As I celebrate my 400th column, I do so with one of the most legendary figures of the past 60 years. My dreams of live comedic entertainment have officially come full circle. Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby are two of the greatest comedians that ever lived and after seeing Cosby live three times, it was an unexpected thrill to see that the 84-year-old Chicago native was playing in Knoxville, Tenn., on Feb. 2 at the beautiful and historic Tennessee Theatre, headlining the “Stars on Stage” annual sustainability fundraiser for the 1928 structure. Newhart contributed to the cause, offering more than $11,000 in backstage passes, which allowed 22 people at a meet and greet after the show from the auction at the top of the show. That was followed by a very enjoyable opening set from the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. The half-dozen numbers offered by the group included the Duke Ellington classic “Take the A-Train,” Ella Fitzgerald’s debut hit “A Tisket, A Tasket,” and the wonderful great standards “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” “Do Nothing ‘til You Hear From Me,” and “Almost Like Being in Love.”
The orchestra played the theme to The Bob Newhart Show as the legendary Chicago native took the stage and 90 minutes later, led him off with the Newhart theme. Newhart was greeted to a welcoming standing ovation of a near capacity 3,000, most of them the over 40, well-to-do Tennessee population. Newhart remarked that, in more than six decades of doing standup around the globe, this was his first time in Tennessee. He did some hilarious impersonations of Southern accents at the top of the show and was overall very clean, although I was disappointed to hear a few certain words in his act.