Bob Newhart is an acting and comedy legend. His career took off in the 60s with his successful comedy albums. His stand-up routines and acting talent made him a household name. In the 70s, Newhart played Dr. Bob Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show. In the 80s, he played innkeeper Dick Loudon on the show Newhart.
After a decades-long career which saw Newhart reaching legend status, he began a guest role on The Big Bang Theory. Newhart played Professor Proton, a fictional children’s show character whom Sheldon and Leonard watched growing up. Newhart’s role won him an Emmy in 2013.
However, it was a two-minute standing ovation from the live studio audience that made a big impression on Newhart. Jim Parsons would later recount this moment and said it was very emotional for everyone who was there.
Jim Parsons And Bob Newhart First Met At The Emmy Awards
In 2014, Parsons and Newhart spoke with Variety about their careers, The Big Bang Theory, and what it was like to work together.
When asked when the two first met, Parsons said it was at the table read. However, Newhart corrected him.
“Actually, we met at the Emmy Awards before that,” Newhart said.
Parsons was shocked that he didn’t remember the encounter. He asked Newhart if the two spoke to each other at the event.
“I went up to you and said I enjoy your work,” Newhart said. “I don’t know if you knew who I was.”
“I do find many of those events are overwhelming, there’s a lot of information coming at you,” Parsons said. “I remember you coming to the table read and we’ve had so many good actors on but nobody before Bob that gave me the feeling of: ‘My God, you’re really here.’ Which sounds ridiculous. But I have watched Bob through my whole life. But then it was really, really easy to work together. That’s something else I’ve found with people I admire, they are very easy to work with. Which is probably why they’re very successful.”
Newhart responded, “I understand that feeling. I was on a plane and Cary Grant was there. My wife had to step away and Cary Grant said, ‘Don’t worry, Bob and I will watch your luggage.’ And I kept going, ‘Cary Grant just called me Bob! Oh my God!’ I think I had met him before.”
Bob Newhart’s Castmates Shared Their Memories Of Working With Him
In 2022, Newhart’s various cast mates shared their memories of working with the legend when speaking to Parade. David Foley talked about what it was like to have Newhart play his father on Hot In Cleveland.
“My favorite memory is that first moment where Bob’s character—Bob played my dad—shows up,” Foley began. “There’s a knock at the door, and I open the door, and it’s Bob outside the door. And it was one of those things where he immediately launched into a Bob Newhart pause. And I was just standing there in front of the audience going, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m in the middle of a Bob Newhart pause.’ I had been stealing his pauses my entire career. It was amazing to watch one happening up close!”
Julia Duffy explained how her admiration for the actor presented challenges for her when working with him on Newhart.
“I remember early on when I had a phone call scene, Stephanie [her character] was talking to her father on the phone about her situation working as a maid,” Duffy began.
“It was a very funny and, of course, one-sided dialogue. I was rehearsing the scene on the set, and Bob was walking across the stage with his coffee and stopped and watched. I suddenly realized what I was doing: attempting a comedic phone call bit in front of the master [of comedic, one-sided phone conversations. I stopped and said, ‘Don’t watch. I can’t do a phone call with you watching.’ He grinned and said, ‘Not as easy as it looks, is it?’ Believe me, it is not. I think he really enjoyed watching someone else find out how tricky the timing is.”
Bob Gets Choked Up After Receiving A Standing Ovation From ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Audience
When speaking to Parade, Parsons recalled the emotional moment the live audience gave Newhart a standing ovation.
“The night we taped the first scene he ever did with us, he appeared in the hallway and the show stopped—just completely stopped—from the standing ovation the live audience gave him,” Parsons said.
“He cried. I think we all cried. It was profound, and I realized how much I’d been stuffing down my knowledge of how profound it was to work with Bob all week at rehearsal, because who the hell can do good work while saying, ‘I can’t f****** believe I’m working with Bob Newhart!’ in your head the whole time? No one. But the dam broke in that moment.”
“He had a two-minute standing ovation from the live audience,” Johnny Galecki told Variety. “Then the DJ starting playing the theme song from his old show and he started crying. I was standing next to him, so I started crying. It was very touching.”
Kunal Nayyar said that since he isn’t from America and didn’t grow up with Newhart, he didn’t understand the audience’s reaction at first.
“When he came on stage and everyone gave him a standing ovation at the table read, I didn’t understand that moment,” Nayyar said. “It didn’t hit home to me until I realized that it was like if I was in Bollywood and a childhood favorite actor of mine came to The Big Bang Theory — I would be standing up clapping, too.”
“He’s an icon, a person that you have in your mind or in your heart and they just don’t seem real,” Parsons said. “His timing, delivery, demeanor — and he brought the most positive energy and optimistic outlook to have around the set.”