How Bob Newhart Inadvertently Pioneered the Modern Drinking Game

Before the internet, college students had to entertain themselves with ‘Hi Bob’
How Bob Newhart Inadvertently Pioneered the Modern Drinking Game

Ninety-three-year-old comedy legend Bob Newhart has done so much great work throughout his long career, from iconic stand-up routines like The Driving Instructor, to his role as Papa Elf in Elf, to the time he randomly delivered the greatest twist ending in television history. In addition to all that, you can apparently add getting a generation of college students completely trashed to the list.  

Drinking games are obviously nothing new, dating back to Ancient Greece, but pop-culture drinking games, as ubiquitous as they may be today, are still a relatively recent invention, whether they involve chugging a beer every time John McClane kills one of Hans Gruber's thugs, or doing a shot whenever Tom Hanks unexpectedly takes a whiz.

One of the earliest documented cases of viewers collectively imbibing in response to a TV shows prompts is when college students would gather to watch The Bob Newhart Show. According to one article from 1984, the trend involved taking a sip of beer if someone said the word Bob and chugging a beer when a character says, Hi, Bob.’”

Newhart himself commented on the game, dubbed Hi, Bob, which he claimed may have originated at Southern Methodist University. Newhart didnt seem to take offense at the trend but still seemed concerned. I just hope when they play Hi, Bob, they dont drive, he said, adding, I would hate for my television career to be remembered for Hi, Bob.’”

But because no trend, no matter how stupid, is immune from commodification, in 1991, TBS tried to turn the Hi, Bob phenomenon into a contest, which involved merely counting Hi, Bobs instead of getting drunker than Don Draper on a weekday afternoon.

Hi, Bob made such a cultural impact that it was even referenced in David Foster Wallaces debut novel The Broom of the System:

Penguin Books

And when Newhart hosted Saturday Night Live in 1995, there was an entire sketch predicated on the idea that Chris Farley and Chris Elliott have to breathlessly get blackout drunk as people continuously greet Newhart backstage. At one point, Newhart pleads to the camera, imploring any drunken frat guys watching at home not to do anything dangerous.

Of course, those concerns didnt stop Newhart from using "Hi, Bob" as the name of his podcast.

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