Bob Newhart's Life in Photos

Celebrating the comedy icon, his six decades in show business — and the close relationships that helped him along the way

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Bob Newhart Gets His Start in Comedy

Bob Newhart
Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Born George Robert Newhart in Oak Park, Illinois, on Sept. 5, 1929, Newhart graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a bachelor's degree in business management before he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as a personnel manager during the Korean War until his discharge in 1954.

He soon took a job as an accountant, but five years lat­er Warner Bros. Records signed him to a comedy album based on telephone recordings he'd done with a pal.

"They said, 'We want to record you at your next nightclub,' " Newhart reaclled to PEOPLE in a 2019 interview. "I said, 'We have kind of a problem: I've never played a nightclub.' "

Executives vowed to get him into one, "but that took six months, because it was hard to find a place that could take a chance on a guy. I pretended I knew what I was doing, and then the record came out and went crazy and now I had to learn the art of stand­up from the top."

"Being onstage took all the bravado I had," he added, "pretending like I knew what I was doing."

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Bob Newhart at Loyola University

Bob Newhart

Newhart performed at Loyola University in Chicago in 1961; the venue has since been named the Newhart Family Theater. "It's emotional for me," he told PEOPLE.

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Bob Newhart with Tom Poston

Bob Newhart

"He was the straight man," Newhart said of pal and frequent collaborator Tom Poston (in 1961). "Actually he was a catcher in the circus."

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Bob Newhart and His Family

Bob Newhart with Family at Easter Sunday Brunch
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Buddy Hackett set up Newhart with wife Ginnie, whom he wed in 1963. "He said, 'You'll get married and have kids and call one Buddy,' " said Newhart (with Ginnie and kids Jennifer, Courtney, Timothy and Robert in 1982).

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Bob Newhart with Carol Burnett

Carol Burnett (left) and Bob Newhart (right) posing for their television variety series 'The Entertainers,'
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

"She's very generous to other performers," Newhart once told PEOPLE of his The Entertainers costar Carol Burnett (here in 1964).

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Bob Newhart on The Dean Martin Show

The Dean Martin Show
Gerald K. Smith/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

"Everything was perfect," Newhart recalled of many laughter-filled Rat Pack moments on The Dean Martin Show (with, from left, Frank Sinatra, Martin and Danny Thomas in 1965).

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The Bob Newhart Show


"She had a mouth on her like a Marine," Newhart quipped when asked his favorite thing about the late Suzanne Pleshette, his TV wife from 1972 to 1978 on their wildly popular The Bob Newhart Show.

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Bob Newhart

The comic was staying in a small hotel in Seattle when he had the idea for Newhart, which ran for eight seasons from 1982 to 1990 and costarred Tony Papenfuss, William Sanderson and Mary Frann (in 1987).

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Bob Newhart and Johnny Carson

Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

"After an episode Johnny [Carson] would play drums," Newhart recalled of visits to his friend on The Tonight Show (ca. 1990). "Then we'd go back to our house for more drinks."

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Bob Newhart and Betty White

Bob Newhart, Betty White
Bob Newhart (left), Betty White. CBS via Getty Images

Newhart shared the screen with fellow comedy legend (and Oak Park, Illinois, native!) Betty White on his short-lived early '90s sitcom, Bob.

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Bob Newhart in Elf

Elf, Bob Newhart, Will Ferrell

"I read the script and said to Ginnie, 'This is going to be like Miracle on 34th Street,' " Newhart recalled of signing on to 2003's Elf with Will Ferrell.

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Bob Newhart on The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory
Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

"Chuck [Lorre] came to me, and I said I'd like to do that Big Bang show because I still have my fastball," joked Newhart (with Jim Parsons, Bill Nye and Johnny Galecki in 2013).

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Bob Newhart Wins an Emmy

Bob Newhart
Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

On winning an Emmy for his work on The Big Bang Theory in 2013 (his first following seven nominations), Newhart told PEOPLE, "Having a full-blown standing ovation from your peers — that's something special."

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Bob Newhart and Ben Stiller at the 2019 Emmys

Bob Newhart and Ben Stiller speak onstage during the 71st Emmy Awards
Amy Sussman/WireImage

Presenting with Ben Stiller at the September 2019 Emmys was "fun," Newhart told PEOPLE of one of his most recent outings. He was introduced standing beside wax figures of fellow comedy "legends" George Burns and Lucille Ball. Only there was one big difference. "I'm still alive," Newhart, who turned 90 in that same month, reminded Stiller.

Vibrant as ever, Newhart drew more laughs yet as he threatened, "This legend is going to kick your ass," and quipped, "I hated you, by the way, in Tropic Thunder."

"It was a very funny moment," Newhart recalled to PEOPLE. "I was amazed at the reactions."

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Bob Newhart and Wife Ginnie

Bob Newhart and wife Virginia
Courtesy Bob Newhart

Newhart and Ginnie (here in the 1970s), married 59 years, now have 10 grandchildren. And Newhart, 93, has no plans to slow down.

"I get this question a lot: 'Why do you still do come­dy?' " he said. "Why would you ever get tired of making people laugh? You nev­er want to give up that sound, that great sound that you fell in love with 60 years ago."

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