BOB EINSTEIN, EMMY-AWARD WINNING WRITER, PRODUCER, CREATOR OF SUPER DAVE OSBORNE AND CAST MEMBER OF CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, DIES AT 76.
Bob Einstein, the Emmy-Award winning writer, comedian, actor and producer best known for creating unforgettable characters such as Super Dave Osborne and Officer Judy on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”, and giving life to Marty Funkhouser on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, died on January 2, 2019, in Indian Wells, CA, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 76.
His career began in the late 1960s. One of his first jobs, as a writer, was on the “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” for which he won an Emmy Award in 1969. As the groundbreaking, popular show that blended the traditional variety show with extremely controversial political satire, it launched numerous comic legends including Mr. Einstein and his roommate and writing partner, Steve Martin. “Bob Einstein and I had become a solid workhorse writing team. When the Smothers Brothers ended, we continued to get jobs, including the The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour,” Steve Martin recounted in his 2008 book. They broke taboos, mocked President Nixon and the Smothers Brothers became the most popular show on TV and the first one to do anti-Vietnam War comedy, paving the way for future TV comedians.
He was born Stewart Robert Einstein in Los Angeles on November 20, 1942. His father was comedian Harry Einstein (aka “Parkyakarkus”) and his mother was actress, Thelma Leeds. His childhood was touched by tragedy when his father died of a heart attack, at the age of 54, just after a performance in 1958 at a roast for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. When Milton Berle and other comics told jokes at his father’s funeral, the teenage Mr. 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 Mr. 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.” From that day forward and for the next fifty years, Mr. Einstein would write, perform and produce acclaimed comedy television as he entertained audiences with his quick wit, deadpan delivery and signature gravelly voice.
Mr. Einstein’s most memorable character on the Smothers Brothers comedy 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,” Mr. Einstein said in 2017.
Audiences quickly fell for his larger-than-life character, Super Dave Osborne in the 1970s with his first appearance on the NBC variety show “Van Dyke and Company,” where Mr. Einstein was also a writer and producer. In 1976, he won a second Emmy Award for “Van Dyke and Company” and shared the award with Dick Van Dyke.
At 6-foot-4 with a distinctive voice and an unflappable daredevil parody, Super Dave, never met a stunt that didn’t backfire into a comedic spectacle. “I think what’s hysterically funny is a guy who sets himself up as the most confident, everything’s-perfect, know-it-all, things-are-swell human being and then gets wiped out every time,” Einstein said in a 1990 interview.
Einstein executive produced, wrote and appeared as Super Dave on numerous shows including the sketch comedy show, “Bizarre” from 1979 to 1985, on the self-titled “Super Dave” from 1987 to 1991 on Showtime, and most recently in 2009 on “Super Dave’s SpikeTacular, which were all produced with his long time 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 every stunt leaving the audience laughing the entire time.
His most recognizable character for contemporary audiences is Marty Funkhouser of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In 22 episodes over a 13-year span from 2004-2017, Mr. Einstein played Marty as a hilarious foil to Mr. David, never failing to make him laugh both on and off camera. In one iconic episode, Marty attends a rehearsal for a “Seinfeld” reunion special in which he tells Jerry Seinfeld a joke as off-color as it is unexpected. As much as he tries, Larry David cannot avoid cracking a smile.
In addition to the unforgettable shows and characters that Mr. Einstein created, he also appeared as a guest on numerous late night and comedy shows over five decades from 1967 to 2017: from “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to “The Steve Allen Show” to “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (ten appearances) to “Late Night with David Letterman” (eight appearances), from numerous awards shows to the “Hollywood Squares” to “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and from “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” to ”The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.” And lastly, he was the only guest to appear twice on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Mr. Einstein was a comedian’s comedian who made the funny men laugh and counted generations of comics as his friends.
Bob Einstein’s sharp comedic wit reached the highest court in the United States in 1976 when a Polish group objected to Mr. Einstein’s appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show.” In 1972, He had posed as the president of a fake Polish-Defamation League and told a series of offensive jokes. Four years later, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, denying the request for an on-air rebuttal, ensuring that Mr. Einstein’s jokes would always stand alone — the consensus audiences have shared for decades.
Bob is survived by his wife and partner of over 40 years, Roberta Einstein, his daughter Erin Einstein Dale, son-in-law Andrew Dale and his beloved grandchildren Ethan and Zoe. He is also survived by his older brother, major advertising executive, Cliff Einstein, and his younger brother, comedian, writer and director Albert Brooks.
Donations can be made in Mr. Einstein’s memory to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Bob Einstein Memorial