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On the Set : Super Dave’s New Stunt: A Plot

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just outside the Rio Hotel, an acrobat does flips on a trampoline. Another jumps rope while walking on a high wire. And last but not least, Super Dave Osborne (Bob Einstein) prepares to plunge from a scaffold tower to the pavement.

But off camera, Einstein is frustrated. A woman playing another acrobat can’t remember her lines.

“I’m not an actress,” she says. “I’m a model.”

“Get me a rope and a tree,” says Einstein, to the chuckle of cast and crew.

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Life hasn’t gotten any easier for Einstein as cocky stuntman Super Dave, whose feats always go wrong, ending with him crushed, mangled, even flattened. The character, popularized on Showtime and late-night talk shows, returns to cable Saturay on USA Network’s “Super Dave’s Vegas Spectacular.”

This is Super Dave--with plots.

In this latest incarnation, the daredevil runs his own hotel and casino while still planning and performing his stunts for his TV series. The show breaks comedy’s fourth wall, shifting back and forth from Super Dave the stuntman to Super Dave the hotelier, all backed by an ineffectual staff:

Hotel manager Donald Glanz (Don Lake) and public relations director Sandi Cosgrove (Jennifer Grant), mean well but always seem to bungle the job; Guenter and Hans (Hans Tester and John Forristal), the Siegfried & Roy wannabes who insist their animals get their own rooms; super-agent Morty Roth (Keith MacKenchnie), who reps acts like Willard the singing Chiropractor, and Tommy Keenan (Mike MacDonald), the ever-watchful USA Network executive who has a gambling habit. Joining Super Dave from his popular Showtime series are stunt coordinator Fuji Hakayito (Art Irizawa) and TV announcer Mike Walden (as himself).

“This show doesn’t stop,” says Einstein, dressed in his red, white and blue Super Dave jumpsuit during a break at the Rio Hotel buffet. “That’s the fun.”

In one episode alone, to air the night before the Super Bowl, Dave inducts football veterans into a Super Dave Hall of Fame; Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones declares it Super Dave Day at Planet Hollywood, and a film crew is shooting “Die Hard 3" on top of the hotel. Oh, and the hotel is hosting a convention for the blind, which was thwarted because a rival owner has switched the Braille on the elevators.

“This show is such a spoof on life,” Irizawa says. “It is such a hilarious, ridiculous show, you can’t help but laugh.”

Off-screen, Einstein is just as quick-witted as he is on. He acts out entire scripts on the spot, his voice changing mid-sentence from raspy gravel to high-pitched squeak. As he strolls into the hotel, he spots an elderly man holding a tinfoil screen to catch extra sun rays.

“That’s very good for your skin,” Einstein says.

Part of this comes from Einstein’s comic roots. The son of radio comic Harry (Parkyakarkus) Einstein and brother of comic actor-writer Albert Brooks, he spent much of the late 1960s and 1970s doing sketch comedy for variety shows such as “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and “Van Dyke and Company.” He and partner Allan Blye (co-executive producers of the USA show) popularized the Super Dave character on Showtime’s “Bizarre” and later spun him off in his own series on the cable network from 1987 to 1992. To date, Super Dave has performed more than 100 stunts.

“I always thought he was hilarious,” says Grant, daughter of Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon. “You know what is going to happen: that he is going to get trounced, go down in flames and get smashed. It’s stupid humor.”

Taking the act to Vegas, however, wasn’t all that Einstein and Blye expected. During one scene, in which Super Dave tries to tame a lion, Einstein tried to pull him like a dog on a leash.

“I said, ‘Come here!’ and he came right by me into the cage,” Einstein says. “But you can see my face for a moment when I went, ‘It’s over.’ ”

In another instance, the show was forced to postpone a few stunts the week before Thanksgiving because of high winds and snow flurries in Vegas, of all places.

“Where do I start?” says Grant of living in a hotel-casino for several weeks. “The smoke, the gambling, the night-day ‘Twilight Zone’ environment. All the neon. There is some good cable in the rooms, though.”

Einstein eats up the Vegas atmosphere as he strolls past slots in the Rio Hotel’s casino.

“When we’re in here, we go,” Einstein says. “We do have an area blocked off for shooting, but anything else is fair game.”

Some gamblers shout his name. Others ask for his autograph. After an 82-year-old woman interrupted a scene to talk to Super Dave, they wrote her into an episode.

“In the scene she sticks her hand out and I say, ‘I’m not taking any autographs,’ ” Einstein says. “I continue walking and in the background, you see that my bodyguard hits her in the face. She goes bapp! Ugh!”

Don’t worry. Einstein insists his character hasn’t gone to his head.

“The whole character of Super Dave is a takeoff on people who pontificate,” he says. “So one thing I never want to do is pontificate why this works, why this is funny. I have no idea what the appeal is. All we are trying to do is make people have a good time and laugh.”

“Super Dave’s Vegas Spectacular” airs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. on USA Network.


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