Bob Newhart deserves a lifetime achievement award—just for being alive. The 90-year-old comedian known for his hound dog eyes and deadpan style stole the show with a surprise appearance at the 71st Emmy Awards as he played dead—sort of—during a bit with Ben Stiller.
Before Stiller presented the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, he paid tribute to television’s comedy greats. Alongside life-sized wax figures of TV pioneers George Burns and Lucille Ball, Stiller recalled the wholesome classic comedies of the 1950s before segueing to the 1970s and asking what the “late” star of The Bob Newhart Show would think of the themes on today’s comedy series.
But Newhart, who is alive and well after turning 90 on September 5, broke his frozen pedestal pose and informed the Meet the Parents star that he’s still alive. As Stiller tried to downplay his “mistake,” Newhart was relentless.
“You put me with George and Lucy and it’s weird. Like I was in some weird museum of comedy.”
Stiller explained that his tribute was more about “legends of comedy” and not dead people.
“Alive, dead … all different types of legends!” the actor explained.
But Newhart had a message for his younger peer as he promised to show him that he is indeed not a dead man.
“This legend is going to kick your a**. That way you’ll know I’m alive,” Newhart threatened in the bit, which you can see below.
The hilarious dead gag was a highlight of the hostless Emmy Awards, and fans were there for it.
Bob Newhart was the funniest thing I saw on the #Emmys last night.
— Jay Lawrence ????️ (@JayLaw1) September 23, 2019
— Beth Phillips (@bethdphillips) September 23, 2019
— Derek Davis Photojournalist (@DerekDavisFilms) September 23, 2019
Newhart started his TV career in the early 1960s as a comedian on The Ed Sullivan Show, per IMDB. A decade later, he headlined The Bob Newhart Show, playing Chicago psychologist Dr. Robert Hartley from 1972 to 1978.
But TV wasn’t done with Newhart yet. In 1982, he starred as Vermont innkeeper Dick Louden on Newhart, which aired on CBS until 1990. In the 1990s he also had two short-lived sitcoms, Bob and George and Leo. Newhart’s most recent TV role was last year in The Big Bang Theory, where he won his first-ever Primetime Emmy for a recurring role as Professor Proton.
The television legend previously told Penn Live that comedy has changed a lot since he first started out in the business.
“I think the attention span has changed,” Newhart said. “I attribute it to MTV, the quick cut, do a joke, do another joke, bang, get out.”
As for a potential return to a full-time TV role, Newhart didn’t say no, but he did downplay the chances at his age.
“That’s not exactly my decision,” Newhart said. “But getting back into a regular TV series now — that’s for young folks.”