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Humour - Released May 20, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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Humour - Released November 20, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

With his first television show officially under his belt, Bob Newhart was free to return to his first love, accounting. Thankfully, he chose to go back to his standup comedy career instead, and this is his first post-television release. That foray into TV provided him with some more raw material for his bit, including an amateur show and an extended look at commercials (and how he'd rewrite them if given the chance). The most manic bit here is "Nudist Camp Expose," which envisions reporters in a nudist camp and what happens when they try to get back home. One really nice break from his usual shtick is when he tells the story of the birth of his first child and the trip to the hospital -- it's a touching look at the man himself, something you don't often get to see much of on his standup albums. It's not quite a return to the form of his first couple of albums, though; while the material is good, there's a slightly uncomfortable feel to some of it, especially on "The Man Who Looked Like Hitler." ~ Sean Carruthers
$6.49

Humour - Released November 20, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

$7.99

Humour - Released November 20, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Though not the first standup comedian to release a live recording, Bob Newhart was probably the first to really capture the public's attention, thanks to his debut, 1960's THE BUTTON-DOWN MIND OF BOB NEWHART. Of the six pieces included on this album, five of them are set up as part of a conversation (usually by phone), something that became Newhart's trademark. The material here would have been novel in any age, and very little of it has dated substantially ("The Kruschev Landing Rehearsal" being the main exception, though it would still be funny even if you had no clue what the sketch was referring to). Though "Abe Lincoln Vs. Madison Avenue" and "Merchandising the Wright Brothers" are both top-shelf Newhart bits, "Driving Instructor" rises to the top of the heap. Even if you could complain that Bob Newhart was starting to get a bit stingy with the amount of material on his albums by the mid-'60s, at least the quality level was remaining pretty high as evidenced by 1965's THE WINDMILLS ARE WEAKENING. "King Kong" imagines a security guard's first day on the job, trying to deal with a gigantic ape climbing his building, while another cut finds Clark Kent arguing with a dry cleaner who's managed to lose his Superman suit. In the past, Newhart has always been at his best when psychoanalyzing historical figures, and that's the case here, with a fairly lengthy cut featuring a psychiatrist trying to work out just what was wrong with Ben Franklin that would cause him to fly kites in thunderstorms.
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Humour - Released November 20, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Is This It? was Bob Newhart's last album of standup before he finally made his full-time switch to TV and the movies, having already dabbled in both. While the material is quite good, there's not much of it this time out: only 11 minutes on one side and 14 on the other. The bits here step into Newhart's usual "what if?" mode, putting a witch doctor into the position of a modern doctor, and taking a look into the mischievous thoughts of twins who are still in the womb. The last track, "Pussy Cat" is possibly the most traditional Newhart cut on record, with the whole setup building up like your typical joke, and then culminating in a punch line. Maybe that's as good a sign as any that he'd run his course as an innovative standup comedian and was ready for other vistas. ~ Sean Carruthers
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Humour - Released April 17, 1998 | Warner Bros.

With his debut comedy album riding high on the album charts, Bob Newhart was quick to follow up with The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, which was released later the same year. For the most part, it follows the patented Newhart style, being one half of a conversation or someone addressing a crowd. On this second collection, there is only one historical speculation, with Newhart wondering what a griper in George Washington's army might have complained about. Otherwise, it deals with more up-to-the-minute concerns, such as budget airlines, just how they train bus drivers, talking people off of ledges, retirement, and the monkey's role in the creation of great literature. The majority of this album is still reasonably fresh decades later and, even if the material isn't quite up to the standards set by the first album, it's still brilliant by any other measure. ~ Sean Carruthers
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Humour - Released November 20, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Bros.