For Rob Newhart who turns 90, Laughter is as vital as breathing

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – sat down with legendary comedian, Rob Newhart, and right before the interview started off, congratulated him on turning 90. A massive, massive achievement. Bob replied, in what might have been a critique, but, hey, we wouldn’t know because c’ mon it’s Bob!

“I’m not crazy about the term ‘turning”, he says with a chuckle. ” Sounds like the leaves are going to fall off. I’m becoming 90″.

In those few words, we saw how after all these years, the man, who is regarded by many as the king of the Comedy special, hasn’t lost touch of his humorous side.Bob Newhart’s reputation as a generational performer was well and truly established with his 1960 album titled “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” which sold well over a million copies.The veteran, who was formerly an accountant, has also been a recipient of five Grammy Award nominations, winning three in the process.

His TV show, “The Bob Newhart Show”, also won an Emmy award.Bob made a return to stand-up comedy this year, an indication that there are few things that separate man from the mic.An iconic duo that we will forever be thankful to have witnessed in our generation.

At 90, the Illinois born comedian is still very much in demand and there have been requests for him to celebrate his 90th birthday on the stage. Bob, however, would rather spend it with his wife, Ginnie, and their children.

In this interview with the Associated Press, the man who brought life to comedy special through his absolutely expressionless delivery and the epileptic manner in which he spoke, says the secret to his longevity is laughter and we, mortals, can hardly argue.

AP: When someone reaches an impressive milestone birthday, there’s an obligation to share tips with the rest of us hoping to get there.

Newhart: I’ve said it before, but of all the weird things, comedians’ marriages seem to last the longest: George Burns and Jack Benny and Buddy Hackett and (Bob) Hope. I think there’s something between longevity and laughter. You’ll be having a fight, and you’ll say something stupid and then start to laugh, and then she’ll start to laugh, and then the fight’s over. I think laughter is vital. It’s as vital as breathing. It gets you through difficult areas. Laughter is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. It’s like music, of a kind.

AP: Is that part of what’s kept you working for so long?

Newhart: I’m amazed at the longevity. The album had just come out, and I was just learning how to do standup and I was the opening act for Peggy Lee at the Harrah’s Club in Lake Tahoe. I had 15 minutes of material and I did it, and the stage manager said, “Go back out. They’re applauding.” I said that’s all I had, and he said, “They’re applauding.” So I went back out and asked, “Which one do you want to hear again?” and they yelled out what they wanted. That’s how raw I was. I had a hit record and I was just starting out. I had to learn my craft backward.

AP: You started out as an accountant. Is it hard to imagine that might have been your life?

Newhart: I played a club before the album came out, and they (the audience) had no idea who I was and I died, every night. Not a snicker. You could hear the air conditioning. I would have welcomed a cough, just some sound coming from the audience. Every comedian in the world has gone through that. We did two shows a night, seven days a week, and that’s about the time that accounting started to look really good to me. Then I played at another club, in Winnipeg (Canada), and it went well. And I thought, maybe I’ll stick around for a while.

AP: Do you have an all-time favorite bit, maybe Lincoln?

Newhart: That was Jack Benny’s favorite. I always felt Abe was the best piece of writing I ever did. It’s probably truer today than it was in 1960 when I recorded it. You see the machinations going on now. I read a book back then, Vance Packard’s “The Hidden Persuaders,” about subliminal advertising and packaging a product, including presidents. That’s what we’re all watching right now, the packaging. It’s the same way they package soap.

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