If you go
What: Legendary comedian Bob Newhart in concert
When: 7:30 p.m. May 15
Where: American Music Theatre, 2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster
Tickets: All seats $78
Purchase: By phone at (800) 648-4102 or (717) 397-7700. Online at www.AMTshows.com
Bob Newhart has built a comedy career around talking on the phone.
His classic '70s sitcom, "The Bob Newhart Show," even included an opening sequence that ended with Newhart, playing Chicago psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley, arriving at his office and answering a call.
There's nobody better than Newhart at reacting with composure, and a slight sense of bemusement, to the craziness on the other end of the line. Whether playing a Chicago shrink, or a Vermont innkeeper on the '80s show "Newhart," he's a beacon of sanity in an off-center world.
Newhart will be bringing his classic comedy and show biz stories — his pals include fellow comics Don Rickles and Tim Conway — to Lancaster, when he performs at the American Music Theatre on May 15.
With two hit comedy series, the first-ever comedy album to reach No. 1 and a Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to his credit, Newhart could rest on his comedy laurels.
But at 85, he still loves getting up in front of an audience.
"I never really wanted to get away from it," said Newhart, who also played the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg in 2011. "If you stop doing it, you lose your edge."
Newhart's edge is razor-sharp after more than 50 years in comedy. But he came to show biz from an unlikely background — accounting.
The two have more in common than you might think, according to Newhart.
"There's some connection between numbers and music and comedy," he said. "I don't know what it is. Comedians have a 'rule of three.' If you're going to tell a joke, it has to have three people — like an Irishman, a Scotsman and a German."
The one-time accountant rocketed to fame in 1960 with the release of his comedy album, "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart." The first of Newhart's eight comedy albums, it led to appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Late night viewers will also remember Newhart from "The Tonight Show," where he was a frequent guest and fill-in for Johnny Carson.
These days, younger audiences know Newhart and his deadpan persona from his role as Papa Elf in the 2003 movie "Elf" and his guest appearances in 2013 on TV's "The Big Bang Theory," for which he won an Emmy.
After more than half a century in comedy, Newhart's style hasn't changed. But he noticed from his "Big Bang" appearances that younger actors have a different rhythm.
For his castmates on the show, the timing was "Bang, bang, bang," Newhart said, letting the words rattle forth like machine gun fire.
By contrast, Newhart's own timing was more like "Bang...Bang...Bang," he said, pausing between the words.
It's a pace Newhart's comfortable with.
"This stammer got me a house in Beverly Hills," he joked. "And I'm not going to change it."
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