“Hi Bob,” David Foster Wallace’s Drinking Game

In David Foster Wallace’s first novel The Broom of the System, protagonist Lenore Beadsman’s brother and his friends play a drinking game based on The Bob Newhart Show. Here are the rules–

On television was ”The Bob Newhart Show.” In the big social room with LaVache were three boys who all seemed to look precisely alike. . . . ”Lenore, this is Cat, this is Heat, this is the Breather,” LaVache said from his chair in front of the television. . . .

Heat and the Breather were on a spring-sprung sofa, sharing what was obviously a joint. Cat was on the floor, sitting, a bottle of vodka before him, and he clutched it with his bare toes, staring anxiously at the television screen.

”Hi Bob,” Suzanne Pleshette said to Bob Newhart on the screen. . . . La Vache looked up from his clipboard at Lenore. ”We’re playing Hi Bob. You want to play Hi Bob with us?” He spoke sort of slowly. Lenore made a place to sit on the luggage. ”What’s Hi Bob?” The Breather grinned at her from the sofa, where he now held the bottle of vodka. ”Hi Bob is where, when somebody on ‘The Bob Newhart Show’ says ‘Hi Bob,’ you have to take a drink.”

”And but if Bill Dailey says ‘Hi Bob,’ ” said Cat, tending to the joint with a wet finger, ”that is to say, if the character Howard Borden on the show says ‘Hi Bob,’ it’s death, you have to chug the whole bottle.”

”Hi Bob,” said Bill Dailey on the screen.

This text was originally cited in Caryn James’s 1987 review of The Broom of the System in The New York Times. Here’s our review.


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