Newman's first speaking appearance was with Third World First (now known as People and Planet), the student political organisation. He shot to fame in the early 1990s when he appeared alongside Baddiel, Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt in the BBC radio and TV programme: The Mary Whitehouse Experience. The title was a jibe at the campaigner for "moral decency" on television, Mary Whitehouse. He and Baddiel followed this up with their own series, Newman and Baddiel In Pieces. Newman was often considered a bit of a hearthrob and could well have been partly responsible, albeit inadvertently, for the notion that comedy was becoming the new rock 'n' roll in the early '90s.
Newman's later solo work is marked by a clear social conscience, and antiestablishment view. He covered the antiglobalisation Seattle protests of 1999 for BBC television's Newsnight programme. He has been politically active with Reclaim the Streets, the Liverpool dockers, Indymedia and Peoples' Global Action.
He is the author of three novels: Dependence Day (1994), Manners and The Fountain At The Center Of The World (2003).After a brief foray into the written arts with The Mary Whitehouse Experience Encyclopedia in 1992, Robert released his first novel in 1994, Dependence Day.
He wrote the book The Fountain at the Centre of the Universe in 2003, a satire on globalisation, set in Mexico. The process of writing the book was the subject of a BBC2 television documentary. His later work has a very clear political element, and parallels the work of contempories such as Mark Thomas.
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