Monday, December 7, 2009

Bob Newhart. Living Legend.

Bob Newhart A living legend

Last night, I had the tremendous privilege to go and see one the premier, comic geniuses of our time.

To witness Bob Newhart perform live has been a dream of mine for some time. There really is no perfect way to express how thrilled I was to be given that opportunity.

As many of you know, about a month ago, I had invited Ben Stiller to accompany me to this "historic" (at least for me) event. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend...but did send his regrets.

Since Ben declined the invitation, many have speculated about who would end up joining me. Would it be Ryan Seacrest? or maybe Ellen Degeneres?

Well, despite the rumours that circulated, if it wasn't Stiller, then there was really only one other person on my list.

So, last night, I experienced a dream fulfilled...with my dad. For one hour, it was Bob - my hero in comedy, Dad - my hero in life, and me. The three of us had a great time.

The excitement of going
to see Bob Newhart live
had a transforming effect on me.

Newhart is 80 years old. He's been performing comedy, as he mentioned last night, for 50 years. FIFTY YEARS! This man has been perfecting his craft for longer than I've been alive. He is one of the last remaining members of an era of comedy that I respect deeply.

I wore a suit to the show, partly because it was an incredibly special night and partly to reflect my love for the "class" that exudes from Newhart and some of his contemporaries.

For me, there has always been something very compelling about the entertainers of the 50's and 60's. To watch them do their thing, so relaxed, while in suit and tie, has always impressed me.

On the old TV shows, they would casually chat, laugh and even act out sketch comedy routines, all while dressed like they were going to a wedding. I find it amazing. This sketch, with Bob Newhart & Dean Martin, is one of my favourites.

The "Classic" look and feel, of Newhart and the Golden Age of comedy, has influenced me tremendously.

It is reflected in my "brand" name Up Standing Comedy; in my logo; in the red curtain, I often use as a backdrop; and in my stage attire. On stage, I even drink from a glass - not a bottle of water - in a silent homage to Dean Martin, who always had a glass in his hand (which, contrary to popular belief, was often filled with apple juice).

Regarding my attire, when Up Standing Comedy officially launched, I took to the stage dressed in black pants, dress shoes, crisp white shirt and...a fedora. Since then, I have debated - in my mind, whether or not to add the jacket and tie, to complete the look.

But, you can bet, the next time I perform will be in the full suit. Newhart settled that little inner argument last night.

Maybe it was just the excitement of the moment, but when he first appeared on stage, with jacket and tie...argument over. I was sold. Jacket and tie, it is!
Watching the show, was a little bit of a balancing act. Throughout it, I found myself crossing back and forth from spectator to student. Unlike many of the other people in attendance, I was not only enjoying the comedy...but was enjoying the comedian.

It was a thrill to watch Newhart perform. I know he's being doing this a long time, but the man is a true pro. From the moment he was welcomed into the spotlight, with a standing ovation, to the time he walked off stage (after a third standing ovation)...he was simply outstanding.

One of the things I admire about him, is his ability to make a low-key, slow pace performance, feel like it's moving a mile a minute.

With his trademark stammer, leading the way from story to story, there was many moments of crowd silence. Most performers would cringe at such a thought, but Newhart continued unfazed, because as an expert "storyteller", although the crowd was one was ever bored.

Those silences are little sacrifices for the bigger victory. In a recent Toronto Star article, Newhart addressed that "challenge", while recounting his comic idol, the late (and great) Jack Benny.

"Jack was one of the bravest comedians who ever worked because he wasn't afraid of silence. There are some comedians, they panic if they haven't got a laugh in the last 15 seconds...but Jack would take the time to tell the story because he knew it was going to pay off. I guess I'm not afraid of silence either as long as it doesn't go on too long, like half an hour."

So many of the great comedians, of the past were (and in Newhart's case, "are") storytellers. But to be a comedic storyteller, you needed that "bravery"...that fearlessness, in regards to silence.

Although, not low-key, I am a storyteller as well.

In fact, my first "official" comedy routine was based, almost solely, on a single story that I wrote while flying from Toronto to BC. And, even as my "set" has developed, over the last few years, "story-telling" continues to be the base on which it is being built.

So for me, like Newhart and Benny, attaining (and maintaining) that "fearlessness" is crucial... especially when performing in a generation that doesn't embrace silence, and needs to be constantly stimulated.

My dad and I had great seats. Main floor. Centre stage. 16 rows back. Awesome!

I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the show itself, which was a huge disappointment, but I won't soon forget what I saw in Roy Thompson Hall, at 8:00pm, on Friday, December 4th, 2009.
I saw one of the all-time greats. I saw a living legend.

In an age where fame is fleeting and fads are all the rage, the "comedy stylin's" of Bob Newhart are still, 50 years later, hilariously relevant. Bob Newhart has proven to be timeless.

I stood when he came to the stage, I stood when he left the stage and I stood when he left...again.

And, even though I was physically sitting for everything in between...there was a constant standing ovation going on in my heart and mind.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and as my dad said, when we were leaving:

"It would have been a real shame, to have not been able to see someone you admire so much."

Yes. Yes, it would have been. Thanks for the tickets, Dad.

Have a good one,

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