On September 5, the incomparable Bob Newhart turns 86. The comedy icon continues to perform live and appear on television, delivering his trademark sly and dry humor with that perfectly timed stammer. It just so happens that The Bob Newhart Show returns to the MeTV lineup a day later, September 6. You can catch his classic first sitcom every Sunday at 11:30PM | 10:30C as part of MeTV's Last Laughs.
To honor the man who grew up just miles west of our office, here are 26 fascinating facts about Bob Newhart. We love ya, Bob.
1) His real name is George. He changed it to Bob early in life because of the idiom "Let George do it," a popular phrase about passing the buck in the 1940s.
2) Though it is often said he grew up in suburban Oak Park, Illinois, his family home was over the city line in Austin, a far west neighborhood of Chicago. He thought it sounded more posh to say Oak Park. "Even the founder of Austin, Henry Austin, lived in Oak Park," Newhart wrote in his 2006 memoir.
3) He was an accountant and ad agency copywriter until the age of 30.
4) While bored at his work, he would call his coworker Ed Gallagher and improvise funny conversations. Soon, they would record these chats as comedy demos.
5) He turns the phone call bits into his stand-up act in 1959.
6) Some of his early stand-up performances were recorded for a Warner Bros. album.
7) His 1960 comedy album The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart went straight to the top of the charts, beating Elvis.
8) Button-Down Mind also won the 1961 Grammy Award for Album of the Year (the third ever) beating Sinatra and Nat King Cole.
9) He also won the Best New Artist Grammy that year, the only comic to ever do so.
10) His first television series, The Bob Newhart Show, a half-hour variety show, lasted just one season but earned a Peabody Award for Outstanding Comedy Series.
11) He starred in a World War II action flick, Hell Is for Heroes, alongside Steve McQueen and Bobby Darin — the man who won the first ever Best New Artist Grammy the year prior to Newhart.
12) He appeared in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour as a man attempting to off his wife with rat poison.
13) He guest hosted The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 87 times.
14) The Bob Newhart Show opened with a shot of Newhart answering a telephone — a call-back to his comedy career beginning.
15) Lorenzo Music, the co-creator of The Bob Newhart Show, wrote the jazzy theme song to the series.
16) Lorenzo Music was also the voice of Carlton the doorman on Rhoda, Garfield the cat, and Peter on The Real Ghostbusters.
17) The building at 420 N. Michigan Avenue in Chicago that served as Newhart's office on the show was almost demolished and replaced last year — but the plans were scrapped.
18) A statue of Bob Newhart as Bob Hartley sits in the sculpture park at Chicago's Navy Pier.
19) After The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s, he would star in Newhart in the 1980s, and eventually Bob in the 1990s. He joked that his next serious would be titled The.
20) Of course, the entire series of Bob Newhart was revealed to be only a dream after Bob Hartley ate "too much Japanese food before going to bed" in the greatest sitcom finale ever (feel free to argue below).
21) Nope, Bob Newhart never earned an Emmy Award for comedic acting in his own sitcoms.
22) Despite his tremendous body of work, Newhart would win his first Primetime Emmy in 2013 for a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory.
24) Newhart bought one of the first home computers, a Commodore PET, in 1977. "I remember leafing through a copy of Popular Science magazine and seeing an ad for a Commodore computer that had 8- or 16 kilobytes. It had an awful-looking screen, and it was $795. I thought I'd better get one because I had sons who were going to be in high school and might want to know about computers," he told the LA Times years later.
25) Today, you can follow him on Twitter @BobNewhart.
26) He went to a Cubs/Dodgers game with rocker Jack White earlier this week.