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My new favourite television show is Curb Your Enthusiasm.

I watched a few episodes in its early seasons when it was being shown on one of the commercial channels. The strong language was all bleeped and I found it almost impossible to follow — certainly not possible to enjoy. My impression was that this is a show that is almost completely made up of bad words and I lost interest. (I don’t really mind strong language in a program but if it’s every second word, it’s just tedious. Trailer Park Boys, I’m looking at you.)

I have long been a fan — and a self-proclaimed expert — of Seinfeld. Most days, I watch it more than once; sometimes, I watch the same episode more than once in the same day. I don’t know why — I know most of the lines by heart at this point — but I never seem to get tired of it. I can answer all the trivia quiz questions and in fact, I think I could make up a few quizzes myself.

Last year, I read somewhere that the Seinfeld cast would be guests on Curb Your Enthusiasm doing a quasi-reunion show. I pretty well had to see that so we subscribed to HBO Canada and I became a dedicated watcher of Curb Your Enthusiasm. (A little sidebar: The language is raunchy but not unlike what you’d hear in most social circles and not nearly as tiresome as Trailer Park Boys – or the movies my teenage son and his friends watch. My conclusion: The bleeping gives a false impression and makes the language sound more offensive than it really is.)

Somewhere along the way, as I watched, I developed an intense fascination — bordering on a harmless obsession — with Larry David, the show’s star and creator.

Larry David
Larry David

I had seen the name “Larry David” for years, at the beginning of every Seinfeld episode as co-creator, and at the end — during the first seven seasons — as executive producer. I was vaguely aware of the parts he played as the voice of New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, as Frank Costanza’s lawyer, as a news vendor. I knew that he was considered to be the person that George Costanza’s character was based on.

And that was about it.

Once my obsession developed, I read everything I could find about him, I watched countless interviews and clips from talk shows on YouTube, I checked him out on news reports every day. I was relieved and quite pleased to learn that he’s a pretty nice guy — intelligent, kind, compassionate and, of course, funny.

I liked it when I heard that when he was doing stand-up in the comedy clubs, all the other comics who were in the club would gather to hear him do his act. He didn’t really like the audience most of the time — he likes undivided attention and patrons in a comedy club are drinking alcohol and often distracted. One night, he came out, looked slowly around at everyone, said, “Never mind,” and walked off.

Knowing everything I’ve learned about him has changed the way I watch — the way I see — Seinfeld and has given it a whole new life.

Larry David plays a version of himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm, as a multi-millionaire writer/co-creator of the most acclaimed sitcom in television history — which he is. The episodes are unscripted with each of the characters — some of them playing themselves, others playing a role — being given an outline of what the situation is and they play it off the tops of their heads. He is described in this part as the “reigning curmudgeon of television.” He is a curmudgeon but it’s more complicated than that. He says and does outrageous things. Some of what happens in Curb is truly cringe-worthy.

And yet, he usually seems so innocent and vulnerable that it’s hard to hold the outrageousness against him. If he asks a supremely insensitive question, it doesn’t seem that he’s mean or malicious — just that he really wants to know the answer. The answer often annoys him terribly and he expresses his annoyance honestly and openly and quite often, embarrassingly.

I don’t know why this should be so funny but it is. It makes me laugh out loud and I assure you, things that are embarrassing and humiliating and cringe-worthy are not my usual sources of amusement. It’s just something about Larry.

You can read as much about him as I have — this piece from the New Yorker‘s archives is really interesting and you can watch interview after interview and lots of clips from the show on YouTube. This is the first of a series of interviews about the show and the characters and their methods. They’re interesting and entertaining.

An eighth season of 10 episodes is in production now and will be available on HBO in 2011.

3 Responses

  1. #1
    Sally Pitt 

    I enjoyed your column Sharon. I am a big fan of Seinfeld too. And have caught a few episodes of “Curb” on flights. Making the connections now I will watch it in a new light!

  2. #2

    Curb Your Enthusiasm in one of those shows that I have always meant to check out. There are so many great actors on it.

    Currently Waye and I are watching Treme a show about post Katrina New Orleans. David Simon is the writer/producer and like your obsession with Larry David I have an obsession with shows that David Simon is involved with. Homicide: Life on the Street, Generation Kill and The Wire are all series that he has been worked on.

    I think what I really like about his shows is the diversity represented on screen and the excellent characters that drive the stories. David Simon started as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun and I think it really shows in the kind of television that he produces.


  3. #3
    Robbie Lochead (Pereira) MGH 1964 

    Love Seinfeld but haven’t seen an episode in years. Rarely watch tv and wonder why people do watch it when there are so many fun things to do and interact each day. Go for a walk, make up an adventure of your own, people watch. Write your own scripts! Do miss Senfeild though. I think most of the good writers and directors of comedy probably will die off in five years and we will be left with reruns of great comedy which is a vehicle for the truth and the innuendos of life.

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