life. Coincidentally, his audition tape was heard by a disc jockey in 1959 who officially introduced him to Warner Bros Records talent head.
His impressive comic timing and knack for playing with words earned him a contract with the production house. He was basically entrusted with the job of expanding his recorded material into stand-up routine
No sooner, he became famous for his audio releases which portrayed him as the world’s first solo ‘straight man’. His main motive was to bring to audience one end of a conversation.
In his act, he mostly used intentional stammer, smoothly clubbing the same with politeness and disbelief of what he was hearing. The interesting combination left the audience in splits of laughter every time they heard his gags.
Just a year later, he became so much so famous that he released his own debut album, ‘The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart’. Though it was too early for him to launch his own album, the risk paid off as audience were in awe with his unique storytelling style and ability to match comedian sensibility in absurd situations.
At the 1960’s Billboard chart, Button-Down became the first comedy album to reach No. 1 position, quickly surpassing Elvis Presley’s ‘The Sound of Music’. The album was well received both commercially and critically. It peaked at No 2 position at the UK Album Chart.
Following the super success and overwhelming response of his debut album, he, in a matter of days, released his second album, which was a follow up of Button-Down, titled, ‘The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back’. This album too met with an excellent response.
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In 1961, his career took a leap further as he launched himself on television, with NBC in his own stand-up show titled, ‘The Bob Newhart Show’. Though the show lasted for a single season, it nevertheless gained favourable response winning him an Emmy nomination.
He took his comedy album count resting at two further by coming up with yet another Button-Down follow-up, ‘Behind the Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart’ in 1961. The following year, he released, ‘The Button-Down Mind on TV’.
Towards the end of the 1960s decade, he released three more albums including, ‘Bob Newhart Faces Bob Newhart’, ‘The Windmills Are Weakening’ and ‘This Is It’. Additionally, he appeared as guests in a number of television shows, ‘The Dean Martin Show’, ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, and ‘The Judy Garland Show’.
In ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ show, he served in a guest role for a number of occasions. Besides this, he became one of the significant character actors on the show. His excellent performance led to roles in other series including ‘Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre’, ‘Captain Nice’, ‘Insight’, and ‘It's Garry Shandling's Show’.
In 1971, he came up with his next comedy album, ‘Best of Bob Newhart’. Two years later, he released the album, ‘Very Funny Bob Newhart’. His tryst with television continued as he appeared as himself on ‘The Simpsons’, and as a retired forensic pathologist on ‘NCIS’. Additionally, he appeared in ‘ER’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’.
His deadpan delivery and purposeful stammer won the hearts of the audience in the small screen leading him to bag comedy roles in popular films, starting with ‘Hell Is For Heroes’. Thereafter, he was seen in a couple of movies such as, ‘First Family’, ‘On a Clear Day You Can See Forever’, ‘In & Out’, ‘Cold Turkey’, ‘Catch 22’, ‘Elf’ and ‘Horrible Bosses’.
In 1972, his presence on the television screen which was by then restricted to guest roles and character actor magnified as he was offered work on a pilot series titled, ‘The Bob Newhart Show’. Unlike the former variety show, it was a sitcom.
Produced by MTM and aired on CBS, ‘The Bob Newhart Show’ ran for 6 seasons featuring 142 episodes. In the sitcom, he played the role of a dry psychologist, Bob Hartley. It faced tough competition from other shows but nevertheless, managed to gain enough TRP.
After the end of the ‘The Bob Newhart Show’, he went into a hiatus from television. His sabbatical ended four years later in 1982 when he was featured in a new sitcom on CBS titled, ‘Newhart’. In it, he played the character of Vermont innkeeper Dick Loudon.
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Much like the predecessor, ‘The Bob Newhart Show’, ‘Newhart’ was an instant success and was much applauded by the critics and the audience alike. it even won for itself several Emmy nominations. The show ended in 1990, after eight seasons and 182 episodes.
Two years later in 1992, he came up with yet another television series called, ‘Bob’. The television series had him playing the role of a cartoonist. The show despite having favourable response from the critics did not go down well with the audience due to which it was cancelled shortly after the second season.
In the 1990s and 2000s, he released a couple of his comedy albums including, ‘Off The Record’, ‘The Button-Down Concert’ and ‘Something Like This’. Beginning 2001, he made several television appearances the last of which was in 2013 for the sixth season of ‘The Big Bang Theory’.