Bob Newhart in Sarasota

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Bob Newhart, America's most-loved comedian, appeared recently in Sarasota to a sold-out house at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Centre.

Newhart, now 84, told the audience he did his first nightclub act in Houston 54 years ago.

In his monologue, he took pot shots at several nationalities including the Germans ("they don't have a sense of humour"), the British ("they are slow on the uptake" of a joke), and the Japanese.

"Americans often say the opposite of what we mean, and that is totally lost on the Germans," he said.

As for the British, he told of one upper-crust gentleman who had a chat with a NY taxi driver when he first arrived in America. The taxi driver asked if he liked riddles, and the toff said yes. "Your mother had a child, but it was not your brother or sister. Who was it?" This stumped him. "It was you," replied the cabbie.

Upon returning to England, he told riddle to a member of his gentleman's club. He was equally unable to crack the riddle. "What child did your Mother have?" he asked. "A cab driver in New York," he replied.

His Japanese joke was based on a true tale. "I hate flying," he said, and one of the airlines he won't fly on again is Japanese airlines. A plane he was on recently landed at the wrong airport. "The pilot was so short he could not see out of the cockpit!"

Newhart told the audience that he filled in on the Tonight Show for Johnny Carson 87 times, and he filled in for Ed Sullivan nine times. He concluded his act with a series of video clips of his career, going back to more than two centuries. One clip showed him in a boat crossing the Delaware river with George Washington.

With his stuttering delivery that everyone has come to love, Newhart charmed the Sarasota crowd who were lucky enough to see a truly legendary performer of American entertainment.

There are many other great comedy acts coming up at the Van Wezel, including Joan Rivers on March 15, Bill Cosby on March 16 and Mark Russell on March 31. Check out the website for details:


Clifford Cunningham

Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist currently affiliated with the National Astronomical Research Institute. He did his PhD work in the history of astronomy at James Cook University, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. He is the author of 12 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honour by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 1990.

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