‘The Brady Bunch’ Star Robbie Rist Reflects on His Time as Cousin Oliver

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Brady Bunch fans hated Cousin Oliver. And in the years since his turn on the popular sitcom, Cousin Oliver has become shorthand for some of the worst aspects of television production. But the actor who played him loved his time on the show and was just happy to get out of school.

Robbie Rist played the adorable cousin on The Brady Bunch for the show’s final six episodes in 1974. Producers had hoped he would help them reinvigorate a cast that was quickly aging. Cousin Oliver, they thought, was the future of the show. But most fans look back at his inclusion as the show’s death knell.

It created the term “Cousin Oliver Syndrome,” which is when a show throws a cute kid into the mix late in a series run to drum up appeal. Dozens of shows have done it, but when Rist suited up for The Brady Bunch this was one of the first instances of the phenomenon. He didn’t realize the baggage that would come from being on the show.

“I had fun,” he told Legendary Rock Interviews. “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 made lifelong friends with some of the cast.

“Susan (Olsen) is probably the one member of the cast I’m still close with and talk to. She’s great,” he said. “Every once in a while I will bump into the others at conventions or something, but mostly I talk to Susan. …She played guitar, and I played all kinds of musical instruments and sang. So, we had that in common as well,” he added.

What’s Robbie Rist Been Up To Since Leaving ‘The Brady Bunch?’

Cousin Oliver grew up to be an accomplished musician and entertainer. Despite Brady Bunch fans hating the character, they seem to really like Robbie Rist. He still goes to classic TV conventions with some of the other actors on the show.

He even reunited with some of them on-screen in the new Lifetime Christmas movie Blended Christmas. Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, and Susan Olsen from The Brady Bunch all appear in the movie that the network released last weekend.

Though, you were more likely to hear the 57-year-old Rist than see him since he left The Brady Bunch. He’s been a voice actor on Balto, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Doc McStuffins. He also writes and performs music.

“I don’t really consider myself an actor or a musician. I am just an entertainment guy,” Rist told LA Times in 2015. “The only differences between acting and music are subtle criteria. There are many similarities, although most actors and musicians would probably despair me saying that. I just like making stuff. I do all the cartoon stuff, acting … wrote commercials for a while … produced a movie in 2006, have a podcast called The Spoon, and I have my band.”