Customer Reviews: I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This!: And Other Things That Strike Me as Funny
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VINE VOICEon September 30, 2006
Bob Newhart's book, I SHOULDN'T EVEN BE DOING THIS, is what one would expect from a man of his character: well-written, insightful, humorous, and kind to others. I feel very fortunate that he has been an acquaintance of mine for the past 13 years or so. I say "acquaintance" because we aren't close friends that remember each other at Christmas and on birthdays, but we do e-mail each other from time-to-time. Actually, now that I think about it, he has remembered to snail mail me when I've had an operation or two. However, I digress.

The book is well written, it is brief as compared to most tomes these days; however, it hits on the main points of his life. I have listened to the abridged audio version (I haven't found an unabridged version), and found it to be enjoyable; however, the book has so much more of his antedotes that I would recommend it first to a Newhart fan.

The beginning wasn't always easy and the book describes in detail his evolution from accountant to comedian, sharing comicial moments along the way, and his having the top two albums on the Billboard chart for one year. As Bob describes it, the following year he received a Grammy, a Peabody, and a pink slip (when his first TV show, a variety program, was cancelled). That setback did not deter him as it allowed him to place more emphasis on his stand-up comedy routines.

If you are younger than 45, you probably aren't familiar with his comedy routines, and his book will introduce you to several, notably "The USS Codfish," "Sir. Walter Raleigh," and his "Abe Lincoln PR" routines. If you are familiar with them, he gives you insight into their development. The routines are as fresh today as they were then. The routines are available on CD, and one might be tempted to buy just THE BOB NEWHART ANTHOLOGY, but let me warn you, not all of his routines are on that one, so peruse BEHIND THE BUTTON DOWN MIND, and the other CD's, too.

While Bob touches on "comedy," he tells you that this book is not an esoteric dissertation on what is comedy and how you write it; however, he offered enough insights to make the reader realize that successful comedy is a serious business.

Several highlights for me in his book were:

1. Him talking about his romance with his wife Virginia, Ginny. It gives the reader a true insight into as aspect of him that most don't know about.
2. How the closing scene of "Newhart" came about. I remember it being described by TV Guide's editors as the most famous TV finale, and critics and viewers consistently rank it alike as one of the Top 5 scenes from any TV show.
3. Bob's description of his lack of ability as a handyman around the house. I can also confirm that he is probably not a computer genius just from the manner in which we both evolved from the Prodigy computer network, and its relative friendly way of handling e-mail, to other Internet Service Providers (ISP). I remember it was a long six-weeks (or was it six-months?) before Bob made the transition from replying to my e-mails by just hitting reply to where he had to type-in my new ISP's address. An equally trepidatious moment for me was when Bob changed to a different ISP.
4. His friendship with Don Rickles, which to some may seem unusual, but it gave me new insight to that time he wrote, "sorry to be so long in replying. We went to China with the Rickles and I caught the flu." Now, I can picture Bob, with camcorder, on the Great Wall, head uncovered, taking the shots of everyone else.

I would recommend this book to any and everyone who has enjoyed Bob Newhart over the years. It is not a "tell-all" book, that is not the nature of this very nice man, who over the years has been so kind as to provide so many autographed pictures of himself to all of my relatives that many outsiders to our family think we are related to him. If only we were so lucky.

BTW, for accuracy, since I am a little ADHD, I asked Bob to glance over this review. His comment was..."Thanks for the review. As Fox would say, I found it "fair and balanced" especially the part of about being friends." I guess we're not just acquaintances.
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on January 28, 2008
Being a long-time Bob Newhart fan I could hardly wait to buy this book. As would be expected, Bob tosses out his genteel type of humor in his telling. It's hard to put down.
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on September 23, 2006
If you've ever seen Bob Newhart as a guest on a talk show, you know what a bright and thoughtful guy he is. Unlike many celebrities who go on The Tonight Show to talk about everyday things such as what it's like to be a new parent, their dogs, or how difficult it is to recover from an addiction to diet pills, Newhart realizes that what people want to hear is about all the famous people he's met and his huge fund of hilarious stories. He tells many of those stories here, but he barely mentions his dogs at all.

The book focuses on the interesting people he's met in show business, and includes stories about Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Don Rickles, George C. Scott, Steve McQueen man, and a host of others. He writes extensively about his early years struggling in Chicago and what he learned from comics like Jack Benny about the use of silence in comedy. I was very interested to read that he sees his comedy as subversive. Unlike more outrageous comedians like Lenny Bruce who presented himself as an outsider looking in to batter down society's ills, Newhart looks and acts just like the rest of us, except he's a lot funnier, and when he pokes fun, it's more effective because he's doing it from the inside. Also, Bob Newhart never became addicted to heroin. Newhart's quietly skewed view of life is what makes him a timeless comedian.

While he presents many of his classic monologues verbatim in the book, it might be worthwhile to also purchase his "Something Like This" CD, because much of the humor is in the delivery. I laughed out loud several times while reading this. For the record, I thought the funniest story in the book involved comedian Dick Martin. (See p. 82)

In the 1960's Frank Sinatra used to say that he wished someone would learn to sing as he did so that he could retire; the same holds true for Bob Newhart, one of the great comedians who also seems like a really nice guy.
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on May 25, 2008
While I don't read show biz biographies--heaven knows theres too many of them and those subjects are already over-idolized--I saw this one. Newhart has always been my favorite "clean" comic. That doesn't mean I don't like, say, Lenny Bruce. But, say, Eddie Murphy and George Carlin overdo the "let's be audacious" thing. Newhart doesn't need to do that.

What's more, I've always wanted to learn a little about what makes a comedian's mind tick. (Though Newhart explains in one chapter that if he sees another book on the science of comedy, he's going to "throw up.")

Actually, Newhart is quite eloquent. His vocabulary impressed me. There is, of course, name dropping, but it doesn't come across that way. He has a chapter, for example, on golf, those with whom he'd golf and witty anecdotes about other golfers, like Dean Martin--and an interesting story about Clark Gabel and Robert Wagner.

Interspersed with the biography are many of his bits. But he adds to them. Like I've always liked his "airline and stormdoor company" bit. He adds a little about the real flight, on a C47 with seats bolted down--when the aircraft did cargo flights the seats were taken out.

He does talk about both of his television shows. While I'm not a TV watcher and don't think I ever saw either of them all the way through, he even explains a little about how each show came about--and how his wife offered the plot of the finale of all of them.

Oh, and the one I "read" was an abridged, CD version. I couldn't imagine reading this, but Newhart read it with his usual, stammering version, part of his bit. (Indeed, he distinguishes at the beginning of the book between stammering, which he does, and stuttering.

Overall, it's a lot of fun. And you might even learn a little, about his background, about what makes things funny--and about the political correctness that pervades a bit too much of our society. (Yes, I even admit that!) As Newhart says, we need to laugh at ourselves too!
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VINE VOICEon September 4, 2006
Bob Newhart's I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This (accent on the This; as Newhart explains in his introduction, the title comes from the punch line of a joke) is not, the author admits, a traditional memoir:

"A memoir is a weighty tome. Former presidents and the Marquis de Sade write memoirs; Bob Newhart doesn't write a memoir."

Instead Newhart offers a collection of stories from his personal and professional lives, arranged thematically across 14 chapters. Newhart tells the story of his life in more-or-less chronological order: his childhood in Chicago (the setting, later, of his eponymous sitcom), his pre-comedy careers (including accounting and military service), the radio skits that culminated in his bestselling Button-Down Mind albums, movies and television. Along the way he also writes about other comedians, about golf and hecklers, family and famous friends. Some of these stories translate well to the page. I can picture very well, for example, this small scene at Don Rickles's house:

"If Don can avoid doing something, he will. We were sitting around his den one day when he turned to a comedian named Bobby Ramson. 'Bobby,' Don said, 'You're good at that. Would you open the window?'"

And this line from Tony Randall is perfect, the scene likewise perfectly easy to imagine, the necessary background being that Newhart's new father-in-law was actor Bill Quinn:

"On January 12, 1963, we made it to the altar. As we took our places, before the procession began, Tony Randall took one look at Ginnie's Dad and quipped, 'Look who they got to play the father.'"

Newhart writes a lot about his early routines--"The Driving Instructor" and "Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue," for example. He explains where the ideas for the routines came from, and he transcribes a number of them in the book. One can read the routines with Newhart's stammering delivery in mind, but I found myself wishing that the book came with a CD, that I could hear the humor rather than try to imagine it. I'm not an aficionado of audio books, as I prefer reading to listening, but in this case, because delivery is such an important part of Newhart's storytelling, you might want to spring for the unabridged CD, read by the author.

Newhart suggests in his introduction, perhaps in jest, that writing I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This was not a cathartic experience for him. This isn't surprising. The book is not a soul-searching reflection on his life, just a collection of anecdotes, some funny, some not as much, delivered conversationally. A quick read. You'll come away from the book thinking that Bob Newhart's a nice guy (but you thought that anyway, right?), with a nostalgic longing for his classic TV show and some curiosity about his early comedy albums. Which is another reason you might want to spring for the CD.

Debra Hamel -- author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece (Yale University Press, 2003)
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VINE VOICEon December 19, 2007
I am a huge fan of Newhart and remember receiving his first album when I was 8 or 9 (it was one of my first albums ever). I have followed his career through his television shows and movies, and have seen some of his standup routines on tape or DVD. That said I found the book lacking for 2 reasons.

The book, which is arranged by topics and not chronologically, covers his career from before he became a comedian, through the lean days, and into his later life. A few of his comedy routines are published in the book, however, because of the format, they keep getting repeated. If you are young or new to Newhart, you would think he milked about a half dozen routines instead of the hundreds, if not thousands, he has done over the years. And, the routines printed are his most famous, which many people already know, either through him or through hearing of him over the years.

The book also does not convey Newhart well. His comedy was funny, in no small part because of his delivery, and reading the material just doesn't have the same feel. If you really want this, I would suggest getting the audio version with Newhart reading, as that will give a true feel for the man's comedic genius.

I enjoyed the book, and hate to give it only three starts as I feel I am bashing an icon, but it just wasn't up to snuff. More comedic routines would have made it much better. If you are a true fan, you will probably want it just to have it...if you're younger and want to learn about Newhart, get the audio version.
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on October 8, 2006
Reading Bob Newhart's book is somewhat what it must be like to have a conversation with the man himself. The book is funny, gives plenty of insight into Bob's early years, has great stories from the past and famous, includes bits from some of his classic comedy routines, at times is laugh out loud funny, and kept me smiling on every page.

I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This is definately not your typical biography or comedy book. Bob keeps things flowing by swerving too and fro with every paragraph. If you're looking for deep insight into Newhart's past or a day-by-day recording of his life and TV series then this is not the book for you. However, if you want to sit down and smile and read a good book about a funny guy, then your time could not be better spent.
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on December 30, 2007
This was a very fun book to listen to. I got the audio download and listened on my iPod. Very funny with Bob reading the book. I saw other reviews saying that they thought it was okay. I do think having it read by Bob Newhart took it from being good or okay to a lot of fun.
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on October 16, 2006
Seeing on Amazon that there is an audio CD of this book makes me wish I had listened to that instead. If only to hear the amazingly funny stories that Bob tells so well. This book is like a breath of fresh air for all those who enjoy Bob Newhart's subtle and yet hysterical brand of comedy. Reading this book makes me wish his fantastic TV shows were still on in syndication somewhere. He tells his life story with the same dry wit that he tells all of his jokes. This book is a must for anyone who is a Newhart fan.
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on January 1, 2008
Bob Newhart is one of the funniest people alive. We have been laughing at his droll humor and perfect timing for forty years. His hilarious sketches are delivered with a superb talent and an almost inexplicable gift. His humor is honest and is not delivered at the expense of anyone. This book conveys a real sense of the stage performance that we all love.

This is a very funny book.

Read this book for a warm hearted laugh.
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