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.

New Jersey's Anthony Bourdain Food Trail Has Opened

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Before Anthony Bourdain was a world-famous chef, author, or food and travel documentarian, he was just another kid growing up in New Jersey. Earlier this year, Food & Wine reported that Bourdain's home state would honor the late television personality with a food trail tracing his favorite restaurants. And that trail is now open.

Bourdain was born in New York City in 1956, and spent most of childhood living in Leonia, New Jersey. He often revisited the Garden State in his books and television shows, highlighting the state's classic diners and delis and the seafood shacks of the Jersey shore.

Immediately following Bourdain's tragic death on June 8, 2018, New Jersey assemblyman Paul Moriarty proposed an official food trail featuring some of his favorite eateries. The trail draws from the New Jersey episode from season 5 of the CNN series Parts Unknown. In it, Bourdain traveled to several towns throughout the state, including Camden, Atlantic City, and Asbury Park, and sampled fare like cheesesteaks, salt water taffy, oysters, and deep-fried hot dogs.

The food trail was approved following a unanimous vote in January, and the trail was officially inaugurated last week. Among the stops included on the trail:

  1. Frank's Deli // Asbury Park
  1. Knife and Fork Inn // Atlantic City
  1. Dock's Oyster House // Atlantic City
  1. Tony's Baltimore Grill // Atlantic City
  1. James' Salt Water Taffy // Atlantic City
  1. Lucille's Country Cooking // Barnegat
  1. Tony & Ruth Steaks // Camden
  1. Donkey's Place // Camden
  2. Hiram's Roadstand // Fort Lee

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

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