Newhart, a former accountant, began his comedy career as a popular stand up comedian in the 1950s. His 1960 comedy album, The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart, went straight to number one on the charts, beating Elvis Presley and the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. Button Down Mind received the 1960 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
In the mid 1960s, Newhart appeared on The Dean Martin Show 24 times, and the Ed Sullivan Show 8 times. From 1972 to 1978, Newhart starred in the popular Bob Newhart Show on CBS in which he played a Chicago psychologist and husband of co-star, Suzanne Pleshette.
In 1982, Newhart returned to primetime with a new sitcom, Newhart, on CBS, co-starring Mary Frann (1943-1998). When the show went off the air in 1990, it ended with a surreal episode where Newhart wakes up in the morning on the set of his 1970s show and realizes that the entire Newhart series had been a dream. The premise of the final show has come to be referred to as "breaking the fifth wall" - the fifth wall being that no two television characters could possibly be the same person. The idea for that last show came from Newhart's wife, Virginia Quinn. The two were married on January 12, 1964 and have four children together, although Newhart has an informal rule that he never be a father of a young child in his television shows.
From 1992 to 1994, Newhart made an attempt to come back to television with a series called Bob. But it did not develop a strong audience and went off the air two years later. In 1997, Newhart returned again with George and Leo on CBS. The show, which co-starred Judd Hirsch, was cancelled by the network before it really had much of a chance to succeed.