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Archive for March 31st, 2013

Today’s book review is for “I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!“, written by Bob Newhart (2006©).  The book is his autobiography.  Mr. Newhart is a famous comedian/entertainer who’s been doing stand-up comedy/storytelling for over half a century.
 

Newhart is somewhat famous for never doing any “offensive” language or stories in his humor.  He has a droll, dead-pan humor which is based almost entirely on timing and your (the listening audience’s) imagination.  Most of his best skits are one sided conversations – usually over a radio or telephone – where he says something and then waits some length of time before responding to the person at the other end.  Because you never hear anyone at the other end, Newhart’s next line is the one leading your imagination.  Essentially, he is telling you what you “reasonably” just thought, and you agree, and laugh.  This sets you up for the next response… and so on.
 

The problem is the book is not really funny.  I am a Newhart fan and I enjoyed the book, not because the book is funny, but because I remember hearing the skits / stories as I was growing up.  In a bizarre way, he has written a book which mimics his comedic style.
 

There is another (minor) problem with the book.  It is incredible how much name dropping is done throughout the book.  It’s almost as if Newhart is trying to describe his life by who he hung out with instead of what he actually thought or felt.  To me, this is minor, because he has nothing bad to say about anyone and, as the reader, you are left with the impression that stand-up comedy is a very small clique and everyone really does know everyone else (and you hang out with each other).  Or at least it was back then.
 

If you are not a Newhart fan, or if you are looking for insight into his life (juicy gossip) or what it’s like to be big star, or you want to better understand comedy in general, or his style in specific – forget it.  You won’t find much (anything) here.  In fact, I’d recommend that even if you are a fan, you should go to YouTube or wherever you look at videos and watch / listen to some of his old acts.  You almost have to appreciate the art form, before you will be able to appreciate the autobiography.
 

Incidentally, I noticed that the videos of Newhart are a lot funnier than even the pure audios.  Newhart’s facial dead-pan expressions are really what make him a genius.  It’s still funny hearing his voice, but it’s not AS funny.  Just as reading the skit portions in the book are still funny, but not AS funny as seeing him perform them.  Truly a comedian made for TV and live performances.
 

Would I recommend this book?  Tough call.  If you are a fan; someone who grew up watching the two TV series; or you’ve spent a lot of time watching old reruns of Newhart’s TV-series, yes.  Definitely!  Again, not because the book is insightful or funny, but because it will probably remind you of when you first heard these jokes.  The insight is about you and your memories not Newhart’s.
 

For an explanation of today’s post title, see my prior post: “Certainty“.
 

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For God’s sake give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself!
 

—  Robert Louis Stevenson
From “Crabbed Age And Youth”
 

 
 

 

 

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