Skip to main content

Ken Tucker

Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews 2 new albums: “Just Push Play” by Aerosmith and “Crown Royal” by Run DMC.

06:25

Contributor

Related Topics

Other segments from the episode on April 6, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, April 6, 2001: Interview with Bob Newhart; Review of the film "Blow;" Review of two music albums "Just push play" and "Crown Royal."

Transcript

DATE April 6, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Bob Newhart discusses his careers as a stand-up comic
and sitcom actor
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Bob Newhart's early comedy recordings are collected on a new double CD
called
"Something Like This... The Bob Newhart Anthology." He was honored at this
year's US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. With the help of Nick at Nite,
several generations have become Newhart fans. He played psychologist Dr.
Bob
Hartley on "The Bob Newhart Show," which had its initial run from 1972 to
'78.
From 1982 to '90, he starred in the sitcom "Newhart" as Vermont innkeeper
Dick
Loudon. Newhart just signed to co-star with MTV rap star Sisqo in the pilot
for an NBC series.

On this archive edition, we have a 1998 interview with Bob Newhart. First,
let's listen to a track from "The Newhart Anthology." This was originally
featured on his first comedy album, "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,"
which was recorded in 1960 and became the first comedy album to hit number
one
on the charts. This routine is an example of the one-sided phone
conversation
that became a Newhart trademark. The premise is, `What if Abe Lincoln was
getting advice from a Madison Avenue PR executive?'

(Soundbite of "Something Like This... The Bob Newhart Anthology")

Mr. BOB NEWHART (Comedian): (Pretending to speak on telephone) Listen, Abe,
I got the note. What's the problem? You're thinking of shaving it off?

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) Abe, don't you see that's
part of the image? Right, with the shawl and the stovepipe hat, the string
tie.

(Soundbite of audience chuckling)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) You don't have the shawl?
Where's the shawl, Abe?

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) You left it in Washington?
Well, what are you wearing, Abe? A sort of cardigan?

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) Abe, don't you see that
doesn't fit with the string tie and the beard?

(Soundbite of audience chuckling)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) Abe, would leave the beard
on and get the shawl, huh? All right. Now what's this about Grant? You're
getting a lot of complaints on Grant's drinking, huh?

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) Abe, to be perfectly honest
with you, I don't see the problem. I mean, you knew he was a lush when you
appointed him. You see...

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) ...your gag writers? Yeah,
your gag writers are--you want to come back with something funny, huh?
Maybe
an anecdote about a town drunk? Well, I can't promise anything, Abe. I'll
get them working on it. All right. Abe, you got the speech? Abe, you
haven't changed the speech, have you?

(Soundbite of audience chuckling)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) Abe, why do you change the
speeches for?

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) A couple minor changes?
I'll bet. All right. All right. What are they? You what? You typed it?

(Soundbite of audience chuckling)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) Abe, how many times have we
told you? On the backs on envelopes.

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) I understand it's harder to
read that way, Abe, but it looks like you wrote it on a train coming down,
something like that.

(Soundbite of audience chuckling)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) Abe, could you do this?
Could you memorize it and then put it on the backs of the envelopes? You're
getting a lot of play in the press on that.

(Soundbite of audience chuckling)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) How are the envelopes
holding up?

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

Mr. NEWHART: (Pretending to speak on telephone) You could stand another
box?
All right. I'll...

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

GROSS: Now how did you come up with the one-sided phone call bit?

Mr. NEWHART: Well, you know, I'm credited with that, and actually, I
certainly didn't invent the form. One of the first records ever was a thing
called "Cohen on the Telephone." And then, of course, George Jessel used to
do phone calls to his mother. And then Shelly Berman did a lot of one-sided
conversations. Mike and Elaine did two-sided conversations, but again, they
were telephone conversations.

There are some routines that lend themselves to the telephone. And I think
what happens is the audience, the people listening to it, it makes it `a hot
medium,' in Marshall McLuhan's words, because they're involved. They're
supplying something. They're not just sitting back and saying, `Oh, that's
funny. Oh, that's funny.' They're supplying the other end of the
conversation.

I belong to a country club out here, and George Scott belongs to it. And he
asked me one time, in that kind of gruff voice of his, he said, `Let me ask
you something. How do you do those telephone conversations?' And I said,
`Well, George, you know, I ask a question and then I wait long enough for
the
person on the other end to answer it, and then I start talking again.' He
said, `That's amazing. It's absolutely amazing.' And I thought to myself,
`No, George, "Patton" is amazing. This is just a telephone conversation.'
I
don't know how else to do it. That's the only way you can do it.

GROSS: Bob Newhart is my guest.

Now you're Catholic. And when you were coming of age as a comic, I think a
lot of the comics were Jewish comics who were getting their start in the
Catskill Mountains, which was a largely Jewish resort area. And I'm
wondering
if you ever felt that ethnic comics had a built-in constituency, i.e.,
people
of their ethnic group. And did you feel like you had that kind of--you
know,
because there was no borscht belt for you.

Mr. NEWHART: No.

GROSS: Did you play the borscht belt at all?

Mr. NEWHART: No, I never have.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. NEWHART: The Catskills? No.

GROSS: Right. So did you feel like that...

Mr. NEWHART: I played the Poconos. That's as close as I ever came to the
Catskills.

GROSS: Right. OK. Did you feel like you were missing out on something not
being identified as an ethnic comic?

Mr. NEWHART: Well, you know, humor, I think, at that times was very
regional, as I recall. It was--I remember Phil Foster doing routines about
the Brooklyn Dodgers. And then television came along and you had to make
your
humor continental. You couldn't make it regional anymore. It had to
be--you
had to find ways of not making it regional, is what I'm trying to say.

After some time, I realized that a lot of my friends that--a lot of the
comics
are Jewish that I know, and they would refer to their Jewishness. And then
I
began referring to my Catholicism, and what it's like to grow up as a
Catholic
and began to realize how funny it is in many ways to grow up. You know, it
gives you a chance to kind of stand back and look at it and find the humor
in
it.

GROSS: What did you find funny about your Catholic upbringing?

Mr. NEWHART: Well, for instance, I said the difference between Catholics
and
other religions is, basically, we have confession. And non-Catholics don't
understand how you go in this little, dark room and you tell another human
being, like, terrible things you've done during the week. But if you're
raised Catholic, there are certain tricks you learn about going to
confession.
Like, you sit in the very last pew and you watch the two lines move into the
confessional. And whichever line moves the fastest, that's the one you get
in

because that priest wants to get out of there. And I remember the first
time
I did that, and it got a big reaction from the audience. And I realized,
`Oh,
I'm not the only one who did that.'

GROSS: You kind of treated it as if it was the long line at the supermarket
instead of the confessional.

Well, can you remember for us what the venues--yeah.

Mr. NEWHART: I--you know, that's interesting because it does suggest they
might have a confessional, like, you know, `10 sins or less,' you know?

GROSS: Right. The swift-moving line.

Mr. NEWHART: I just thought of that.

GROSS: That's good. Oh. Can you recall for us what your early venues were
like, what--the smaller clubs, if there were such things at the time, and,
you know, what Reno and Vegas were like when you started doing them in the
'60s?

Mr. NEWHART: Oh, wow. There were clubs--they weren't comedy clubs per se
much as they'd be referred to today as--with just one comic after another
getting up and doing five minutes. It was--they were folk music clubs,
places
like Mr. Kelly's in Chicago and The Hungry Eye in San Francisco and The
Crescendo in Los Angeles. And you'd get up and do half-hour, 35 minutes,
and
then this folk group would come on and sing and then a guy who played the
banjo and do protest songs and then you'd be on again.

GROSS: Now what about Vegas?

Mr. NEWHART: Vegas was fun. It was a chance to--you'd be there for a
month.
So it was a chance for the family to come up and be with you on the weekends
and have some kind of normalcy to your life as much as walking on the stage
twice a night and trying to make people laugh is normal, you know? But that
would be the--and there was a camaraderie among Vegas people that still
exists. I still see Steve and Eydie and Shecky Greene and Dick Martin and
Don
Rickles. And these are all friendships that were developed in Vegas.

GROSS: Well, you know, you mentioned Don Rickles. I know you and he
are--or
at least were best friends. And it seems like such an incongruous pairing
because, you know--I mean, the last thing in the world you would do is
insult
people on stage, and Don Rickles is, like, Mr. Insult Comic, that your
temperaments couldn't seem more opposite.

Mr. NEWHART: Well, I don't know...

GROSS: Are you really nasty off the stage, and is he really nice?

Mr. NEWHART: Oh, he's very nice, yeah. He's--yeah, I'm probably nastier
off
the stage than I appear, and he's nicer than he appears.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NEWHART: But we feed each other. We both--our wives enjoy each other's
company, and we enjoy each other's company. And we go away on vacation, and
we're together for two or three weeks and we have laughs. We just have a
good
time. It's something I wish everybody could have a friend such as the
Rickles
and...

GROSS: So where do you guys go on vacation? Not to Vegas.

Mr. NEWHART: Oh, no. No, no, no. No, that'd be a working vacation.

GROSS: Oh, yeah.

Mr. NEWHART: That would be a--what do they call it? A busman's holiday.

The trip we made, we went to Southeast Asia. We went to--we flew to
Singapore
and got aboard a liner and made stops in Bangkok, in South Vietnam, North
Vietnam and then Hong Kong. And then we flew to Beijing in China and then
flew home from Beijing. And it was a wonderful, wonderful trip.

It was--we went up the Saigon River, and it's very narrow at points. And
they
have a pilot who was a local Vietnamese who knows the river very well. And
we
happen to be up in the--you know, the captain invited us up. And this
Vietnamese was yelling out, barking out, `Two degree right, four degree
right,
two degree right, two degree left,' you know, that kind of thing. And
because
at times, actually, you could almost hit the bottom of the Saigon River
because it was such a large cruise ship. And the captain said, `You see
that
man who's the pilot?' I said, `Yes.' And he said, `He's the third most
highly decorated Vietcong in Vietnam.' And that was weird. That was a
weird
sensation of--it was approximately--I think it was just about 20 years,
almost
to the day, that the Vietnamese War ended. And it just--it was chilling.

GROSS: You know, I'm wondering--I'm thinking, like, how odd it would have
been if, like--say, if I were a journalist in Vietnam, and there was Don
Rickles and Bob Newhart sailing up the river. I'd thought I was
hallucinating or something. Did you run into any people...

Mr. NEWHART: Well, actually...

GROSS: ...who did a real double take seeing you and he go by?

Mr. NEWHART: I met a man--I'm confused now whether it was China or Vietnam.
But anyway, they kind of knew who I was, but they didn't know who Don was.
And I think that upset him, and I derived a great deal of satisfaction from
it. But that has happened before. We traveled in Europe. And, of course,
they don't really know either of us. And they certainly don't know what to
make of Don. Here's this loud American who's just yelling things at people
and insulting them and...

GROSS: Well, does he do that when he's touring?

Mr. NEWHART: Oh, yeah. Oh, sure. Oh, sure. And so they don't quite know
what to make of Don when we're on vacation.

GROSS: I mean, does he do that as shtick, or is that just the way he treats
people?

Mr. NEWHART: He can't help it. He sees things and he makes observations
that are just--they're scary at times. They're so right, you know?

GROSS: We're listening to a 1998 interview with Bob Newhart. The new CD
"The
Bob Newhart Anthology" collects his classic comedy recordings. We'll hear
more from Newhart after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Bob Newhart.

I have another question about when you started doing stand-up comedy. You
started doing stand-up during the era I've come to think of as the
`you-dirty-rat' era because every stand-up comic was compelled to do
impersonations of James Cagney. And they also were required to do
impersonations of Armstrong and Bogart, and you did some of those yourself.

Mr. NEWHART: I was never much of a impersonator. Comics kind of have an
ear
for that sort of thing.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NEWHART: But I was never real good at it. I found what was
interesting--and it certainly wasn't planned in any way, but the people I
mentioned--Mike and Elaine and Shelly Berman and myself and Johnny Winters
and
Lenny Bruce--it was a different kind of comedy than had preceded it. What

had
preceded it was material that could be stolen. In other words, `Take my
wife,
please' or...

GROSS: Jokes.

Mr. NEWHART: Jokes. I burned a hole in the coat--you know, `Do you like
this jacket? It's a beautiful jacket. I got eight pairs of pants with it.
With my luck, I'll burn a hole in the coat,' you know? Well, anybody could
deliver that line. It wasn't personalized at all. But without realizing
it--'cause I certainly wasn't aware of it. It's only in hindsight that I'm
aware of it--you couldn't steal a Mike and Elaine routine or a Shelly Berman
routine or a Bob Newhart routine or a Johnny Winters routines. They would
say, `Oh, that sounds like Johnny Winters.' And so it became--it was a
shift
in American comedy that just happened.

And I think why it happened was our audience was largely college kids, and
they would--they didn't have mother-in-laws. So mother-in-law jokes didn't
mean anything to them, you know?

GROSS: Thank goodness.

Mr. NEWHART: And so to that extent, the humor that was being done in
nightclubs was irrelevant to them. And so they would--and it was also very
expensive. Nightclubs had a cover charge, and it was very expensive to go
to
a nightclub, and they didn't have the money, obviously. So they would buy a
record and get some pizza and some beer, and they'd all sit around and
listen
to one of us and that was their nightclub. And I think that's what
happened.

GROSS: Bob Newhart is my guest.

Let me ask you about the first sitcom that you did, the first "Newhart
Show,"
and you played a psychiatrist. It's common now to have stand-up comics with
their own sitcoms. In fact, it's almost obligatory.

Mr. NEWHART: That's right.

GROSS: What was it like when you were a stand-up comic having a sitcom
built
around you?

Mr. NEWHART: Well, it was paternalistic, really, because my manager--and my
manager still is Arthur Price--and he and Mary Tyler Moore and Grant Tinker
formed MTM Productions. And with the success of Mary's show, he came to me
and he said, `Would you like to do a sitcom?' And I said, `Yeah, I would,'
because it would keep me home, it'd keep me off the road and I could spend
some time with the family, which is very important.

So we then went about trying to come up with a sitcom. And we started out
with a--`OK, what occupation is it?' `First of all, he's married, right?
OK,
he's married and'--I insisted on--that we not have children, that we not
have
precocious children 'cause I hated those kind of shows, where the kids are
always bailing the dumb father out of some scrape he's gotten himself into,
you know? And, `We love you, Daddy. Daddy's an idiot, but we do love you,'
and resolved I wasn't going to do that kind of show.

So then we started looking for occupations, and I sat down with Lorenzo
Music
and Dave Davis, who I'd worked with before who had been writers on "The Mary
Tyler Moore Show." And I knew Lorenzo from "The Smothers Brothers Show."
And
he said, `Well, you know, Bob is--he's a listener. He's like a reactor. He
reacts to people. What occupation would lend itself to somebody who
listens?'
And they said, `Well, how about a psychiatrist?' So they came to me and
said,
`What about a psychiatrist?' I said, `Well, let's make him a psychologist
because I think a psychologist tends to deal with less severely disturbed
people,' and I didn't want to be making fun of severely disturbed people. I
didn't want to be making fun of people with multiple personalities or
schizophrenia or any of that stuff.

GROSS: Right. Suicidal, depression, yes. Right.

Mr. NEWHART: And...

GROSS: Just Mr. Carlin.

Mr. NEWHART: Yeah, really. Yeah, Mr. Carlin actually was worse at the end
of six years than he was when he originally came to me, you know? He has a
class action suit against me, I think, as do most of my group.

GROSS: Bob Newhart, recorded in 1998. His classic comedy recordings are
collected on the new double CD "Something Like This... The Bob Newhart
Anthology." More Newhart in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross,
and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

(Soundbite of telephone ringing)

Mr. NEWHART: Hello?

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, straight-laced, middle-of-the-road, kind of dull guy
comedy. We talk with Bob Newhart about his sitcom characters. And film
critic Henry Sheehan reviews the new movie "Blow."

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Bob Newhart. His
classic comedy routines from the '60s are collected on the new CD "Something
Like This... The Bob Newhart Anthology." In the '70s, he played
psychologist
Bob Hartley on "The Bob Newhart Show." Here's a scene in which Bob, and his
wife Emily, played by Suzanne Pleshette, have just found out their
respective
IQ scores.

(Soundbite of "The Bob Newhart Show")

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SUZANNE PLESHETTE ("Emily"): You know, Bob, ever since you took that IQ
test, you've been sitting around acting petulant.

Mr. NEWHART: What do you mean by that?

Ms. PLESHETTE: Petulant, means suddenly irritated by the trivial.

Mr. NEWHART: Emily, I know what petulant means. You don't have to talk
down
to me just because I'm not as intelligent as you are.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PLESHETTE: Bob, you are intelligent.

Mr. NEWHART: Maybe I am, Emily, but ever since I found out what our IQs
are,
I've--well, I think it's affecting our marriage.

Ms. PLESHETTE: What do you mean by that?

Mr. NEWHART: Marriage is a wedding between two...

Ms. PLESHETTE: Oh, Bob, I know what marriage means.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PLESHETTE: What's it got to do with us? We've got a perfect marriage.

Mr. NEWHART: Emily, a perfect marriage is where the husband and the wife
have
the same IQ.

Ms. PLESHETTE: Bob, it is not important.

Mr. NEWHART: Next to perfect is where the husband's is higher than the
wife's.

Ms. PLESHETTE: Bob, forget it.

Mr. NEWHART: Third is where the wife is one point higher than the husband.

Ms. PLESHETTE: Please, Bob.

Mr. NEWHART: And the fourth, which is us, which is the worst, is where the
wife is 151 and the husband is 129, which is a difference of...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PLESHETTE: Twenty-two.

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with Bob Newhart.

Now part of your persona in "The Newhart Show" was he was the
straight-laced,
middle-of-the-road guy who was kind of dull.

Mr. NEWHART: OK.

GROSS: Right? How did the writers come up with that aspect of it?
Surrounded by a lot of nutty, eccentric people, but he was kind of dull.

Mr. NEWHART: Well, part of the success of "Newhart" was we tried to isolate
what made "The Bob Newhart Show" work, and what seemed to make part of "The
Bob Newhart Show," at least the working environment of "The Bob Newhart
Show,"
the psychologist's office, was you had to have a situation where no matter
how
outrageous the statement was made by one of the patients, you couldn't react
to it. You couldn't say, `That's the craziest thing I've ever heard, Mr.
Carlin.' You know, you'd have to say--I remember one time I said, `How did
this week go?' He said, `It went very well.' He said, `Oh, Saturday, I was
possessed by the devil.' And I think my line was, `OK, you want to go with
that then, Mr. Carlin?' I couldn't say, `You were what?'

So we tried to find those elements in "Newhart," and we found them in the
guests. No matter how unreasonable the guests were, you still had to kind
of
say, `Certainly, sir. Certainly. I'll send the maid up to the room right
away.'

GROSS: Do you have a favorite episode from the first "Newhart" show?

Mr. NEWHART: I have several. There's one that kind of summed up comedy to
me. It was--I had an African-American insurance salesman, came in, he was
very tall and muscular, and he wore the djellaba and he had a black Great
Dane
that he called Whitie. And he came to me and he said, `I don't seem to be
able to sell insurance policies.' And I said, `Well, it has nothing to do
with your personality. It's just that you kind of scare people, you know.'
And he said, `Well, thank you very much.'

And so then we leave my office, and he said, `Is the men's room'--and I
pointed out just down the hall. Then he looked at the Great Dane, `Stay
there.' So with that, Jerry comes out and he comes over to me and we start
talking and the black salesman comes back in and he says, `Sit, Whitie,' and
with that, Jerry sits right on the reception desk, you know. And it was--it
got a huge laugh; and to me, it summed up what comedy does. It diffuses
tensions in many areas. It gives you distance so that you can stand back
and
laugh at things.

But there were a lot of "Bob Newhart Shows" and "Newhart" shows that I love.
I love the one that Julia sang--we did a telethon--it had nothing to do with me.
I mean, I was the host of the telethon, but Julia...

GROSS: This is on the Vermont show.

Mr. NEWHART: Yeah. Julia Duffy, Stephanie, everybody was doing something
on
the telethon to try to raise money--I forget what the cause was--and Julia
did
an up-tempo "Old Man River," and it's one of the funniest things, to this
day,
that I've ever seen. It was hysterical. I mean, her lack of understanding
of
the lyrics was incredible.

GROSS: That was a great show, too, the show on which you played an
innkeeper
in Vermont who also, at least for several years, hosted a local TV show
called
"Vermont Today"....

Mr. NEWHART: That's right. That's right.

GROSS: ...on which Michael, your producer, would either book you the most
ludicrous or just incredibly boring guests. And I'd love the look on your
face when you were interviewing somebody just outrageously dull, you know,
doing an outrageously pointless interview.

Mr. NEWHART: We had Estelle Getty on one show before "The Golden Girls,"
and
she was a librarian who had come up with a new Dewey decimal system. And
Michael was trying to jazz it up. He had all kinds of things going in the
background to kind of jazz it up.

GROSS: You know, your shows have been rerun a lot on Nick at Nite, and I
think there was one, I don't know, a 24- or 48-hour period when they did a
whole Bob-A-Thon(ph). They were bringing on, I guess, a new series of
yours,
a new in rerun series of yours, and to introduce it and celebrate it there
was
just hour after hour of continuous "Newhart" programs. What was that like
for
you?

Mr. NEWHART: Well, that's a tribute to the cast and to the writing, that
the
writing is still valid. And I had something to do with that. I told the
writers, `Don't put in any Gerald Ford jokes, you know, because this is
going
to be rerun and rerun and rerun, and we're going to look silly.' Because I
knew then that it would go into syndication and people would be watching it,
and we tried to get away from being trendy for that reason.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. NEWHART: And it holds up. The material holds up, which is likely a
tribute to the writing.

GROSS: The lapels and the sideburns don't hold up.

Mr. NEWHART: That's the only thing.

GROSS: You wore a lot of plaid, also.

Mr. NEWHART: Oh, yeah. Well, see, my...

GROSS: Whose idea was all the plaid?

Mr. NEWHART: My dresser was color-blind.

GROSS: Are you kidding?

Mr. NEWHART: His name was Ralph, yeah. And he was such a nice guy, we
didn't
want to say anything, but...

GROSS: Oh, that's so "Newhart." That is like quintessential "Newhart."

Mr. NEWHART: My wife would come in, and I'd be ready to go out, and I'm not
good with colors either, so she would say, `Oh, my God, you're kidding.' I
said, `What?' She said, `Take your jacket off. It doesn't even come close
to
going with the shirt.'

GROSS: That's funny.

Mr. NEWHART: But, you know, of all careers to choose, when you're
color-blind, I mean, wardrobe seems like the last one.

GROSS: Yeah. You think somebody might have said something about it at the
studio or...

Mr. NEWHART: I remember reading an article in the paper about a one-eyed
bullfighter--again, we get back to material coming out of the paper--a
one-eyed bullfighter in Spain who was reapplying for license to fight the
bulls, and it occurred to me then that if there's one occupation where you
really want to have two good eyes, I think bullfighting would be right up
toward the top, you know. I mean, of all professions to choose.

GROSS: My guest is Bob Newhart. More after our break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let's get back to our 1998 interview with Bob Newhart.

When you started on television, it was in the days when there were three
networks and in many cities a couple of, you know, syndicated kind of
channels. But, you know, when a show was popular, everybody seemed to watch
it. And television has just become such a different experience now 'cause
there's so many channels. Do you feel the difference?

Mr. NEWHART: Well, of course, we used to get shares like 42-43 shares.

GROSS: That's enormous. A lot of people.

Mr. NEWHART: You know, those are...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. NEWHART: ...Super Bowl shares now...

GROSS: Exactly.

Mr. NEWHART: ...because there was no competition. I just found out, the
engineer told me, that I was the "I Love Lucy" of the United Arab Emirates,
which I had never known. They showed "The Bob Newhart Show" in the United
Arab Emirates, and people would go home early from work to see it. I never
knew I was a hit in the Middle East.

GROSS: Huh. The first "Newhart" show was on Saturday night, right?

Mr. NEWHART: Yeah.

GROSS: After "Mary Tyler Moore." Was it...

Mr. NEWHART: It was "All in the Family,""M*A*S*H," "Mary Tyler Moore," us
and
"Carol Burnett."

GROSS: Was Saturday night a good time? I remember, you know, like when I
didn't have something to do and I was feeling really bad about it, at least
I
could stay home and watch you and "Mary Tyler Moore." So it wasn't a total
loss.

Mr. NEWHART: Well, it was a time shift. People stayed home Saturday
because
of that lineup.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NEWHART: As they stay home Thursday because of NBC's must-see
Thursdays.
And it used to be, I think, Monday was "Lucy," I think, wasn't it?

GROSS: I don't remember.

Mr. NEWHART: I think Monday. And then I think Berle was Tuesday. And so
it
shifted. That was must-see Saturday.

GROSS: What I think of the Newhart character in your shows from the '70s
and
the '80s, I think of somebody who stammers a lot, not because he's unsure of
what he feels but because he can't really afford to reveal what he really
feels 'cause it might be a little harsher, it might be a little too
something.
So there's this constant kind of like stammering to just, you know, cover up
and to try to kind of package in a better way what it is that he's really
thinking or feeling. Does that work for you?

Mr. NEWHART: Well, that's interesting because the stammer is real. I
didn't
invent the stammer. I remember in the first year of "Newhart" and we were
doing an episode and it was running long, and one of the producers came up
to
me and said, `Can you run some of the words together because the show is
really spreading?' And I said, `Look, this stammer got me a home in Beverly
Hills and I'm not about to change it, so you'd better cut some words out of
the script.' No, it isn't an affectation, it's the way I speak, although I
know what you're saying. It does help to get you over an uncomfortable
moment. I mean, I think of him as a nice person who doesn't want to hurt
anybody's feelings.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. NEWHART: But, at the same time, has difficulty saying what he means.

GROSS: Well, it's really been a pleasure to talk with you.

Mr. NEWHART: Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: I want to thank you very much.

Bob Newhart, recorded in 1998. There's a new anthology of his classic
comedy
recordings called "Something Like This... The Bob Newhart Anthology."
Here's
the track "Bus Drivers School."

(Excerpt from "Bus Drivers School")

Mr. NEWHART: Here's the situation, Johnson. You've just pulled into a
stop.
You've discharged your passengers. And out of the rear view mirror you
notice
this old woman running for the bus. OK?

You want to start running now, Mrs. Selkirk(ph)?

OK, let's see how Johnson goes about handling it.

Hold it! Hold it! Hold it, Johnson. You're pulling out much too fast,
Johnson. See, she gave up about halfway on the block, you see? Yeah, what
you want to do is just kind of gradually ease out, you see, so you're always
holding out the hope they may be able to catch the bus. Oh, another thing
you
want to watch. A lot of these old women, you know, they'll run at
three-quarters speed, you see. Then they'll put on a final burst and
they'll
catch up with the bus.

Graham, you want to be the bus driver now? Yes.

Mrs. Selkirk, you want to get back to your mark again?

All right. Let's try it with Graham; same situation. All right. You want
to
start running again, Mrs. Selkirk? Hmm? OK, let's see how Graham handles
this situation. All right, fine. Did you all see how he slammed the door
right in her face that time? That's known as your perfect pull-out.

(End of excerpt)

GROSS: Bob Newhart.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New movie "Blow"
TERRY GROSS, host:

The new movie "Blow" is about a drug dealer. But it has a different tone
than the hit film "Traffic" and it begins in a different era. Film critic
Henry Sheehan has a review.

Mr. HENRY SHEEHAN (Film Critic): Hollywood has feasted on the rise and fall
of criminal careers, from the Roaring '20s till today. "Blow," directed in
a
cheery, breezy style, by Ted Demme brings a contemporary puckishness to
this
well-worn saga, this time focusing on George Jung, a kid from a small town
in
Massachusetts who went from '60s pot dealer to '70s coke entrepreneur.
Featuring Johnny Depp, as stoically eccentric as ever, as the movie's
loveable
anti-hero, the movie covers four decades of drug dealing.

A lot of plot is disgorged in the process, but the movie's lickety-split
style
ensures that it all passes effortlessly. What does stick in the craw,
though,
is the movie's insistence that Jung is the Ralph Kramden of drug dealers, a
hen-pecked dreamer who tried too hard to please the women in his life. The
depiction of Jung and his unlikely cohorts in the passing eras is so
entertaining that you're willing to swallow the improbable claim that one
single smuggler opened America's cocaine floodgates.

Paul Reubens, of Pee-Wee Herman fame, co-stars as a flamboyant California
hairdresser who starts out as Jung's pot financier and ends up riding the
cocaine train to ridiculous riches. At one point, the business is going so
well that the organization has a house full of cash it doesn't have anyplace
to store. The sight of an imperturbable Depp wandering through roomfuls of
plastic-wrapped cash becomes an instantly classic caricature of the American
Dream. But his Colombian partner's greed and the US government's improved
law
enforcement increase the frequency and duration of Jung's prison stays.

Yet Jung's pain doesn't begin with such manly interference. "Blow" would
have
us believe that Jung has been suffering his entire life at the hands of
women.
The movie, which is now rated in flashback by Jung, opens with a prelude in
his Massachusetts home town. There we meet his kindly dad, played by Ray
Liotta, and his status-conscious, avaricious mom, Ermine. Played by Rachel
Griffiths, as a ferocious suburban Medea, Ermine is the kind of wife who
leaves her husband when he hits financial bad times and the type of mom who
drops a dime on her pot-dealing son. The implication is obvious. Not
wanting
to be spurned as a business failure the way his dad was, Jung goes into the
drug business to compensate. Then the money is used to buy his way into
respectability. Ah, but then he merely repeats his dad's mistake, marrying
a
chic Colombian woman, Mirtha, played to no great effect by Penelope Cruz,
who
turns out to be his mom in disguise.

In this scene, Jung's mom and dad come visit his new mansion for a look-see
at
the ill-gotten gains. Mother and daughter-in-law immediately bond over the
display of wealth.

(Excerpt from "Blow")

Ms. RACHEL GRIFFITHS (Actress): Oh, God. It's enormous. Look. Look at
this
credenza.

Ms. PENELOPE CRUZ (Actress): (Foreign language spoken)

Ms. GRIFFITHS: Oh, yes. What, it's Spanish? If you don't mind me asking,
how much is one of these? It's got to cost a fortune.

Mr. JOHNNY DEPP (Actor): It's a family heirloom, Ma.

Ms. GRIFFITHS: I've seen these in magazines. They don't come cheap.

Mr. DEPP: Mirtha comes from a very wealthy family.

Ms. GRIFFITHS: Oh.

Ms. CRUZ: Pepe, do you like it?

Mr. RAY LIOTTA (Actor): Very nice. Very nice. Yeah.

Ms. CRUZ: Come on. I show you the rest of the house.

Mr. GRIFFITHS: Oh, great. George mentioned a jacuzzi. I've always wanted
a
jacuzzi. Oh, and one of those bidets.

Mr. DEPP: Cocktail.

(End of excerpt)

SHEEHAN: Jung's entanglements with undeserving women is a recurring
dramatic
motif that expands to a full-throated chorus in the movie's final 30
minutes.
That's when Jung's daughter, Kristina, gets into the act. Despite being
just
a little girl, Kristina turns out to be as demanding as her mother and
grandmother. Just when a newly ruined Jung needs her love the most, she
spurns him. It seems like a reasonable response from a little kid whose
daddy
is in jail so often. But then she becomes an emotional blackmailer.

Although "Blow" has its share of sharp comedic moments, its triple portrait
of
female witchery is intended seriously. Underneath the slick surface of
daring
drug escapades, the movie burbles with fear and anxiety over the insatiable
appetites of women.

GROSS: Henry Sheehan is film critic for The Orange County Register. This
is
FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Two new albums, one by Aerosmith and one by Run-DMC
TERRY GROSS, host:

In 1986, the rap act Run-DMC collaborated with the hard rock band Aerosmith
on
the song "Walk This Way." It not only revitalized Aerosmith's then-sagging
career, but was also the first top 10 pop chart hit to include rap music.
By
coincidence, both Aerosmith and Run-DMC have new separate CDs out.
Aerosmith's is called "Just Push Play," and Run-DMC's is "Crown Royal."
Rock
critic Ken Tucker compares the two acts 15 years after their collaboration.

(Soundbite of "Jaded")

AEROSMITH: Hey, j-j-jaded. You've got your mama's style, but you're
yesterday's child to me. So jaded. You think that's where it's at, but is
that where it's going to be? You're getting it all over me. X-rated. My,
my
baby blue...

Mr. KEN TUCKER (Rock Critic): The title of Aerosmith's new hit single
"Jaded"
is romantically self-referential. It's sung to an old girlfriend. And in
the
chorus singer Steven Tyler concludes, "You're so jaded, and I'm the one who
jaded you," which means, I think, that you should substitute the word
`corrupted' for jaded. From their start, Aerosmith has always traded on a
decadent bad-boy image. Me, I marvel at the way the band has managed to
reposition itself as the grand old men of rock 'n' roll, since I'm old
enough
to remember when Aerosmith was considered the band you listened to while
waiting for a new release from the real thing, The Rolling Stones. But what
Aerosmith can still do, that the Stones no longer seem willing or able to
do,
is crank out a catchy chorus and some guilty pleasure power ballads like
this
one, "Love Lies."

(Excerpt of "Love Lies")

AEROSMITH: Oh, when you cross that line that you know you can't erase. To
fall in lust, not love, ain't no sin at all. And tell me when you're with
your best friend's friend, do you still feel out of place? No thanks, I
took
that ride. God only knows I tried believing. I imagine everyone sometimes
will cross their heart and hope to die, to tell I love you lies.

(End of excerpt)

Mr. TUCKER: Where Aerosmith found a formula in the '90s and ran with it,
Run-DMC, by contrast, came to a dead halt. Two of the three core members of
the act took more spiritual paths. In fact, Darrell "DMC" McDaniels became
a
deacon in his church and pretty much dropped out of the Run-DMC business a
decade ago. He chronicles his disillusionment with the music business and
his
religious awakening in a new book called "King of Rock: Respect,
Responsibility and My Life With Run-DMC." And on his comeback CD, McDaniels
and his partners are in a nostalgic mood, boasting about their old hits and
breakthroughs, including their Aerosmith collaboration.

(Excerpt of Run-DMC song)

Run-DMC: ...when I heard Rev Run say cuz I got dough that I must be a type
of
fraud. But, you know, the thing that's funny if God made money then how
rich
is the Lord? Went and got JD, made me crazy, play me up in the club. Got a
brand-new Mercedes, four or five ladies bustin' me, I'm older, to a Bentley
and all that come out the garage on the side of a grand prestigious home.
Y'all asked if I'm blessed by God? Player, what you thought? What Rev you
see on? Gotta make these dollars coming out of Hollis, got my collar on,
too.
I got the rhyme and the beat and the vibe from the street and now the rest
is
on you.

Mr. JERMAINE DUPRI (Rap Artist): The rest is on me, man. Let me let y'all
know something. The first rap group to get on MTV, hard, heavy, ya heard
me?
And then they go turn around and resurrect Aerosmith, like, you know what I
mean? There ain't none of that. You know what I'm saying? If it weren't
for
these cats, man, y'all wouldn't know nothin' about no L.L. Cool J or Beastie
Boys, you know what I mean? And this comin' from me. I'm looking at it,
man,
since I been 13 years old now I be watching these cats, man. I ain't no old
(censored), but I know (censored), ya heard me? You know what I'm saying?
So
stop all that frontin', man. Stop all your frontin', ya heard me?

Run-DMC: Yeah. We get the hint that I made...

(End of excerpt)

Mr. TUCKER: All is not nostalgia, however. The new Run-DMC disk, "Crown
Royal" tries to make these anti-gangster rappers sound up to date by
inviting
guest stars like Kid Rock, Fred Durst, from Limp Bizkit, and the white
hip-hopper Sugar Ray to join in. The results are very uneven, but
occasionally fun, as on the jaunty "Them Girls", which proves that Run-DMC
still has a knack for a clever rhyme, a playful chorus and a carnal
attraction
to the ladies.

(Excerpt of "Them Girls")

Run-DMC: Seen this girl on the block by the boon-ah, on the spot she was
down
for the boom-mark. Drop doc she was rockin' a Tupac, said: Yo, D, now me.
What you got? He says: ba boo bang, ba boo bang, ba boo bang.

Mr. FRED DURST (Limp Bizkit): Seen a girl so crystal clean. I mean, since
I've been on the scene I've dreamed of girls to tops, poofs on rooftops.
Now
this girl, who cruises to Tupac. Get this girl in my bathtub, and get my
back rubbed. My bathroom's like a nightclub. A few ladies in my tin to
find
the limb, a few ladies in the bin, to put some J-ello in. Any mighty fine
fellow men like myself to organize the panties on the shelves.

Run-DMC: Them girls, them girls, them girls I do adore. I like 'em sweet
and
fine. I get a wind to bind. All kinds, I love them all. Them girls, them
girls, them girls...

(End of excerpt)

Mr. TUCKER: The truth is, both Aerosmith and Run-DMC have pretty much
outlasted their usefulness in the pop marketplace. A younger, new hard-rock
band like Buckcherry makes Aerosmith sound winded and out of it, while a
rapper such as Nas, who guest-stars on Run-DMC's disk, is your go-to guy
when
you want precise wordplay and musical hooks these days.

In 1986, it was exhilarating and important to hear white rockers work with
mutual respect with black rappers. Today, the synthesis is complete. More
white rappers who combine heavy guitar with spoken lyrics than you can shake
an Eminem at. And Aerosmith and Run-DMC can do little more than add
respectable footnotes to their own small legends.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

43:07

Has Tucker Carlson created the most racist show in the history of cable news?

The NY Times did an exhaustive survey of the Fox News hosts' broadcasts. Reporter Nicholas Confessore says Carlson's show is based on ideas that were once "caged in a dark corner of American life."

08:23

You can't 'Trust' this novel. And that's a very good thing

Hernan Diaz’s new novel, Trust, is about the power of money in the stock market, and its potential, as a character says, "to bend and align reality" to its own purposes.

42:05

British 'Office' co-creator Stephen Merchant isn't afraid to fuse comedy with tragedy

Merchant co-created the British Office and Extras with Ricky Gervais. His new show, The Outlaws, is about people court-ordered to do community service for low-level crimes. He spoke with producer Sam Briger about what inspired the new series, his best writing advice, and how being very tall (6'7") has informed his personality.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue