What Made Bob Einstein’s Super Dave Osborne So Funny?

I wish I could tell you about the first time I saw Super Dave Osborne on TV, but I have no idea how old I was or which of his many sketches I first saw. I just have vague memories of being very young and seeing him in vignettes on a random station on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. But I do remember one thing very clearly: when I was a kid, Bob Einstein’s Super Dave was the funniest person in the world.

There’s no way I fully understood the concept of satire as a kid, but I knew Super Dave Osborne was the fake version of Evil Knievel. Watching him suffer through every botched jump, trick, and stunt seemed like the most hilarious concept imaginable. Super Dave was so obviously stupid he was easy to appreciate as a kid, and yet even then what he was doing seemed like the smartest idea in the world. Everyone, even a little kid, watched Evil Knievel to see what would happen if he failed, and Super Dave gave us the “exciting” part without any of the guilt. His character, which I didn’t even fully comprehend was a character, unquestionably shaped my comic sensibilities for life.He also stood out because he was different, in ways a kid can’t articulate even while understanding what they are watching is special. He was serious but silly, the butt of the joke but also totally in on it. Going back and watching him perform in his iconic white, red, and blue suit and helmet, it’s easy to explain what made the character so memorable—physical comedy combined with a great premise and a brilliant performer—but Super Dave was so viscerally funny it didn’t matter that I couldn’t express why I was laughing at him. What mattered is that whenever he appeared on my TV it felt like being in on the best joke in the world.
It also helped that no one else sounded like him, which is how I rediscovered him when he voiced politician Tony Deloge on Comedy Central’s prank phone call series Crank Yankers. Even though I was old enough by then to know Super Dave Osborne was a character (though I still didn’t know he was really named Bob Einstein), I still thought of him that way. He was also still being hilarious by pretending to be someone else. Crank Yankers‘ premise seems dated now, but Bob Einstein’s bits from the show are still incredibly funny. And like with Super Dave, stupid but done with total earnestness.

But if there was ever any doubt to just how funny Bob Einstein was, Curb Your Enthusiasm secured his place as one of the funniest comedic performers in TV history. As Marty Funkhouser, Larry’s self-declared best friend who also hated him, he was the funniest character on one of the funniest shows ever made. Marty took himself too seriously, loved to follow the rules to a ridiculous degree, but wasn’t above threatening to rip Larry’s head off his shoulders. He was absurd, lovable, frustrating, memorable, and most importantly hysterical.They can make comedy for another thousand years and Marty Funkhouser telling Jerry Seinfeld that incredibly obscene joke, or Super Dave Osborne crashing his motorcycle into any number of things will always be among the most hilarious things put to screen. Bob Einstein’s unforgettable voice, impeccable timing, sincere silliness, and ability to create iconic characters made him one of the funniest people on Earth.

Featured Image: Mr. Showbiz/YouTube

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