Bob Newhart has been a comedic pioneer for more than 50 years, dating back to when he first stepped on stage as a young stand-up comedian, and now the 85-year-old credits The Big Bang Theory for helping to bridge his work to a new generation.
Newhart, who is still active in touring his stand-up act, has recently gained acclaim for his role as Professor Proton on the CBS sitcom. The show also helped Newhart snag his first Emmy Award, something he was never able to do on acclaimed sitcoms like Newhart and The Bob Newhart Show.
In interview with the Great Falls Tribune ahead of a stand-up appearance, Bob Newhart said the comedy landscape has changed drastically from when he first started. Adult subject matter, which is addressed often and openly in The Big Bang Theory, was once almost taboo, Newhart said.
“When I first came in… there were just certain areas that you couldn’t go into and everybody knew you couldn’t go into them,” Newhart said, noting that stores would keep albums from racier comedians like Redd Foxx in brown wrappers. “People would go in and it was like ordering a drug. When someone wanted a Redd Foxx album, they’d look both ways to make sure no one was watching.”
Bob Newhart, despite a reputation for having “clean” shows, was something of a pioneer himself. In 1975 The Bob Newhart Show had a gay character, something he said was unusual at the time.
Newhart added that his more recent work — including The Big Bang Theory — has introduced him to an audience too young to know Newhart or The Bob Newhart Show.
“That’s fine. That’s great. You always want to appeal to as many people as you can,” he said.
Bob Newhart could have a future on The Big Bang Theory as well, despite the show’s decision to kill off Professor Proton. Showrunner Steve Molaro said the show has left a door open for Newhart to live on in the dreams of Sheldon Cooper, where he has already showed up portraying a Jedi Knight.
[Image via The Hollywood Reporter]