Before Bob Newhart became a TV legend, he was the first comedian to hit number one on the record album charts, topping Frank Sinatra and Elvis. In his new book, "I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This!," Newhart remembers his toughest gig and the joke that made his name.
Bob Newhart: I did the "Abe Lincoln" routine, as a matter of fact, in the East Room of the White House.
Newhart, from "Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart": Abe, why do you change the speeches all the time? All right, what are the changes? You typed it? Abe, how many times have told you, on the backs of envelopes!"
Newhart: My wife and I came down, and there was Nancy and President Reagan. And we stood there for, it had to be, 20 minutes. And he'd tell me a joke, and that would remind me of a joke, and that would remind him of a joke.
Well, I never met JFK, even though I campaigned for him in 1960 because I'm Catholic and, of course, JFK was Catholic. And in church, they never actually came out and said it, but everybody knew that if you didn't campaign for him, you were going to hell.
The week that he, that he was shot in Dallas … the next day you had Ruby and it was just one terrible event after another. … Dinah Shore and I were doing a concert. … The promoter called me up … and said, "Could you do a show tonight?" … And I said, "Well, if Dinah's willing to do a show, I'll do a show." … And it was one of the best audiences I ever played to, because they had to get away from this horrible news that they were being bombarded with every day. And I learned something about comedy, that one of the functions of comedy is to help people get past a difficult time and move on with their life.