Steve Martin, David Letterman, Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld and more Recall Their Friend, Comedy Genius Bob Einstein, AKA Super Dave Osborne
DIRECTED BY DANNY GOLD/2021
With a clunky title and an enthusiastic spirit, director Danny Gold’s new HBO Max documentary about comedian’s comedian Bob Einstein, better known in his well-worn stuntman alter ego, Super Dave Osborne, hits with all the force of a lobbed cotton ball.
Clumsily conflating its subject’s monikers while also declaring itself “Super” are bold (if unintentionally bold) moves for a film that spends most of its time championing its subject’s comedic precision and subtlety. But, as evidenced, Bob Einstein (better known for his popular Curb Your Enthusiasm character, Marty Funkhouser), had no shortage of friends willing to say glowing things about him. Einstein died of cancer in 2019 at age 76, but for many, his hilarious legacy of cantankerous television appearances and long-game parodies of Evel Knievel will live on forever.
Clocking in at a brisk seventy-eight minutes, The Super Bob Einstein Movie takes the Citizen Kane route, beginning with the main character’s death. We get a montage of social media posts from Einstein’s famous friends saying nice things, and then spend the rest of the film hearing directly from said famous friends elaborating on said nice things.
Gold, with the power of HBO Max behind him, is able to nab interviews with an amazing array of still-living comedy legends, including Steve Martin, David Letterman, Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, Norman Lear, Tommy Smothers, Sarah Silverman, and Einstein’s more-famous brother, Albert Brooks. Many are forced to enjoy old Einstein clips (including his early Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour bits, Bizarre clips, and of course, Super Dave), on camera, which is only semi-awkward. A few family members also turn up to pay tribute. Even as the jokes are sometimes quite raunchy (that was Einstein!), it’s ultimately all very nice, and does a decent job of pinpointing Einstein’s unique skills and temperament. But for anyone hoping for a warts-and-all examination, this is decidedly not that.
Fans will likely wonder where the people are who actually worked day-to-day with Einstein. Where are the directors and unknown co-writers? Where the heck is his longtime co-star Art Irizawa, who for years played the now-problematic Super Dave sidekick, Fuji? (He’s not even mentioned!) What about the short lived but sometimes brilliant Super Dave Saturday morning cartoon? Nowhere to be found.
Mostly, The Super Bob Einstein Movie functions as star-powered one-stop shopping for all the subject’s greatest hits, presented with all the fat cut out. Boom, straight to the punchlines. Never mind that Einstein himself operated the opposite of this method, making an art of dragging setups on as long as possible. Everyone will laugh, and newcomers will learn a little bit about the man’s craft. But for the most part, The Super Bob Einstein Movie lands like an old corporately produced DVD extra: all cushy landings and very little long-term wallop.