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Bob Newhart

For over 40 years, Bob Newhart has been a comic presence in American culture. He first appeared via his stand-up act and hugely successful comedy records (in 1960, The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart gave the struggling Warner Bros. label its first big hit). The Bob Newhart Show brought him into even more homes in the ’70s. He ended the show when it was still riding high critically and commercially, returning in the ’80s with the equally successful Newhart. His bid to return in the early ’90s, Bob, failed, but not for any lack of concept or quality.

Now 71, Newhart—who will perform at Proctor’s on Tuesday—spoke recently by phone about his career and his continued love of performing. “I never left it,” he says. “All the years that I was doing the sitcoms, in the summer I’d go to Vegas or other cities. It isn’t something I’m coming back to, it’s something I’ve always done.”

All of Newhart’s work, both for TV and stand-up, is informed by a consistent voice that is equally funny and honorable. “I guess it reflects the way I feel,” he says, “that people are basically nice and decent, and not hurtful.” All of his shows’ main characters, no matter how socially inept or driven by foibles, fit that template.

The workplace has been central to Newhart’s material since the beginning. His most famous routines involve people encountering ridiculous situations in their jobs, and his TV shows balanced home and work. “When I decided to come back to television [in the ’80s], I tried to understand what made for the success of The Bob Newhart Show,” he explains. “One of the things was that you had a home environment and a work environment. You know, Jerry and Marcia were at the office and Bill and Susie were at home. I happened to be appearing in Seattle, and I went into the dining room of the hotel we were staying at and was struck by the similarity between the hotel and the show. There were customers coming in and employees talking and I thought to myself, that is kind of what the show was about.”

These days, Newhart is energized by the process of being one man onstage, talking all of the comedic situations into existence. He still writes new material, but also mixes in some audience favorites. “I’ll probably do one or two older ones people are familiar with, because I know that’s one reason people show up,” he says. “It’s kind of like Tony Bennett doing a show and not doing ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’—it’s kind of obligatory. But that is the art of stand-up to me: It’s doing a routine you’ve done over and over again, and doing it as though it was the first time. You adjust to the room and what it gives you. There are certain touchstones that tell you where to go. I never decide before a show which of the old pieces I’m going to do. As the show progresses, I get a feeling that this is a ‘Driving Instructor’ audience or a ‘Sir Walter Raleigh’ audience or a ‘King Kong’ or ‘School for Bus Drivers’ audience.”

Newhart loved doing both of the still-popular TV shows: “People come up to me and say, ‘Thanks for the laughter’ and I say, ‘It was a pleasure.’ And that’s the truth, it was a pleasure.” Nowadays, he’s happy spending time with his grandchildren and his friends, traveling and golfing. While he’s open to whatever might come along, he’s doubtful about a return to the small screen. “It’s for someone else to do now,” he says. “I’m glad to just slow down and enjoy life, and keep my hand in with the stand-up.”

Bob Newhart will perform at Proctor’s Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady) on Tuesday (April 9). Tickets for the 8 PM show, $26 to $35, are available through Ticketmaster (476-1000) and Proctor’s (346-6204).

—David Greenberger

Barbara Garson

No doubt, you’ve heard the question asked, or asked it yourself: “Where does all the money go?” In her book Money Makes the World Go Around, author Barbara Garson, who will appear at both the University at Albany and the Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza on Tuesday, answers that question once and for all. Those of you now jumping for joy may want to settle down for a moment, because while Garson has in fact found where the money goes, most of you probably aren’t going to be willing to go to quite the same lengths as she did to find it. A shrimp farm in Malaysia, for example. So, it’s back to searching beneath the couch cushions for you.

Those of you whose curiosity is more intellectual than strictly—or desperately—financial, however, will still find much of interest in Garson’s book. She began her investigation by depositing a relatively modest amount ($29,500) in a small, one-branch, privately owned bank in Millbrook, N.Y., and investing a smaller amount ($5,000) in a mutual fund. She then set out to track her own funds around the world as they were put to work. She spoke with “Wall Street bankers, Bangkok food vendors, Malaysian jellyfish exporters, Chinese labor contractors, illegal Burmese migrants, British engineers, Texas oil-company treasurers, Maine electric blanket weavers, Singapore shippers, US mutual-fund managers, and scores more. . .” and in so doing gained an intimate familiarity with the extent and effects of the globalized economy.

The praise for Garson’s book—its style as much as its concept—has come from experts in both the financial and literary worlds: The Wall Street Journal called it “a disarmingly balanced combination of amazement and social concern,” to which Book Sense added “totally original and flat out brilliant.”

Barbara Garson will speak about her book and the global economy at the Assembly Hall at the University at Albany (1400 Washington Ave., Albany) on Tuesday (April 9) from 9 AM to noon. Admission is free. For more information, call 437-3692. Also on Tuesday, at 7 PM, she will sign copies of her book at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. For more information, call 489-4761.

Factory Direct.2

Opening tomorrow at the Arts Center of the Capital Region is Factory Direct.2, the second phase of a two-part exhibition linking artists with industries. Curated by Paul Miyamoto and Michael Oatman, it is “one of the most ambitious and far-reaching exhibitions we have undertaken in our 40-year history of presenting the visual arts,” according to the center.

Three years in the making, Factory Direct is an inventive and often surprising project that has yielded an intriguing body of work, which grew out of what Oatman has called “a blind date between artists and industry.” Factory Direct.2 features the works of Betsy and Susie Brandt working with Adam Ross Cut Stone; Jan Galligan working with CGI & Partners; Kathleen Brandt working with Maximum Security; Roger Bisbing working with Passonno Paints; Richard Criddle working with Ross Valve Manufacturing Co.; Andrew Boardman working with The Record; Jeff Hatfield working with the Watervliet Arsenal; and Robin Arnold, who worked with all the industries in both exhibitions.

Factory Direct.2 opens tomorrow (Friday, April 5) at the Arts Center of the Capital Region (265 River St., Troy) and runs through June 30. There will be a reception on April 12, from 5 to 8 PM. For more information, call 273-0552.

 

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