Bob Einstein, the gravelly-voiced actor best known for playing Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Marty Funkhouser and the spirited stuntman Super Dave Osborne, died Wednesday at the age of 76. New York Daily News reports that he had been battling cancer.
Although best known as an actor, Einstein, the older brother of Albert Brooks, got his start in the entertainment industry as a writer. He won two Emmys in the 1970s for his contributions to the Dick Van Dyke vehicle, Van Dyke and Company, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In addition to his long-running Super Dave character, which he debuted in 1972 and portrayed on everything from Late Night With David Letterman to his own Super Dave show, he gained fame in recent years for his appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development.
“Never have I seen an actor enjoy a role the way Bob did playing ‘Marty Funkhouser’ on Curb,” show creator and star Larry David tells Rolling Stone. “It was an amazing, unforgettable experience knowing and working with him. There was no one like him, as he told us again and again. We’re all in a state of shock.” David noted that Einstein was scheduled to be part of Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s 10th season, but his health prevented him from filming.
“He loved his family and making people laugh more than anything in the world,” his daughter, Erin Einstein Dale, tells Rolling Stone.
“R.I.P., my dear brother Bob Einstein,” Albert Brooks wrote on Twitter. “A great brother, father and husband. A brilliantly funny man. You will be missed forever.”
Born Stewart Robert Einstein in Los Angeles on November 20th, 1942, Einstein was the son of actress-singer Thelma Leeds and comic Harry Einstein, who portrayed the character Parkyakarkus. His father died in 1958 and Einstein initially shied away from comedy after seeing people tell jokes at his dad’s funeral. He attended Chapman University and pursued a career in advertising until Tommy Smothers spotted him on a local TV show pretending to be the man who installed stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and offered him a job.
Einstein became a regular writer for the Smothers Brothers’ shows beginning in 1968 and occasionally appeared onscreen. He also wrote for The Andy Williams Magic Lantern Show Company and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, among others, before working on Van Dyke and Company and an episode of Redd Foxx. In the early 1980s, Einstein co-created the sketch comedy show, Bizarre, with actor-comedian John Byner.
He first portrayed Super Dave Osborne on The John Byner Comedy Hour and continued playing him on Bizarre. From 1987 to 1991, he starred on his own Super Dave and voiced the character on the cartoon, Super Dave: Daredevil for Hire. The straight-to-video movie The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave followed in 2000. Einstein would play Super Dave on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Man Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Hollywood Squares among others, and he made several appearances on Late Night With David Letterman. The character’s legacy can be heard in songs by Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, A Tribe Called Quest and Fat Joe, among others.
Around the time he originated Super Dave, his career was at a crossroads. He had appeared on The Dick Cavett Show in character as the president of the fictitious Polish Anti-Defamation League and proceeded to tell polish jokes. A group of Polish-Americans, the Polish American Congress, sued for the opportunity to respond to the jokes on television, but Supreme Court ultimately denied their chance in 1976.
In the 2000s, he lent his voice to the prank-call series Crank Yankers, played George’s “surrogate” Larry Middleman on Arrested Development and had roles in Ocean’s Thirteen and Anger Management, among others. He first portrayed Marty Funkhouser on Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2004 and appeared in 22 episodes of the series.
“We lost a friend today,” his Curb castmate Cheryl Hines tweeted. “Thanks for all of the laughs on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Our love to Bob’s family. … The comedy world will miss you.”
“I knew him forever,” stand-up comic and Curb regular Richard Lewis tweeted. “His long career is hard to match. His role on Curb Your Enthusiasm was excruciatingly brilliant! Our cast and crew will be devastated. He was so loved. He told me how much he loved Larry David and Curb. R.I.P., buddy.”
“Long live Super Dave. Long live Marty Funkhauser. I lost my friend today. I loved him. I learned so much from him. He made me laugh hard,” Curb castmate Jeff Garlin posted on Instagram. “He was supportive. He was a great father, husband, and friend. I’m truly heartbroken. My time in this world was made much better by Bob Einstein. An honor to have been his friend.”