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Courtesy of HBO

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Seinfeld creator's minor annoyances become major issues in this hit HBO series

By Patricia Ingold

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Created by Larry David, starring Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman

Larry David was known primarily as co-creator and head writer of television’s Seinfeld until he cast himself in the daring comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm. Not surprisingly, the man behind so many memorable sitcom characters is a brilliant performer skilled in stand-up comedy and improvisation. In the series, David plays himself and mines laughter from an endless source material — his own anti-social behaviour.

Larry lives semi-retired in the bland environs of Los Angeles, alienating friends, relatives and associates with behaviour that is almost always motivated by self-interest. He shamelessly tries to evade his responsibilities after being coerced into donating a kidney to an ailing friend. And he offends an elderly woman when he gags after learning he accidentally drank from her glass. As comedy, it works because Larry’s obsessions and anxieties hit home. Let’s just call him human.

Seinfeld fans will note the familiar themes of selfishness and moral indifference, and the attention paid to trivial details. Larry’s minor annoyances become major issues, producing some of the series’ most inspired moments. There’s the television executive who Larry suspects stole shrimp from his take-out lunch, the talent agent who brags that his sweater is “100 percent cashmere” and the friend who claims he has a “cleaner colon.” David can spin entire shows around these minute, ridiculous details, as he and his talented cast improvise without a script, from a five-page outline.

The results are side-splitting and frequently jaw dropping. No subject is taboo, and Curb Your Enthusiasm routinely takes on sex, religion and, especially, race. A current storyline has Larry and his wife, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), inviting an African-American family displaced by a hurricane to live with them while their home is being rebuilt. Upon meeting the family,Larry immediately comments that their last name is Black. Trust Larry to speak aloud what the rest of us might only dare to think.

Just don’t expect any underlying messages. The show is all about making us laugh and leaving us breathless. Curb Your Enthusiasm ultimately succeeds because Larry David has the courage to allow us inside his head. That and a smile that implicates us in his mayhem. 

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