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REM goes to Atlantic City to see Bob Newhart

By Dan St. Yves

Bob Newhart performs in Atlantic City.

Bob Newhart performs in Atlantic City.

Back in March 2008 I wrote a column for this space entitled Bob Newhart, On Floor Duty. It was a tongue-in-cheek piece speculating what the legendary humorist may have been like, had he pursued a career in real estate. I was quite pleased to receive positive reviews for my attempt to emulate his unmistakable brand of humour.

I remember listening to Mr. Newhart on the radio, back when the only things worth listening to were Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts and the odd track from one of his iconic Button Down Mind albums. His routine about the captain of the U.S.S. Codfish trying to instill confidence and order among the crew remains funny, over 40 years later. I loved his two hit TV series, and innumerable guest spots on everything from Dean Martin’s variety show to Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Yes, I know – I’m old.

In 2009, I decided to take advantage of a chance to see Mr. Newhart live. Not to be morbid, but the man is 80-years-old – my opportunities to see him in concert likely wouldn’t be expanding with the continued passage of time.

He had been scheduled to appear in Toronto in December, but I thought that I’d get a jump on that show and catch his one-night-only November appearance a bit further south, in sunny (and warmer) Atlantic City. Plus, as I said earlier, the man is 80-years-old.

I had hoped to arrange an interview while I was there for future columns and the audio feature I’ve recently launched, but Mr. Newhart’s availability was limited. He was flying in that same day to a major city nearby, driving to Atlantic City straight from the airport, and after the show he’d be reversing that very course back to the airport, and then home. I had to settle with attending the show.

What a show it turned out to be! Performing his trademark observational humour, interspersed with snippets of some classic bits (the hazards of being a one-eyed bullfighter, vowing to fly only “happy” airlines), Newhart lampooned televangelists, football fans and even modern wedding songs. Best of all, he performed an updated version of his classic driving instructor routine – entirely hilarious to see live.

I suppose, just like the completion of his concert, this is where the story should end. But my wife convinced me to stick around and see if we could meet him after the show. Unbeknownst to us, a local radio station had arranged just that – a “meet and greet” after the performance. When the doors opened to allow the crowd in, we attempted to nonchalantly edge our way in, along with the rest of the guests. We were stopped by a burly gentleman looking for our non-existent pass. Given the element of surprise, I suppose I could have overcome the bodyguard, but deciding I might like to keep both my arms fracture-free, I decided just to hang out and hope Mr. Newhart would eventually leave the concert hall, passing us along the way.

Which, I’m happy to say – he did! We managed to chat a bit, have him sign a copy of his 2006 autobiography, AND – here’s where REM comes in – I was able to give him a copy of that column I had written. He was warm and genuine in his thanks, and said he’d read it on the flight back home. We even snapped a quick photo together – next time (should there be one), I may even remember to turn on the camera’s flash. 

My column, to Newhart’s hands – proving the theory that a little REM often does go a long way.

 Humour columnist and author Dan St. Yves was licensed with Royal LePage Kelowna for 11 years. Check out his website at www.nonsenseandstuff.com, or contact him at [email protected].

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