‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Boss Reacts to Vandalized Billboard and Shares Secret About That End-Credits Text Chain

[This story contains spoilers from Season 12, Episode 7 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, “The Dream Scheme.”]

Life imitated art this week in the world of Curb Your Enthusiasm when a real-life Hollywood billboard ended up vandalized, just like the plot of last week’s episode.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

As viewers will recall, the sixth episode in the final season of Larry David’s HBO comedy saw Susie Greene (played by Susie Essman) unveiling her new business venture, Catch as Caftan, which she was promoting on a billboard on Santa Monica Boulevard. During the episode, the billboard gets graffitied — with two, large penises cleverly located — and the updated work of art ends up sending sales through the roof. During last week’s chat with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Jeff Schaffer revealed the marketing stunt and had dared adoring Curb artists to mimic the show’s plot.

“I don’t know how many graffiti artists are fans of the show, but I’m praying for a few dicks,” he had said. “If we’re lucky enough to get a few on that poster, I think the sales are going to go through the roof.”

The billboard went up and within the week, Schaffer’s wish was granted when two penises appeared on the real-life sign. The activist art collective INDECLINE ended up taking credit, saying they heard the call, also citing Jeff Garlin, who plays Susie’s onscreen husband Jeff Greene, who had dared fans on Instagram to alter the image.

“If it weren’t for the comedic genius of Larry David, our collective wouldn’t have realized the galvanizing nature of comedy, particularly in the face of adversity or social/political unrest,” said the group. “So, as a thank you to Larry David, for his contribution to the field of art imitating life, we give you our contribution to the practice of life imitating art.”

Speaking this week to THR, Schaffer says he and the cast were thrilled about the chain of events.

“The billboard was there. The episode was there. The math is fairly simple: It went up on Monday. I think it was blessed on a Friday. It’s our genital Field of Dreams,” says the executive producer and David collaborator. “Susie Essman is thrilled, and we were really laughing. Clearly, Larry has had a tremendous impact on them. If this is their way of giving back? Fantastic. It’s a great way for our fans to show their support.”

The billboard, which is located at Centinela Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard — the corner where the scene was shot introducing the billboard in last week’s episode — will stay up this week for fans to drive by and admire. “Every penis is different, but I think they definitely captured the joy and vitality of the show penises,” says Schaffer. As for the caftan sales, which are available for purchase, Schaffer says, “I can only hope those two penises have contributed in a very positive way to the bottom line.”

The billboard wasn’t the only Curb plot this week to have an impact offscreen. The episode, titled “Dream Scheme” also erected an art installation — the “Wisenheimers” exhibit — that featured a poignant tribute to the late Richard Lewis, and Schaffer and David played a trick on the audience with a “stunningly inane” text message chain that viewers were forced to read in the end credits, thanks to a setting available on Max. “This episode is one of my favorites of the season. It’s just so damn funny all the way through,” he says. Go behind the scenes with Schaffer, below.

The “Wisenheimers” Exhibit and Tribute to Richard Lewis

Much of this seventh episode centered around Curb‘s Larry David dating a painter named Renee (played by guest star Essence Atkins) who is unveiling a new art exhibit titled “The Wisenheimers,” paying tribute to Jewish comedians. Renee is painting Larry for the exhibit, and they hit it off so well that Larry ends up sleeping with her. In an unfortunate turn of events, his cleaning woman (played by Lupe Cambiasso) walks in on them when they continue the act in the morning, which sets off a chain of awkward and troubling encounters between Larry and his housekeeper.

To start, Schaffer confirms that Larry’s dating rule — he said he would date Sienna Miller in a prior episode only if everyone called out their age difference — also applied here, as their waiter questions the pair dating. All of this, Schaffer says, was in service to getting to the episode’s final joke: When Larry’s painting is unveiled, they realize the housekeeper painted over the original to instead show Larry’s face between a woman’s legs, presumed to be Renee’s.

“We wanted to do the story of the maid walking in on Larry doing something sexual that causes trauma, and now it’s super awkward, and they both feel awkward around each other. They are both a memory of that terrible incident. We really wanted to do this story, and this story requires Larry to date,” Schaffer explains. “Larry’s rule was very simple: If I’m dating, someone is pointing out how old I am. But, as he says, she’s an artist. She’s a libertine. She clearly has a thing for older Jewish men, because she’s doing this entire show about older Jewish comics. So we tried to support this relationship in every way we could.”

He continues, “That was our main story, and then we were trying to figure out, ‘Well, what did she see?’ And Larry going down on someone seemed pretty funny, just that image of Larry getting caught. The terror in his eyes. The terror in her eyes. At that point, we were like, ‘What are we going to do with this story, where will it go?’ And that’s how she became a painter.”

The other subjects painted for the “Wisenheimers” series are revealed to be Albert Brooks, the late Gilbert Gottfried and Richard Lewis, the Curb castmember who died in late February at age 76. Seeing the painting of Lewis invokes a tribute that was, of course, unplanned at the time the creators were making the show. Lewis will also appear in episode eight and in the series finale.

“We needed enough Jewish comedic icons to get a really good pan, and to fill some of the room for reactions,” says Schaffer of how they picked the subjects, who were painted by artist Dave King (who, fans will also recall, painted the destroyed Susie portrait, the original of which Essman has hanging in her home). “I know it feels different for the audience, and for us, when you see Richard in the show now. But I know how happy Richard would be that people are still watching him. And so I love that he’s still in the show, because he should be. He is part of the show’s DNA. I think it’s nice that we keep his memory alive in a really fun way by getting to see him in the episodes. He has a big episode next week. And I think it’s great that everyone still gets to see how funny he is. So if that show becomes a little bit of a living tribute to him, that’s great.”

Schaffer also shares another piece of trivia: “The Larry painting — before it’s been defaced by the cleaning lady — was signed by the entire cast and crew sign and we gave it to Larry as a gift on the last day of filming. It’s hanging in our office. The original,” he clarifies, before adding, “The one with the crudely drawn legs has been sent to the Smithsonian.”

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry’s housekeeper (played by Lupe Cambiasso) with Renee (Essence Atkins) and her original Larry painting on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

About That End-Credits Text Chain

Another plot of the episode kicks off when Larry gets a middle-of-the-night call that an acquaintance of his has suffered a stroke. He is then added onto a text chain with family members and close friends, forcing Larry to suffer through nonstop pings of sympathy. Eventually, Larry confronts a family member and owns the fact that he wants to opt out.

“The super annoying cloying sentiments were Larry and I with a big assist to Google, searching for ‘positive thoughts.’ Some of those we even did in post later. Like, ‘Be the reason someone smiles today,’ we did months later. We shot the phone so we knew we could always change it,” says Schaffer. “We always have a running joke when someone passes and you just send a text — and we have done this on the show — that it’s really hard to get to the third sentence. Sentence one: I heard about what happened. Sentence two: I’m sorry for your loss. And then, what? Everybody is stuck on these text chains that they want to get out of, but you can’t get out of it without saying you have left the text chain. Vince [Vaughn] is right and he said it best, it really is the lowest form of human communication.”

Acknowledging Lewis, Schaffer said, “We’ve been dealing with it obviously, lately, sending someone a nice sentiment in a text. Who is that for? It’s for the person sending the text. The recipient is just left with this mouthful of mushy emotional porridge. And the obligation to reply! You think you gave me a nice thought? No, you gave me work. Don’t do it!”

But viewers didn’t have to pause to catch the messages, because the entire text chain scrolled alongside the episode’s end credits. “I have to give credit to our props department, who wrote up that giant text chain in all of its stunningly inane thoughts. All of its pedestrian mediocrity. They wrote that whole thing out,” says Schaffer.

And, similar to Larry having to suffer through the pings, Schaffer and David decided they wanted viewers to have to experience the messages of sympathy, too. “Larry had been reading from this text chain when we were in the edit, and it was so mundane. I was like, ‘We should just put the whole chain in there.’ We said: Let’s make everyone have to endure what Larry endured. There’s a setting on Max where you can control when the show will jump to the next episode. So we lengthened that time limit so that people have to sit through a lot of the text chain. Larry had to suffer, why shouldn’t everyone else!”


  • The scene with Vince Vaughn and Larry David furiously flinging compliments at one another was filmed in one take: “The scene in Larry’s foyer where the two of them are screaming blandishments organically came out of us shooting. So in the middle of the take we were like, ‘Angrily yell the nicest things you can think of!’ It’s just brilliant that they were able to do that live.” His favorite line came from Vaughn: “‘If you think I’m gonna take a nap while you fuck me? No. I’m awake.’ He’s a brilliant improviser.”

  • There’s a behind-the-scenes callback to the first episode of season 12. Viewers will recall Larry getting into an argument with Siri when she can’t understand his command for directions to “Wolfsglen restaurant in Westwood.” Schaffer, who actually voiced Siri in the scene, says Wolfsglen is where Larry and Renee have their date — it’s the restaurant located next to where they filmed the art exhibit — and that they actually came up with that scene when filming this episode: “We crammed that Siri scene in before the date scene. We didn’t need it to be in this episode, it was slowing things down. It’s such a great Larry-against-the-world scene, I said, let’s put it in Show 1.”

  • David had no rules around sex scenes, especially when he’s aiming for a punchline. “We’re coming at this from a purely comedic point of view,” says Schaffer. “We explored in the very early stages all the different things that she could see Larry doing. And that image of Larry’s head between the legs turning in horror was just too good to pass up.”

  • Lori Loughlin hasn’t spoken publicly about her guest casting in last week’s episode, where she parodied herself and her Hollywood reputation. But Schaffer says she’s enjoying the reactions. “We spoke with Lori the day after, and she loved the episode. She was thrilled and we were thrilled for her,” he says. “I think people were impressed that she actually did it. And that made the story great.”

  • Schaffer doesn’t like to preview what’s to come (“I would like to tease nothing,” he says) but he was moved to offer this: “Next week, Richard [Lewis] has a really big story and he’s really funny in it. It’s really funny to see him and Larry together.

Curb Your Enthusiasm releases new episodes Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO and Max. Read THR’s other season chats with Schaffer here.

Best of The Hollywood Reporter