This is the story of a lovely family and their little cousin who got his start at the very end. Loyal Brady Bunch watchers will remember the last-minute introduction of Cousin Oliver, played by Robbie Rist, near the show’s end. Rist ended up making waves but not in the way initially intended. Who imagined one child could inspire such division? But what is his trendsetting actor up to now?
Robbie Rist is 57 this year, having been born on April 4, 1964, in California, and entered the entertainment industry in 1972. Before The Brady Bunch, Rist had a few show credits under his belt and even more ads. He had been in Love, American Style and Emergency! as well as, in his own words, “something like 100 commercials.” He would also develop an enthusiasm for music. All this ended up setting him up well for the next big step in his career – and way after.
Cousin Oliver Syndrome and beyond
By the time Robbie Rist joined The Brady Bunch, ABC had essentially made up its mind to let the series end. But there was one important move worth trying to boost viewership and reviews: the new “add-a-kid” method, where a show suddenly brings in a new youngster when the original child actors of the series get older. After all, viewers love seeing adorable children, right? Well, not always. Cousin Oliver, with his half-dozen appearances, ended up inspiring a whole new term in the entertainment vocabulary: Cousin Oliver Syndrome. But it wasn’t something to celebrate; in fact, audiences just did not like the character.
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This could have a worrying effect on the young actor himself, but looking back, Rist just remembers happiness. “I had fun,” Rist remembered. “All I knew was I was getting out of school, I got to stand on a piece of tape and say some words every once in a while and people would laugh. It was great for me. Then again, when you’re nine everything is great.” He also developed a very memorable relationship with Susan Olsen, known as Cindy Brady, that began akin to rivalry end settled into a lasting friendship that continues to this day. Despite the early fame, Rist never had any bouts with substance abuse that many young stars can fall into. “I think I was able to avoid the pitfalls of other child actors. You know, drugs and alcohol because my parents said they would kill me and make another one that looked just like me,” Rist joked.
Who does Robbie Rist voice?
Cousin Oliver did not redefine entertainment then go quietly into obscurity. Rist is still active in the industry – multiple industries, in fact. He stuck primarily to television series, including classics such as CHiPs, The Bionic Woman, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Big John, Little John. Some of his most famous credits come from jobs when Rist’s face is never seen; he broke into the voice work scene with a bang thanks to 1995’s animated Balto film, and followed up with the Batman cartoon, Doc McStuffins, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and over a dozen more.
An appreciation for music helped Rist both build friendships and his resume – exponentially. According to IMDb, Rist and Olsen reportedly started off on a bad note together, but today Rist considers her his closest friend from the series and the two bonded, in no small part, through music. “She played guitar and I played all kinds of musical instruments and sang so we had that in common as well.” he shared; Olsen also helped Rist discover the joy that is Queen. But it was artist Ali Riseling who captured his heart in earnest and the two got engaged back in November 2018. Now, they are a happy, artistic power couple and Rist is still smitten!
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Rist has served as a lead singer, drummer, guitarist, and bassist for several bands across Los Angeles, including Cockeyed Ghost, Wonderboy, Nice Guy Eddie, and the Andersons, to name a few. His music has also appeared in the first Sharknado film under the band name Quint, inspired by the character from Jaws. In light of this diverse portfolio, Rist has said, “I don’t really consider myself an actor or a musician. I am just an entertainment guy […] I just like making stuff. I do all the cartoon stuff, acting. I wrote commercials for a while. I produced a movie in 2006. I have a podcast called The Spoon, and I have my band.” Though he was not included in early full-cast listings from ABC surrounding The Brady Bunch, Rist has advertised The Brady Bunch from 2016 to 2019 on MeTV. And he’ll be reuniting with the TV family for Lifetime’s Blending Christmas.