Bob Einstein is recognizable through his most iconic television roles. Such as Super stuntman Dave Osborne or Larry David’s film Marty Funkhauser in Curb Your Enthusiasm. But did you know that he is Albert Brooks’ older brother and only shared one scene with him? I can find these and many other highlights in the new HBO documentary about the comedian.
The opening material establishes true comedy and features a New York Times obituary for Einstein’s death in 2019 at the age of 76. With Twitter recommendations from Jerry Seinfeld and quotes from Larry David about how much he will miss him.
But we’re not here to think about Bob Einstein’s death.
The disease and its course are not even mentioned in the passing. We’re here to celebrate with his comedic genius, with commentary from Seinfeld, David, Susie Essman, David Letterman, Cheryl Hines, Sarah Silverman, Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, Steve Martin, Patton Oswalt, Rob Reiner, JB Smoove, Albert Brothers Brooks and Cliff Einstein, his wife Bertha, daughter Erin and even his two surviving grandchildren. They talk about what Super Bob is doing watching videos from his five decades in business. And sometimes we watch their videos and laugh some more.
Susie Esman said, “If Bob knew a documentary was being made about him. He would pretend he didn’t like him and would love every minute of it!”
He’ll want to see his friends and former colleagues remember and laugh again. Perhaps especially since he’s seen a rare archive of excerpts from one of his old lives from the real 1960s or 1970s for the first time. We know that he loves reliving these videos with his friends and often asks them, “How funny is that?!”
There are incredible insights for us as viewers. Even for those of us who grew up with him as Super Dave. In retrospect, it might be evident that Super Dave emerged as a satirical farewell speech from Evel Kniwell in 1976.
However, there’s still something visceral when Steve Martin compares Super Dave’s physical comedy to the animated film by Looney Tunes and its relationship to explosions and punches. From Wile E. Coyote. Or, listen to Sarah Silverman claim “he’s like a man,” and older brother Cliff explain how his serious attitude, when Bob was unfazed, got a second laugh in his head.
It’s great to imagine young Martin and Einstein:
Previously, some of them were famous for brainstorming The Smothers Brothers, Sonny & Cher, or even Redd Foxx.
As a viewer who first saw Super Dave on Bizarre on Showtime in the early 1980s, it was a step back to talk to drummer Barenaked Ladies (who worked as a PA on the spin series Super Dave) about the days of hearing and then seeing how Einstein was. Involve his daughter in the act. Or an excellent chance to see and hear the rapper speak in verse about the excellent Super Dave in the ’90s. Or laugh again at Marty Funkhauser’s insulting joke.
But something is missing from this documentation. Maybe Bob Einstein wasn’t good enough at this. Maybe it was intentional, or there was no way out as the comedian’s actions depend on him holding his cards near his vest. Attachment to his character also means maintaining a certain personal distance.
So we learn that he only appears in one scene with his younger brother Albert Brooks in Modern Romance. We watch that scene as Brooks describes their interaction. But we never know why they don’t work together with any more than that. Or why Bob went against show business after his famous comedian dad (Harry Einstein, aka Parkjacarcus) fell from grace while grilling Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, only to sneak straight on TV after a few years in commercials.
There is much more for Bob and his family to discover. However, this 15-hour tour remains a fun tour of the life of a talented comedian who can make you laugh while still putting on a deathly face.