Friday, January 23, 1998

Will Durst

Harris: Comedian Will Durst is joining us now live from Oakland where he is interrupting a production meeting for his PBS show, Livelyhood. It ran here in Washington at the end of December and he is working on another one for a couple of months from now, but I wanted to get Will on here because earlier this week he was in Green Bay, Wisconsin...Cheesehead City. Hi, Will!

Durst: Hey, how you doing, Mr. Harris? Who are you rooting for on Sunday?

Harris: The Packers. You're originally from Wisconsin, so you kind of have cheese in your blood, right?

Durst: Yeah. I actually think it's green by now.

Harris: What was Green Bay like when you were there? What's the mood of the people? Are they just out of their heads with excitement?

Durst: They're very excited. I am a little frightened. They already think they've won it.

Harris: Really?

Durst: Yeah. There might be a little complacency. I don't know if it has filtered down to the team, but in Green Bay, it's a done deal. You go up there, "All right! Two in row!" Well, you actually do have to win. They don't play it on paper. Oh man, it was like 14 or 15 degrees and they were so excited that we were there. The weather was so beautiful. My crew and I are just looking around at them to see if they're trying to be ironic or anything. It had been 5 below the week before. "Oh, you guys are so lucky you came when it was so nice out here. Oh, geez, look at, isn't that beautiful?" And we're freezing our butts off and they're so happy.

Harris: Now, do people in their everyday life walk around with those stupid cheeseheads on their head?

Durst: No, but we ran into the weirdest thing. We were right on the street and outside the county's Social Services building. It was 3:15 on a Friday afternoon, and suddenly people come pouring out of the building, and they have a pep rally! Right on the street! Right outside! "Honk if you like your Packers!" Everybody is wearing green and gold. The sheriff's car was parked in the middle of the road and using the loudspeakers. They were playing music and chanting, "Go Pack! Go Pack!" The sheriff's car! It is pretty much Fargo in green and gold.

Harris: All right, let's change subjects here, because I know you're having a field day with whatever this Clinton scandal is called now. We were calling it "Intern-Gate" and then a listener called today and said we should call it "Forni-Gate."

Durst: "Forni-gate," yeah. The Mount Vesuvius of bimbo eruptions is what you're saying?

Harris: [laughs] There you go. President Clinton and his 21, now 24-year-old intern, Monica Lewinsky. Your thoughts?

Durst: I tell you, I would not want to live in your town where you got to worry about your best friend wearing a wire at all times. Who is this Tripp woman?

Harris: I don't know, but the moral we've learned from this is don't tell her a secret!

Durst: Boy, I do not want to piss her off. She is to revenge to what Richard Simmons is to short pants. She knows who killed Vince Foster. She has knowledge of two women who have been accused of presidential lechery. You know we should ask her the point spread on the Super Bowl. She is like a Visa commercial, she is everywhere you want to be. And of course in the corner, in the shadows in the corner, we have the dark specter of Al Gore receiving charisma implants.

Harris: [laughs] That's right. Somebody called yesterday and said he is one orgasm away from being president.

Durst: [laughs] We would go from President Woody to President Wood.

Harris: Now, do you think that it could actually get that far? I mean, what's your gut...when you first heard this story did you say, "Well, of course!" or did you say, "Well, hold on a second?"

Durst: Both.

Harris: Really?

Durst: Both, yeah. This is an apocryphal thing. I mean, even if he didn't do it. It's like when Quayle went down to Latin America and supposedly said I wish I studied Latin in high school. But he never said that, but it didn't matter because everybody believed it. It's the same thing here.

Harris: Yeah.

Durst: They had a poll that said 4 out of 10 women would be intimate with the President if they had the chance. Well, it looks like he's determined to get to each and everyone of them, one at a time!

Harris: [laughs] After Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky and Larry Lawrence's widow Shelia Lawrence, who has been dragged into this whole thing, one more mistress and Clinton gets a set of steak knives, doesn't he?

Durst: [laughs] You watch the morning news shows and they make Jerry Springer look like Frontline!

Harris: That's what I love about this whole thing. All these people, the Dan Rathers of the world, who stand up and they look down on Jerry Springer. This has now been every newscast for three days straight.

Durst: You gotta feel sorry for the Pope, man.

Harris: The Pope? Why?

Durst: Cause they ditched him in Cuba like rats on fire leaving a sinking oil tanker with grenades strapped to their chests! Every one of them -- Rather, Brokaw, Jennings -- they are all down there and they just zoom private jets back here.

Harris: And Castro's got to be upset, too. He got bumped right off. I tell you, here in town, the one person who was happy about this was Chris Webber of the Wizards. No one remembers his drug bust. It was Tuesday!

Durst: Oh and Kaczynski. Nobody cares. Now, did the president really make a distinction between oral sex and adultery?

Harris: Well, that's the question when he says there was nothing improper. You know, here's a guy who may not know what improper means, and he says I didn't have a sexual relationship. Dave said he had to go to the dictionary and look up "relationship" again. I mean, we don't know exactly what he means by that do we?

Durst: No. It is supposedly on the wire tap tapes that he says that he doesn't believe oral sex is adultery. And I think he can get every married man in America to go with him on that. "Honey, the President said!"

Harris: I don't know about you, but a week ago you could have bet me that we would never have a Presidential scandal involving "deep throat" again. I thought we left that behind us.

Durst: [laughs] I thought so.

Harris: Will, thanks for coming on today, I appreciate it. Always great to have you on the show.

Durst: Hey, you and Dave take it easy, and Go Pack!

Harris: When will that Livelyhood be airing, sometime in the spring?

Durst: Yeah, it will be like in the last weekend in May.

Harris: Cool, we'll have you back on before then.

Durst: Thanks, buddy!

Copyright 1998, Paul Harris
Transcript by Sean Healey

Monday, January 05, 1998

Bob Newhart

Harris: We have comedians on this show all the time. Dozens of them, hundreds of them, have appeared on our show over the years. Very few, however, could have the title Comedy Legend added to their introduction. This man certainly deserves that. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Comedy Legend Bob Newhart, live from Los Angeles. Hi, Bob!

Newhart: H-h-hi. Thank you!

Harris: You're very welcome. There's that recognizable Bob Newhart voice and stammer. I love it. Bob, when you were first starting out in this business it was very unlike nowadays when a comedian comes out, does a stand-up act up on TV for one shot, goes and works clubs for 20 minutes, and then they give him a sitcom. That was not the case when you started out. How did you get your first TV show, which I think was 1961, wasn't it?

Newhart: My first show was, yeah, 1961. That was based on the success of the record album. I did a comedy record album and NBC approached me. I had been approached to do a game show by Mark Goodson. I didn't think it was a good idea and NBC ask me if I wanted to do a variety show and they put me together with some writers. And we won an Emmy, a Peabody, and a pink slip from NBC all in the same year.

Harris: And then it was a decade or so before you got back together with another TV show, the legendary Bob Newhart Show. And now, is your grandchild able to watch you on Nick at Night?

Newhart: She was just down here and she gets very confused. My daughter tells me that she watches Nick at Night, but she only laughs when I say something.

Harris: Well, good! That's good family training then.

Newhart: Everybody else could have the funniest lines in the world, but she only laughs at my jokes. She's a little confused, because I'll notice. We put on a tape the other day just to see her expression. She kept looking at the box and looking at me. So yeah, it's great.

Harris: It must also be very odd for you. You've got kind of a renaissance here. You've got your own primetime show with Judd Hirsch, George and Leo, which is saving Monday nights on CBS, frankly. And at the same time you've got this renaissance with a whole new audience through Nick at Night. Dave and I grew up watching you on that Saturday blockbuster line-up, but how is that for you at age 67 to have that renaissance happening?

Newhart: Sixty-eight.

Harris: Sorry!

Newhart: I took a year off. Well it's, yes, a great feeling and secondly it's not just me. We have some pretty good writers and some pretty good co-stars, you know. We had a great cast on The Bob Newhart Show. It really starts with the writing and the fact that it is finding a new audience is a tribute to the writing as much as anything else.

Harris: Every show you've ever been on has been well written. Do you have a say in who writes the show?

Newhart: Well, you sit down with them and see if there is a chemistry and see what direction they see the show going and who they see me as. On the first show, The Bob Newhart Show, one of the conditions I made was that we don't have children and that I be a psychologist rather than a psychiatrist. The reason being that a I know a psychiatrist would deal more seriously with people. I didn't want to be making fun of really serious people.

Harris: Right.

Newhart: I didn't want to have children because I didn't want to be the dumb husband/father who keeps getting in trouble and then the precocious children bail him out at the last minute.

Harris: Which is the plot of every major sitcom on television today, by the way.

Newhart: Exactly! So, in the sixth year of The Bob Newhart Show, I got a script to come home with on Friday night. I was reading it Sunday afternoon and noticed that it said that Emily was pregnant. So I called the producer. I said, "I read the script." He said, "Oh, what did you think of it?" I said, "Oh, it's a very funny story. It is great." He said, "We were a little concerned, you know." I said, "It was very funny. [pause] Who are you going to get to play Bob??"

Harris: [laughs] So what did you end up doing?

Newhart: Well, if you ever see it, it's a dream sequence where Emily dreams she is pregnant. That is how we solved it.

Harris: Gotcha. Speaking of dream sequences and Emily, one of the greatest final episodes in TV history was the finale of Newhart, where it turned out all to be a dream and you wake up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette and got a giant sustained laugh that went on for minutes. Just huge. Now, of course, Seinfeld is coming to a finale. Do you think you'll call Jerry and suggest the Suzanne Pleshette ending to him? Maybe you can do a cameo or something?

Newhart: [laughs] I haven't heard from Jerry. We could wake up in bed, Emily and I, with the Seinfeld cast!

Harris: Or, you wake up in bed with Kramer! Forget about George and Leo. It's Bob and Cosmo!!

Newhart: [laughs]

Harris: Is that hard, by the way? To end a show that is so successful? You've had this with both of your previous shows. To have a show that is so succesful and say, "Look, that is it. We're stopping here."

Newhart: Yeah, it is hard because so many people are dependent on you. And it's hard because they are your second family.

Harris: But why did you decide to stop doing the original Bob Newhart Show?

Newhart: I just thought it was time. I felt, I didn't know if there was another year of stories left in it. I felt we were running a little thin on story lines and I always wanted to go out a year or two early, rather than a year or two late.

Harris: So the timing was right. As a comedian, you have that sense of timing and that is exactly what Jerry Seinfeld talks about in Time magazine. You just know it is time to go off, leave them wanting more?

Newhart: Yeah, there is a little man on your shoulders and he has been on my shoulders for 37 years now and he has been right. There are shows, I think, that stayed too long. No reflections on it, but I think Who's The Boss may have stayed on a year or two too long.

Harris: People have talked about Cheers and M*A*S*H having the same problem.

Newhart: Well, I don't know that I can say that about Cheers. I think maybe the Alan Thicke show [Growing Pains] may have stayed on a year or two too long. I mean, it's painful to watch shows that were good, kind of struggling.

Harris: Right.

Newhart: I never wanted to be in that position.

Harris: How long do you think George and Leo is going to be on?

Newhart: That is really hard to say. It is up to the public, as long as they want you on. They are the ultimate arbiters of what stays on and what goes off.

Harris: The man just doesn't want anymore pink slips, is what he is saying.

Newhart: Right.

Harris: A listener wanted me to ask you whether any of those old comedy albums of yours are going to come out on CD?

Newhart: We are in the process of trying to work something out with Blockbuster. There is a video of a standup concert I did a few years back, and there is an anthology CD of a lot of the routines from the first and second albums, only performed in front of a live audience.

Harris: I saw that tour. I think it was at Wolftrap. You came through here and did all that just brilliant stuff. And like the Nick at Night renaissance, I think a lot more people would re-discover it if it were re-released. Because Button Down Mind, which was the first million-selling comedy album, is almost a benchmark in comedy.

Newhart: Well, thank you!

Harris: You're very welcome. Bob, thank you for joining us.

Newhart: Well, thank you, guys!

Harris: George and Leo has moved to 9pm Mondays. It's the cornerstone of the Monday line up -- basically saving the CBS Monday night line up, if you don't mind my saying so.

Newhart: I don't!

Copyright 1998, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Sean Healey.