Bob Newhart is taking the wheel at the seventh annual Boca Raton Concours d’ Elegance gala.
The three-day event starting Feb. 22 fulfills the need for speed, with a collector car and memorabilia auction, seminar, art show and dedication for the 50th anniversary of Lamborghini. Last year, the car-lover magnet was hosted by Dana Carvey and raised more than $1 million for the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County.
We spoke to the beloved actor-comedian, 83, who entertained home audiences over two decades in two long-running sitcoms, The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart, playing a put-upon psychologist and innkeeper, respectively.
Are you a big fan of cars in general? Besides the charity angle, what intrigued you about the Concours?
I remember Jay Leno did the gala two years back and told me I’d love it, that it’s great fun. I don’t love cars, but I’ve had them, you know. My wife [ Ginny] and I just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary and as a present I was going to get her one of each: every stock car we ever owned together. A Thunderbird, a Lincoln, a custom Cadillac station wagon. But my wife is much more practical than I am. She said, ‘Where are we going to put them all?’ Maybe I can borrow some space from Leno.
Are you excited to get out of Los Angeles and come to subtropical South Florida?
I love getting there but not getting there, if you know what I mean. The travel is the hard part. I like the 777 planes, they’re bigger. Not the 787s so much. They keep saying they are having some ‘teething problems,’ and I don’t really want to hear that. I think these are a little bigger than teething problems! I can understand why people don’t want to fly anymore.
Do you watch any of today’s sitcoms?
Not really. Most of the shows have that canned laugh track that sort of trails off. The minute I hear it I turn to some other show. It’s not how I grew up. [ I Love] Lucy, All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, us. We all did it in front of a live audience, and there was a certain danger to it. You were asking them, ‘Do you think this is funny?’ It was like learning a new play every week, and I think the result was better writing and better performing.
Do you think it’s easier or harder now for comedy writers?
Easier. They don’t have to write as funny. They can make it sound hysterical no matter how bad a joke is. Someone walks in a door and says ‘Hi’ and the whole audience busts out laughing. You’re at home saying, ‘That’s not funny!’
You must have such great memories from being on TV for so many years.
I do keep in touch with the old gang. I spent more time with them sometimes than I did with my own family. Bill Daily is out in Albuquerque now so him not as much. Many are no longer with us — Suzanne [Pleshette], Tom Poston, John Fiedler, Mary Frann. That’s kind of the sad part.
How did you get on board doing the cameo [as an evil CEO] in “Horrible Bosses?”
They sent me the finished movie. I watched it, which is sometimes better than reading a script. I thought it was very funny. And I liked that I got to work together with Jason [ Bateman] again. He played the part of my son in TV’s George & Leo, which was unsuccessful. Then he went on to do Arrested Development and has this great movie career now.
What other news do you have?
Well, I have this interesting project, taking place May 31 in Las Vegas. My friend Don Rickles and myself are going to appear together for the first time on stage. We had thought about doing something together, maybe The Odd Couple or Sunshine Boys. But no. We’ll talk about our lives, traveling, then we’ll open it up to a Q&A from the audience. I’m really looking forward to it. That should be a kick!