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Newhart's career is varied, but stand-up is his favorite



Published: Thu, April 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The comedian is scheduled to perform Sunday in Cleveland.

Considering the dysfunctional nature of "The Bob Newhart Show," it's quite fitting that the program's namesake, who portrayed a psychologist surrounded by hilarious patients with varying degrees of neurosis, had no idea the classic '70s show's first season was about to be released on DVD.

"Oddly enough, they never approached me," Newhart said as he laughed during a phone call from his home in Los Angeles. "I found out about it through my son-in-law, who said he ran across it on the Internet."

Nevertheless, with the recently released DVD enjoying healthy sales, the remaining five seasons of "The Bob Newhart Show" will not only be released later this year but will include the obligatory extras and outtakes, as well as commentary tracks from all cast members.

While the younger audience might not be familiar with the popular show, Newhart has been no stranger to television lately. He recently guest appeared on two episodes of this television season's breakout hit show "Desperate Housewives." Plus, last year he earned an Emmy Award-nomination for his dramatic work on NBC's "ER" and was featured in the TNT original adventure drama "The Librarian: Quest for the Spear." He also made a memorable appearance in the feature film "Elf."

No talk show desires

With such a varied r & eacute;sum & eacute;, several television sitcoms, 14 feature films and numerous comedy albums, the one venue seemingly missing is that of his own daily talk show. Newhart, who started out his career as a stand-up comic, admits that wasn't by accident.

"Somebody told me that I guest hosted for Johnny [Carson] almost 100 times," Newhart said. "One time I went in to New York to do three weeks hosting 'The Tonight Show' while Johnny was on vacation. And at the end of the three weeks, I was a limp dishrag. I was absolutely exhausted. So knowing what that is like to do it everyday, knowing how much it took out of you and that you have to give up everything, I just wasn't going to do it."

With such a prestigious and lasting career, Newhart is happy to dabble in various projects, while always returning to his first love of stand-up comedy. Depending on his schedule, he averages a few shows a month. As for his upcoming Palace Theatre show May 1, it marks Newhart's first Northeast Ohio date in well over a decade. The comedian, who said he has fond memories of performing at old Front Row Theatre many times, has plenty in store this time out.

"I always say it's not a doo wop show," Newhart said. "I usually do one or sometimes two of the old record routines but the rest of it is completely observational in the kind of world we live in."

And yes, for diehard fans, the comedian usually brings out his best-known bit "The Driving Instructor." However, performing the gag today requires a twist.

"'The Driving Instructor' is kind of politically incorrect because it's a woman driver," said Newhart, who admitted he's received grief from female audience members in the past. "I say now that it doesn't have to be a woman driver. I'll make it a Chinese driver to placate the women that feel it's sexist to make it a woman driver."

He quickly added, "And if there's a large Chinese segment in the audience, I'll have to come up with something else."




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