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Remembering Emmy-Winning Writer Bob Einstein Who Later Took Up Acting


Actor and comedy writer Bob Einstein died Wednesday at the age of 76. He won Emmys for his writing, and he was known for his on-screen roles in shows like "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Arrested Development," and before that, for his character Super Dave Osborne, the inept stuntman. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this appreciation.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: In "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Bob Einstein plays Marty Funkhouser, a raspy-voiced friend who is a self-serious foil to Larry David's character on the show. The two argue about anything and everything, including the right time to leave an anniversary party.


BOB EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) You left my party before dessert. How can you do that? It's not proper etiquette.

LARRY DAVID: (As Larry David) I don't subscribe to the wait-for-dessert rule before you can leave a party.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) No one cares what you subscribe to, OK? We were trying to recreate what happened 25 years ago. And I said, Larry, would you like to make a toast? And someone said, Larry went home to take a [expletive].

LIMBONG: Bob Einstein's roots in show business go back to childhood. His father, Harry, was also a comedian, who died shortly after performing at a roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Here's how Bob Einstein told that story to Jerry Seinfeld in a noisy cafe on the show "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee."


EINSTEIN: I had to hear about it on the radio in the morning.



SEINFELD: Are we good? There's a lot of - OK. I'm just concerned about the sound.

EINSTEIN: I just got through telling the story that almost makes me cry, and you turn to [expletive] and say, are we good? That's OK. Let's make sure it's on tape.

LIMBONG: That stone-faced commitment to a bit was a signature of Einstein's since his appearances as Super Dave Osborne. This was a character who would appear on a number of variety and late-night shows. The joke was that Super Dave Osborne was a serious stuntman - an Evel Knievel-type wearing a jumpsuit and helmet - but the outlandish stunts would always end disastrously, with Super Dave taking some massive pratfall.


EINSTEIN: (As Super Dave Osborne) OK. Pull forward a little bit.

LIMBONG: In this bit on his own show, he's strapped on a chair that's bolted to skis being dragged behind a truck. He's hoping to hit a ramp in order to do a jump over a bus. It doesn't end well. See, the truck is in reverse.


EINSTEIN: (As Super Dave Osborne) Ready? Get set. Go. Oh, my Lord.

LIMBONG: It'd be obvious that Super Dave was actually replaced by a dummy before being hit. That was part of the charm. And it did help inspire a wave of physical stunt comedy, like MTV's "Jackass." In a 2008 interview with the CBC, Einstein said that the difference was his stunts were so extravagantly fictional.


EINSTEIN: The only thing I didn't like about "Jackass" is kids could emulate it, and I don't like that. And a reporter asked me, well, can't kids emulate what you do? I said, yeah, if their father buys them a bus and puts them on top with a piano and then drives them under a bridge, they can emulate me.

LIMBONG: Einstein won two Emmys for writing on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" and "Van Dyke And Company." When Bob Einstein would be interviewed on talk shows, he was always quick to tell a joke or share a story. Bob Einstein's younger brother, actor and filmmaker Albert Brooks, tweeted, quote, "a great brother, father and husband. A brilliantly funny man. You will be missed forever." Andrew Limbong, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong
Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.