On Robin Williams’ tragic suicide, Newhart tells TheWrap, “It’s amazing how much he made people laugh on the outside when there was so much pain on the inside”
Last year, Bob Newhart won an Emmy Award — shockingly, his first — for guest-starring on CBS’ hugely popular comedy, “The Big Bang Theory.” This season he returned to the show, earning another Emmy nomination — his eighth.
On Tuesday, TheWrap chatted with the man who gave us “The Bob Newhart Show,” and later, “Newhart.” (He also had a shorter-lived series called “Bob,” officially using all potential facets of his name to title sitcoms.)
We spoke with the 84-year-old television legend about his nomination, his thoughts on late night, and when exactly the “Golden Age” of television was. On a far more somber note, Newhart also discussed Robin Williams‘ death by apparent suicide. “It’s amazing how much he made people laugh on the outside when there was so much pain on the inside,” Newhart said.
Here are six questions and answers with the living comedic legend:
TheWrap: What is the hardest part of coming on to a huge, established comedy like “The Big Bang Theory?”
Newhart: There’s a little trepidation because you’re used to, you know, I had my own set, basically except for “George & Leo” [1997 TV series]. And it’s funny walking on to somebody else’s set. I mean, you get that very often when you do a movie and you have a part, but it’s really somebody else’s movie.
There was some apprehension, but that was immediately dispelled by the cast. They were just so … They couldn’t have been nicer. They just went out of their way and the writing staff and the crew … whatever apprehension I had was gone within the first two minutes.”
What’s the most fun part of coming into a big show like that as a guest?
I haven’t done that many. I’m trying to think of the other — I’ve been pretty limited as far as which shows I did. I mean, I did other shows, but they were dramatic shows, like “NCIS,” “ER,” I know I’m forgetting one of them … “The Librarian.” I was kind of involved in that. So, every situation is different.
I mean, especially “ER,” it had been on 11 years or something. Everybody knew where [the cameras were] — the setups were much quicker. Usually, you finish a scene and then you have a half an hour or 45 minutes to go to your dressing room and look at your lines or whatever, but on “ER,” it was like, “OK, we’re ready.” They had a shot of every corner of that ER.
But again, everybody was just so nice and accommodating at [“Big Bang “]. “What can we do for you?” They made you feel right at home.
You’ve been in television for decades. Is this the Golden Age of television? Is there a time in the past that was the Golden Age of television?
Well, there was a Golden Age, I guess, except we weren’t aware of it, you know? It was that Saturday night lineup of “All in the Family,” and “M*A*S*H,” and Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett.
Yeah, that was pretty … but we were so busy and we were a new show. Mary had been on for a year or two. So, our focus was on making the show work and not … we weren’t going around saying, “How are you enjoying the Golden Age of television?” Looking back, it was the Golden Age.
Let’s say you’re an Emmy voter. You can’t vote for yourself or anyone on “The Big Bang Theory.” What have you seen that would get your vote this year?
Oh, “Modern Family.”
I’m not much of a TV watcher. It’s funny, but there is one thing — when they do the comedy shows, three camera shows with no audience or with a laugh track — I go to some other channel because that just isn’t a way we ever did the show. Every show was done in front of a live audience, so there was no question about it, you just did it. And I think it made the shows better. It was just an adrenaline rush, having an audience, like opening night every week on Broadway, but you had to learn a new play and you wonder if it’s going to work and you wonder if the audience is going to react to it.
So you don’t watch much TV — what entertains you? Is it film, books, music?
Well, right now, I would say books. You know, a lot of times I’ll just turn the sound down [on the TV] and won’t be paying attention, and then all of a sudden it’s 11:30. So, usually I go over to “Letterman” and I go through “Letterman” and “Jimmy Fallon” and “Jimmy Kimmel,” and see what they’re talking about. If they don’t have anybody that I know, which happens more and more, I go over to “Charlie Rose.” So, that’s kind of my day.
Since you mentioned Letterman, with his retiring and Leno leaving again, what do you see in the Late Night landscape? What is it like to you now?
I get the impression that it’s driven by other factors than we were driven by. Twitter — there’s a huge emphasis on it when you do “Jimmy Fallon” and “Jimmy Kimmel,” and they want a Twitter moment. I think David is going to be missed because he’s so original. He’s got a certain way of looking at life that’s going to be gone.