Books: I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This

I rarely read biographies, and I only picked up this one because it came up in a search I did in the library catalog. I’m working on a humorous speech for Toastmasters, which requires me to include material I have heard or read, along with personal experiences of my own.

I started working on a speech about names, but had trouble finding material. So I decided to switch my topic to golf. I was sure I could find plenty, but it wasn’t showing up in the books in the humor section of the library. So I used the online catalog. This found me a book by Bill Murray and another by Bob Newhart.

I associate them with humor, but not necessarily with golf. In the end I found two other books on golf humor, which turned out to be in the golf section, along with serious books on how to improve your game. The book by Newhart has only one short chapter about golf, which didn’t look helpful to my speech. But I decided to read the book anyway, just for a change of pace.

I never watch The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970’s. I don’t know why. I don’t remember seeing it and not liking it. It was on CBS, which was the station that had the best reception where we lived. Perhaps it was on a night that we watched something else.

I do remember watching Newhart. It was certainly not my favorite show, but whoever controlled the TV where I lived at the time (I didn’t have an apartment of my own until 1987, so I watched whatever others wanted to watch) liked it. I found it moderately entertaining, though I couldn’t understand why other people thought Larry, Darryl, and Darryl were so funny.

Even if neither show was among my favorites, however, now decades later I feel a certain nostalgia for them. Not for them in particular, but for being able to spend an enjoyable evening watching TV with friends. These days we never watch TV, and I don’t feel I’m missing much. (If there is a series worth watching, we get it on DVD or via Netflix, but I don’t care for watching by the hour so I only end up watching a few episodes.)

Anyway, that seemed a good enough reason to check out the book, along with a desire for some light reading, and the possibility that even if there was not much about golf, I might still find something helpful to my speech. I can’t say the latter hope was realized, but it was interesting reading.

I had not realized Newhart had been a stand-up comedian. I’ve never enjoyed that style of humor, and I can’t say Newhart’s book changed my view any. He includes parts of a number of his routines, and some of them seem mildly humorous but hardly laugh-out-loud funny. Perhaps it would be different to hear rather than read. Or perhaps I would still not find them very funny – one reason I don’t care for stand-up comedy is because everyone else seems to be laughing about things that I don’t find very funny at all.

Having just read Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I also thought it would be interesting to read about that period in time when I was growing up. Newhart’s early life, however, was of course long before I was born – stories of his early life, if he gave more of them, would probably have had more in common with those I heard from my parents, who were born earlier in the same decade.

Much of the book is arranged topically rather than chronologically, so it’s a bit hard to get much of a sense of what things were like at any particular time. I did get some idea what it was like to be a stand-up comedian – and concluded that I probably would not get along all that well with someone who had the “perversity” that Newhart says pretty much goes with being a comedian.

On the whole, I’d say that Newhart is probably funnier in front of an audience than on paper (reader reviews on seem to confirm this). Perhaps what I need to do is check out from the library is some of his old TV shows.

One Response to Books: I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This

  1. Karen O says:

    The Bob Newhart Show was very funny. I liked it better than Newhart, although the last minute or two of Newhart‘s series finale was brilliant, & is “classic”.

    I’ve seen clips of Bob Newhart’s stand-up comedy, & what made it so funny was his deadpan delivery. That wouldn’t come across well in print.

    Bill Murray has been an avid golfer for many years.

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