Editor’s Note: Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian and actor. Follow him on Twitter @realgilbert and Instagram @realgilbert. And listen to his podcast, “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast!”
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. View more opinion on CNN.
Every now and again, a guest comes on my podcast and I let them take the reins. Bob Einstein, also known by his characters Super Dave Osborne from David Letterman’s show and Marty Funkhouser from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” was one of those.
When Einstein – who died Wednesday – was on with me, my only job was trying to get a word in edgewise. I just let him be funny and sat back like an audience member.
Bob was a strange guy, both to watch and listen to. He sounded like Clint Eastwood, if Clint Eastwood had just come out of throat surgery. Bob said once that he didn’t dream of being a comedian as a kid. He wanted to be a basketball player. I kind of wish that dream had come true – it would have made me a big basketball fan.
He was always funny to watch because he seemed totally certain and completely confused at the same time. Even at his most forceful and energetic, he came across looking and sounding like a guy you woke up at three o’clock in the morning.
Bob and his brother, the great comedian, writer and actor Albert Brooks, were sons of the beloved entertainer Harry Einstein, who played the character Parkyakarkus on the radio and in movies in the 1930s and ‘40s.
One famous showbiz story involved the time Parkyakarkus performed at a roast for TV greats Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. He got up and the place exploded with laughter. He gave the greatest show of his career. People were cheering. He then sat down and bowed his head, leaning against comedian Milton Berle. The audience thought this was part of the act. It turns out, he had died.
Lucy sat totally stunned and Desi left the stage crying. To a lot of people, dying onstage seems like the perfect way for a performer to go. In an interview, Bob recounted: “Someone once said to me, ‘Well, at least your dad died doing something that he loved.’ My dad was fifty-four!”
Bob asked the guy: “What does your mother do?” He answered, “She’s a housewife.” So then Bob said, “Okay, let’s go over to her house while she’s doing the laundry and I’ll blow her f***ing head off. At least she will have died doing what she loved.’”
That story right there shows you the type of guy Bob was.
He was a total cynic and a complete wiseass.
When he was on my podcast in 2016, he kept ragging on me and my co-host Frank Santopadre, saying things like: “Is anybody listening to this?… I just saw Gilbert pick up a magazine.”
He was on a roll. “What is a podcast? What is it? It’s the cheapest***thing… And this setup is like, I’m telling you: I feel like I’m sitting at the airport in the men’s room… and someone came in with a mic.”
I never laughed so hard being insulted so viciously.
He talked to me and Frank about being a writer in what he considered the golden age of show business – working with people like the Smothers Brothers, Dick Van Dyke and Redd Foxx and writing for other TV variety shows when there were only three networks on the air.
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After his writing career, he went on to performing. He became most famous as the totally inept stunt man Super Dave, a character I can only describe as Evel Knievel after too many falls on his head. After that, he appeared on a number of TV shows, including “Arrested Development,” and joined Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as the very funny Marty Funkhouser character, fitting in perfectly with the comedy and neurosis of that show.
When Bob was on my podcast, he told a few jokes that I already knew and had even told a number of times. I didn’t care. Hearing him say them was like hearing them for the first time. I’m sad to say farewell to the man who would have been the funniest basketball player ever.