Bob Einstein, a two-time Emmy winner who has recurred on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm since its launch and created the wacky Super Dave Osborne character, died today in Indian Wells, CA. He was 76 and recently had been diagnosed with cancer.
Best known to today’s viewers for playing the serious, often surly but always hilarious Marty Funkhouser on Curb, Einstein was a foil for its creator-star Larry David. He appeared in nearly two dozen episodes of the series dating from 2004 to the most recent season. HBO said he was scheduled to appear in the upcoming 10th season of Curb but was too ill.
Einstein’s younger brother, actor-director Albert Brooks, tweeted today, “R.I.P. My dear brother Bob Einstein. A great brother, father and husband. A brilliantly funny man. You will be missed forever.”
A comedian’s comedian, Einstein first made his name as a writer. His career dates to the 1960s, when he won his first Emmy as part of the writing team for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that also included Steve Martin. Einstein, who also appeared on the show, went on to earn Emmy noms as a writer for The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in 1972 and 1974 and two more for writing on Dick Van Dyke’s mid-’70s series Van Dyke and Company. Einstein won his other Emmy as a producer for the series, sharing the 1977 award for Outstanding Comedy Series. He also appeared on all three of those series, along with his Smothers Brothers colleague’s 1970 show, Pat Paulson’s Half a Comedy Hour, for which Eisntein also was a writer.
Martin also shared two of Einstein’s Emmy noms for writing on Sonny and Cher and Van Dyke.
Einstein’s other writing credits include The Ken Berry “Wow” Show, The Sonny Comedy Revue, The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show, Joey & Dad and Lola! — also serving as a producer on the last two. As an actor, he also guested on Roseanne, Anger Management and Norm on and recurred as Larry on Arrested Development in the mid-2000s. Feature credits include Ocean’s Thirteen, Modern Romance and Another Nice Mess.
He was born Stewart Robert Einstein on November 20, 1942, in Los Angeles. Mother Thelma Leeds was an actress, and father Harry Einstein (aka Parkyakarkus) was a comic, writer and actor. When Milton Berle and other comics told jokes at his father’s 1958 funeral, the teenage Einstein decided he would never go into comedy.
Instead, he went to college and played basketball at Chapman University and then pursued a career in advertising. But when he did a TV performance on a local cable show for a friend, pretending to be the man who installed the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it caught the eye of Tom Smothers. After Smothers invited the 26-year old to the set, Einstein recalled how it transformed his life. “I go over and now I’m sitting and watching rehearsals and my mind is burning and all of sudden out of nowhere I want this, a bee has stung me in the back, and I want this.”
Einstein’s most memorable character on the Smothers Brothers show, Officer Judy, famously gave Liberace a speeding ticket for playing the piano too fast in a 1969 episode. “Tom Smothers made our life by giving us that,” Einstein said in 2017.
He executive produced, wrote and appeared as the bumbling Super Dave Osborne on numerous shows including the sketch comedy show Bizarre from 1979-85, on the self-titled Super Dave from 1987-91 on Showtime and most recently in 2009 on Super Dave’s SpikeTacular, all of which he produced with his longtime professional partner, Allan Blye. From falling off Toronto’s CN Tower to being crushed by a wrecking ball to being swept off the top of a bus while singing “King of the Road,” Super Dave failed on every pre-Jackass stunt.
Watch the classic clip of Super Dave’s death-defying — or, rather, death-inviting — leap from the CN Tower in Toronto here:
Perhaps his greatest stunt, however, was having a case against him nearly make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. A Polish group objected to an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1972, when Einstein posed as the president of a fake Polish Defamation League and told a series of offensive jokes. Four years later, the high court refused to hear the case, denying the request for an on-air rebuttal.
Einstein also was a guest on numerous late-night and comedy shows spanning a half-century, ranging from The Steve Allen Show and Late Night with David Letterman to Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Hollywood Squares. He also appeared on The Tonight Show with hosts Johnny Carson, Jey Leno and Conan O’Brien and was the first guest to appear twice on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Along with Brooks, Einstein is survived by Roberta Einstein, his wife of over 40 years; daughter Erin Einstein Dale; son-in-law Andrew Dale; grandchildren Ethan and Zoe. He is also survived by his older brother, retired advertising executive Cliff Einstein.
Donations can be made in Einstein’s memory to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.