"The Super Bob Einstein Movie" celebrates the life and legacy...

"The Super Bob Einstein Movie" celebrates the life and legacy of the late actor, writer and producer Bob Einstein. Credit: HBO

DOCUMENTARY "The Super Bob Einstein Movie"

WHEN|WHERE Tuesday at 9 p.m. on HBO, also streaming on HBO Max

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Bob Einstein — who played Marty Funkhouser on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" — died nearly three years ago (Jan. 2, 2019) at the age of 76. Now comes the documentary celebrating this remarkable comedic life, with testimony from his brothers Albert Brooks and Cliff Einstein, wife Berta and daughter Erin, and various comic luminaries (Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Susie Essman, Sarah Silverman, Norman Lear, David Letterman, Cheryl Hines, Jimmy Kimmel, Steve Martin, Patton Oswalt, Rob Reiner and J.B. Smoove).

Einstein was member of a famed show business family — his father, Harry, was a radio comedian — and went on to build his own influential dynasty, notably as faux stuntman Super Dave Osborne, who appeared in dozens of shows (including a few of his own), plenty of commercials, and movie. Einstein began this durable career writing for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" (1967-'69).

MY SAY In the 11th season opener of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Brooks stages his own funeral so that he can savor the eulogies and kind thoughts. After all (he reasons) why wait until you're dead to hear all this stuff? "The Super Bob Einstein Movie" opens with the same rough idea (intentionally, of course). Einstein "would love" this film, says Martin, his onetime writing partner. Letterman concurs, but adds that he'd "like to be in it mostly by himself."

In fact, watching this, you too can almost picture Einstein in some upstairs bedroom, watching the proceedings from the comfort of a king -size bed, his famous "SD '' ("Super Dave '') cap squarely atop his head. He would indeed love this movie, but also have some reservations and nitpicks. (That's Bob, after all.) For example, not a single reference to his "Larry the Middleman" from "Arrested Development?" (Larry was a stand-in for Jeffrey Tambor's George Bluth, who was under house arrest.)

Also, failures are funnier than successes, yet nothing here about "The Ken Berry Wow Show," or "The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show" (he wrote for both) — long-forgotten stinkers but forever preserved in amber on his IMDB page.

Plus, aren't movies supposed to be at least 90 minutes long? "The Super Bob Einstein Movie'' is only 75 and Einstein would have something to say about that as well.

But those 75 minutes? Glorious, and not a quote (or clip) out of place. These fans don't simply come to celebrate Einstein, but to understand Einstein — most specifically, the durability of his many acts, and personas, which are indeed so durable that we can't really think of him as "Bob Einstein'' but only as "Officer Judy'' ("The Smothers Brothers'') or "Super Dave" or "The Funkman."

Seinfeld observes here that "being a comedian and not trying to be funny is a very special gift." But Smoove (Leon of "Curb") seems to have it exactly right when he says that Einstein was just "playing a version" of himself on "Curb."

In other words, not trying, just being.

As "The Super Bob Einstein Movie '' so well establishes, being Bob was more than enough. Born (and raised) in Beverly Hills, he came straight out of a show business tradition that was effectively mothballed with the end of "Laurel and Hardy'' or perhaps Wile E. Coyote: The aggrieved straight man who always come out on the wrong side of the joke but (as Sarah Silverman says here) still gets two laughs in the process.

The film's director and producer Danny Gold traces the style back to Einstein's childhood, when he was confined a year at home with polio and could watch his father develop his own comic alter egos. Later, at his father's funeral, Einstein suffered through a service where comedian after comedian told jokes and he thereafter swore off a life in show business — until show business (or Tommy Smothers) came calling.

Nevertheless, some of that visceral distaste remained. By being a joke, Einstein could simultaneously remain apart or aloof from it — always funnier for the effort.

The best part of this film, and in a sense, the last word too is left to his granddaughter Zoe, who says he "just always [found] a way to make the day better [and] a joke that could brighten our day." Ditto this posthumous celebration.


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