Bob Einstein, aka Super Dave Osborne, dies at 76

Bob Einstein arrived at the Los Angeles premiere of "Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind" at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press/File 2018
Bob Einstein arrived at the Los Angeles premiere of "Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind" at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

WASHINGTON — Bob Einstein, an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer, actor, and producer who was best known for his appearances on the sitcom ‘‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’’ and for creating the character of the hapless daredevil ‘‘Super Dave Osborne,’’ died Wednesday. He was 76.

His death was announced on Twitter by his younger brother, comedy writer and performer Albert Brooks. Complete details were not immediately known. He reportedly had cancer.

Mr. Einstein, whose parents were both in show business, first gained wide recognition in the 1960s as a writer for the groundbreaking and politically provocative ‘‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,’’ for which he won an Emmy.


The variety show tweaked sensibilities of the time with its pointed social commentary, often delivered in comedy skits, many of which were created by Mr. Einstein and his writing partners, Allan Blye, Mason Williams, and comedian Steve Martin.

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Mr. Einstein also appeared on the show as ‘‘Officer Judy,’’ a police officer who roared onto the stage on a motorcycle and arrested Liberace as he dashed through ‘‘The Minute Waltz’’ on the piano.

‘‘Do you know how fast you were playing?’’ he asked.

In the 1970s, the strapping Mr. Einstein debuted the character of Super Dave Osborne, a clumsy, chicken-hearted knockoff of gaudily dressed motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel.

Wearing a white racing suit and crash helmet, Super Dave engaged in a series of ridiculous stunts, all of which resulted in his utter humiliation. In his first appearance, Super Dave explained to a sportscaster that he would be strapped into a ‘‘metal capsule’’ that would approach speeds of 150 miles per hour and spin 360 degrees in midair. If all went well, Super Dave would emerge intact at the end.


As the camera pulled back, Mr. Einstein’s character was taking his place alongside children and nuns in a roller coaster car.

‘‘Can we stop it before we go into the 360?’’ a panicked Super Dave said midway through the ride. ‘‘We’re going into the 360. I can’t take it! I can’t do it! Am I breathing? I think I’m bleeding out of my nose, I can’t tell.’’

The Super Dave character was featured on a 1980 television series ‘‘Bizarre,’’ hosted by comedian John Byner, and on Mr. Einstein’s frequent appearances on ‘‘The Tonight Show,’’ ‘‘Late Night With David Letterman,’’ and ‘‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’’ From 1987 to 1991, Mr. Einstein had a variety show on cable television, ‘‘Super Dave,’’ featuring more misadventures.

He was repeatedly being crushed by wrecking balls or dropped off a bridge on a bungee cord. (The cord breaks, of course, and an ambulance lowered from a second bungee cord lands on top of him.)

In another episode, Super Dave attempts to withstand the falling blade of a guillotine.


The sportscaster interviews him afterward:

‘‘Super Dave, are you all right?’’

‘‘Yes, Mike, I think I’m OK,’’ Mr. Einstein deadpans. ‘‘Can I ask you one question, Mike? Am I holding my head in my hands, talking to you?’’


‘‘Then I’m not OK.’’

Beginning in 2004, Mr. Einstein appeared in 22 episodes of Larry David’s ‘‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’’ playing Marty Funkhouser, a friend who inevitably ends up in a heated — and pointless — argument with David.

Much of their dialogue was improvised. In one episode, Funkhouser’s mother has just died.

David’s character says, ‘‘By the way, I called your house. I left a condolence message. I never got a return call.’’

Funkhouser: ‘‘Well, I had a few things on my mind.’’

David: ‘‘Still, it’s a little discourteous.’’

Funkhouser: ‘‘Let me explain something to you.’’

David: ‘‘Sure.’’

Funkhouser: ‘‘I lost my dad a year ago. My mother just died. I’m an orphan, OK?’’

David: ‘‘You’re a what?’’

Funkhouser: ‘‘I’m an orphan.’’

David: ‘‘Orphan?’’

Funkhouser: ‘‘Yeah, an orphan.’’

David: ‘‘You’re a little too old to be an orphan.’’

Funkhouser: ‘‘No, if you don’t have parents, you’re an orphan.’’

David: ‘‘Oh, you could be 70 and be an orphan?’’

Funkhouser: ‘‘You could be a hundred and be an orphan.’’

David: ‘‘You can’t be a hundred and be an orphan.’’

Funkhouser: ‘‘Yeah, you can.’’

David: ‘‘OK — little orphan Funkhouser.’’

Stewart Robert Einstein was born Nov. 20, 1942, in Los Angeles. His father, Harry, was a vaudeville and radio comedian who sometimes was known by the stage name of ‘‘Parkyakarkus.’’

His mother, Thelma Leeds, was a singer.

At Chapman University in Orange, Calif., the 6-foot-4 Mr. Einstein played basketball. After graduating, he worked in advertising before becoming a TV sketch writer and performer. In addition to ‘‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,’’ his writing and producing credits included ‘‘The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour,’’ ‘‘The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show,’’ and ‘‘Van Dyke and Company,’’ a variety show hosted by Dick Van Dyke, for which Mr. Einstein received another Emmy.

In addition to ‘‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’’ and his appearances as Super Dave, Mr. Einstein had recurring television roles in ‘‘Arrested Development’’ and ‘‘Crank Yankers.’’ He played Matt Damon’s father in the 2007 caper movie ‘‘Ocean’s Thirteen.’’

He twice appeared on Jerry Seinfeld’s online series ‘‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.’’

Besides Brooks, Mr. Einstein leaves his wife of more than 40 years, Roberta; a daughter, Erin Einstein Dale; another brother, advertising executive Clifford Einstein; and two grandchildren.

A half brother, sportswriter Charles Einstein, died in 2007.

Although his parents and younger brother were entertainers, Mr. Einstein was at first reluctant to enter the family trade.

‘‘I had no ambition to go into show business when I was growing up,’’ he said in 1987. ‘‘I started out as an advertising copywriter and evolved into it. Once you get into it, however, it’s very difficult to get out. It gets into your blood. You don’t want to do anything else. You want that excitement.’’