Seven reasons to love Bob Newhart, who performs at Ruth Eckerd on Jan. 10

Honoring his visit to Clearwater this weekend, here are seven things we love about comedy and television legend Bob Newhart:

Bob's best friend is a hockey puck

It's a match made in comedy heaven: mild-mannered Newhart and the blustery insult king, Don Rickles. Their families regularly vacation together (Newhart "carries the luggage," according to Rickles) and rub off on each other. Rickles reportedly gifted his pal with a doormat reading: "The Newharts . . . The Rickles' best friends."

Bob is cooler than Axl Rose and Nelly

Newhart's 1960 recording debut, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was No. 1 on the Billboard chart for 38 weeks. During that run, the followup album, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back, was released, making Newhart the first artist ever occupying the No. 1 and 2 spots simultaneously. Nobody did it again until 1991 when Guns N' Roses released Use Your Illusion I and II. R&B singer Nelly equaled the feat in 2004 with Sweat and Suit.

Bob has his own drinking game

College students watching The Bob Newhart Show in the '70s started sipping alcoholic beverages each time actors said "Bob," and chugging whenever they said "Hi, Bob." The Internet Movie Database claims "Hi, Bob" was spoken 256 times during the show's seven-year run. Bob's co-star Bill Daily said it most (118 times). Newhart himself said it once, possibly causing the greatest simultaneous "spit take" ever.

Bob was in two of the sharpest movie satires of the 1970s

Newhart played the reluctant commander "Major Major" in Catch-22, based on Joseph Heller's antiwar novel, and "Merwin Wren," a tobacco industry flack sabotaging a small town's vow to quit smoking, in Cold Turkey. Both are worth listing on your Netflix queue.

Bob is a happily married celebrity

The late Buddy Hackett introduced Bob to Virginia "Ginnie" Quinn as a favor between comedians. The result was one of show biz's rarest feats: a marriage that endures. Two days after Bob's show in Clearwater, the Newharts will celebrate their 46th anniversary.

Bob doesn't work "blue"

Like Bill Cosby and not many other comics, Newhart doesn't talk dirty to make audiences laugh. The only profanity Newhart ever recorded was during his one-way telephone bit, The Driving Instructor, when he repeated the "caller's" complaint: "No, I don't suppose it is so damn funny."

Bob can balance our checkbooks between shows

Before standup comedy, Newhart worked as an accountant in Chicago and hated every minute of it. Later, he blamed the career failure on his slogan: "That's close enough."

Steve Persall, Times film critic

>> Bob Newhart

2 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $35-$70. (727) 791-7400.

Seven reasons to love Bob Newhart, who performs at Ruth Eckerd on Jan. 10 01/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 3:30am]

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