Bob Newhart was the expert of playing himself onscreen

Image credit: The Everett Collection

For a while it seemed as though Bob Newhart was running Hollywood. He left a long legacy in television for his many self-titled series, leading roles and his abundance of guest appearances across classic TV, film and Broadway.

He's also known for being funny — one of the funniest people in America, actually. So, with all of his accomplishments it makes many wonder if he was following some sort of secret formula for success in Hollywood.

Nope. No formula. Newhart just remained genuine.

In a 1982 interview with The Montgomery Advertiser, Newhart explained that his character in Newhart (1982) wasn't really different from psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley in the 1972 series, The Bob Newhart Show.

"Basically, you are what you are," Newhart said. "You can't stretch an actor or you wind up with a very tall actor. The people who last the longest in the business basically play themselves."

Newhart said that sticking to who you are in Hollywood is a crucial part of the job. For Newhart it seemed to be about authenticity more than anything; Which fans could see reflected in his roles in both Newhart and The Bob Newhart Show.

Both shows represented Newhart in real life in some way, and the series were familiar without being the same.

Newhart was able to retain his audience from The Bob Newhart Show and gain a new one after M*A*S*H aired the finale in 1982 — just in time for lost TV viewers to tune into Newhart. "I think you're lucky when you realize what you are," Newhart said. "Spencer Tracy always played Spencer Tracy. I'm not putting myself into that category, but to the same extent, the part of me that was Bob Hartley is in my new character, Dick Loudon."

In Newhart, he played a writer of how-to books who leaves the big city behind for a rustic Vermont Inn. For his character, a history buff, it's almost a dream come true.

The similarities between Newhart and The Bob Newhart Show doesn't stop at his character. According to the interview, Newhart was filmed at the same stage at CBS Studio Center, and he was back in the same dressing room. "I just took everything out of storage," Newhart said. "I knew I'd be coming back. Or my wife did. It's weird. Being back on that stage is that ultimate in deja vu. The memories it brings back."

After self-canceling The Bob Newhart Show, he appeared in Little Miss Marker (1980), The First Family (1980), starred in the TV movie Marathon (1980) and was a voice on the Disney animated movie, The Rescuers (1977).

Newhart said he knew he would come back to TV after The Bob Newhart Show. Television had been good to him, so he wasn't going to turn his back on it. Newhart found a way to change the television landscape and stay relevant.

TV is about adapting, and Newhart is one of the best at it.

According to the interview, Newhart began to form in Seattle hotel coffee shop. He met producer, Berry Kemp, who had previously worked on Taxi and together they started to format the series. Newhart said he felt he had returned to TV at the right time; Right at a time when audiences needed a laugh. "I think people left TV for awhile," Newhart said. "They had too many gimmick shows. One year they just did clones of ABC shows. It's just a gut feeling I had. It's usually been right, and I have to trust it now."

Spoiler alert: That gut feeling was absolutely true. Newhart had the career of a lifetime.

Watch Newhart on Catchy Comedy

Weeknights at 1a ET | 10p PT