Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This! by Bob Newhart

Bob Newhart is an incredibly funny person, not to mention successful. (Don’t know who he is? Check him out on IMDb.) His 1960 debut comedy album, The Button-Down Mind, sold more than a million copies, and supposedly outsold every album made by the Beatles in that decade. At that time there were a lot of guys still doing “take my wife, please” but Newhart and a group of younger comedians were carving out a niche as comedic storytellers. But even that fails to accurately describe Newhart’s act. He would present one side of a conversation, often on the phone. It may not sound all that funny, but it was…and is.

For example, in “The Submarine Commander” Newhart addresses the audience as if they were members of the crew, saying, “I’d like to congratulate you men on the teamwork we displayed. We cut a full two minutes off the previous record of four minutes and twenty-nine seconds in surfacing and firing at the target and resubmerging. I just want to congratulate you men on the team work. At the same time, I don’t want to in any way slight the men that we had to leave on deck. I think they had a lot to do with the two minutes we cut off the record, and I doubt if any of us will soon forget their somewhat stunned expressions as we watched them through the periscope.”

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.

This book is essentially a memoir. Beginning with his early childhood, Newhart jumps around from one seminal event to the next, ending pretty much in the present. It was really interesting to see how long it took for Newhart to get his big break, and all the weird stuff he had to do to get by while waiting for this to happen. Newhart’s wry sense of humor comes through in the material, even when dealing with serious topics – which is not all that often.

I bought the paperback edition, so I was surprised at the number of simple typos, word omissions, and silly grammatical mistakes. It never ceases to amaze me how some things make it to press with so many basic errors. Some editor at Hyperion really dropped the ball. Besides these minor nuisances, the book was an enjoyable read, and often made me laugh out loud.

Newhart was the voice of Bernard in The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. What more do you need to know? (That was a rhetorical question.)


Nihil Novum said...

Good Larry the Cable Guy reference.

Carlton said...

I was particularly proud of it.