Here’s a fun trivia question: How many times has John gone to a taping of the Big Bang Theory when he wasn’t actually working?
A couple weeks ago, Galecki sent me an email notifying me that Bob Newhart was going to be on an episode. Galecki and I have never talked about Bob Newhart, but if you work in television and/or comedy, it’s kind of understood that you love Bob Newhart. Would I like to come to a taping? Is 70s era Suzanne Pleshette the hottest thing ever?
I am, actually, not really old enough to remember his first hit show, The Bob Newhart Show, but I am right in the pocket for Newhart, his 80s sitcom that also gave the world Julia Duffy and William Sadler, and is famous for the greatest sitcom series finale of all time.
What struck me about Newhart is what strikes everybody about Newhart - what he can do with silence and a look that has just enough life in it to project an existential weariness with the absurdity around him. That look and that ability to stretch a laugh just by trusting it and sitting there is on full display tonight, as the greatest straight man in the history of the English language has to straight man Sheldon. Newhart is a walking rebuttal to actors who worry “Ugh, how am I going to get any laughs if the other person has all the jokes?” Well, you can do what Newhart does - sit still, listen, and react as any of us would. Newhart’s success comes from teh fact because he is us, or rather, he has bottled us - he can’t believe the people he has to put up with, and the only power he has is to wryly call out the bullshit.
He’s on the Big Bang Theory tonight. I went to the taping and at one moment, while Newhart was milking a laugh for all it was worth, I thought “Man, every time an actor pauses for comedic effect, that actor should send a check to Bob Newhart.”
Here’s a famous taste from earlier in his career.