8 Death-Defying Facts About Super Dave Osborne

Mr.ShowBiz, YouTube
Mr.ShowBiz, YouTube

Before appearing as Marty Funkhouser in Larry David’s improvisational HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, actor Bob Einstein was familiar to cable audiences as “Super Dave” Osborne, an alter ego created as a parody of reckless daredevils like Evel Knievel. Like a human cartoon, Osborne's bravado would usually get him maimed. With Einstein—a.k.a. Super Dave—turning 75 on November 20, and today marking the 30th anniversary of his Super Dave Showtime series, we thought we’d take a look back at the origins of this unique comic persona.

1. HE’S ALBERT BROOKS’S BROTHER.

No Super Dave primer would be complete without mention of the fact that Einstein vied for attention as a child with younger brother Albert, who went on to become an acclaimed writer, director, and actor with films like 1985’s Lost in America and 1991’s Defending Your Life. Understandably, Albert realized that a show business career might be hindered by his father’s questionable decision to name him “Albert Einstein,” so he changed his name to Albert Brooks. Bob kept the family surname.

2. HE WASN’T DIRECTLY INSPIRED BY EVEL KNIEVEL.

When Einstein came up with the Super Dave character for a 1976 variety show, Van Dyke and Company, Evel Knievel’s popularity was in full swing. The daredevil—who had broken dozens of bones jumping over the fountains at Caesar’s Palace in 1967 and subsequently achieved superstardom doing similarly ill-advised stunts—seemed ripe for parody. But according to Einstein, Super Dave was born more out of the false bravado he had seen exhibited by stuntmen in the movie business. “Where it started was from every a**hole who worked on a movie or worked in athletics or anything and when they were interviewed they were always Mr. Gladhand,” Osborne told the Futon Critic in 2009. ”'This was the best game I ever had!’ ‘This is the best stunt I've ever done!’ But then behind the scenes they said what they really felt. I wanted to create a character where you saw both sides of it. He was happy as sh*t before he got killed and then afterwards you saw the real side of him, so that's where it came from. It didn't really have to do with Evel except that I was a stuntman.”

3. HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE FIRST CABLE TV SPINOFF.

Einstein portrayed Super Dave in a Showtime variety series titled Bizarre from 1979 to 1985. In 1987, the cable channel gave the character his own series, Super Dave, which The New York Times declared “cable’s first spin-off series” and a “dubious landmark of sorts.” Super Dave’s first episode featured guest appearances by Ray Charles and Carol Burnett.

4. HE NEARLY GOT HURT FOR REAL.

Super Dave aficionados are familiar with the character’s formula, which involves bragging about his stunt prowess before inevitably getting mangled, crushed, or otherwise maimed after things go awry. (In one sketch, Super Dave plummets to certain death after his bungee cord snaps. His assistant tries to lower an ambulance via bungee cord, which then falls on him.) But for a 1990 episode, Einstein told the Los Angeles Times that he came close to getting decimated for real. Trying to navigate a “bullfight” in a mini-Cooper with a tank, the giant military vehicle advanced after Einstein’s car stalled out, nearly flattening him.  

5. HE ENDORSED NIKE.

Super Dave became a cult cable hit in the early 1990s—enough for Nike to invite Einstein to appear in a commercial for Nike Air shoes alongside Reggie Miller and other NBA stars. In the spot, Super Dave tries a slam dunk and winds up breaking the backboard with his face.

6. HE GOT HIS OWN ANIMATED SERIES.

In 1991, Super Dave entered a new dimension—animation—with Super Dave: Daredevil for Hire, a short-lived animated series on Fox that aired for 13 episodes in 1992. Something appeared to get lost in translation, as Osborne was already a cartoon and relegating him to animation seemed somewhat redundant.

7. FRIENDS CALLED BOB “DAVE” IN PUBLIC.

Actors are usually irritated when they’re confused for their onscreen personas, but Einstein and Super Dave became so linked that Einstein’s friend—and Super Dave co-creator—Allan Blye resorted to calling him “Dave” when the two were out in public. “When I call him Bob, people are very confused,” Blye told The New York Times in 1995. “Super Dave Osborne, to millions of people, is a real person.”

8. EINSTEIN WON’T LET HIM STAY DEAD.

Following his 1980s heyday, Super Dave was resurrected in several projects. In 1995, Einstein filmed a new series, Super Dave’s Vegas Spectacular, with an actual plot—Super Dave owns and operates a casino—which lasted just one season. In 2000, he released The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave, a direct-to-video film featuring Super Dave attempting one last stunt to earn money for a child’s operation. And in 2009, Spike brought him back for four episodes of botched stunts.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.