This week sees the long-awaited return of everyone’s favourite misanthrope Larry David in the ninth season of HBO’s ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’.
It’s been six long years since we last saw Larry, but if you were thinking he’d learned anything about manners, grace or social skills in the interim, you’d be wrong: he’s the same as we left him – prett-ay, prett-ay good.
Will Larry plumb new depths of disaster in his new season? He’s got some pretty low benchmarks to limbo under…
That typo (‘Beloved Aunt’, S1 E8)
The lesson learned here is to never put Larry David in charge of your obituary, unless you want your epitaph to contain a profanity. Larry dictates an obit for a newspaper send-off for his family’s dearly departed Aunt Louise, containing the words “Devoted sister, beloved aunt”. Unfortunately for Larry, the paper print that last word with a “c” where the “a” should be. Awkward. The kicker, of course, is that none of this is Larry’s fault (“It’s a typo, it’s a typo!”), but that doesn’t stop him getting it in the ear from his in-laws: “I’m just glad we didn’t put you in charge of the headstone!”
Showing all his cards at poker (‘The Shrimp Incident’, S2 E4)
The joy of Larry is that even when he’s having a good time, he’s always poised to put his foot in it. Take a poker game he’s joined, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and friends. Larry is in good form, giving as good as he’s getting, until one of the players folds instead of going all in – and when it turns out the card he was holding would have won the game, Larry takes the ‘banter’ too far: even though it’s meant in jest, this time the c-word is definitely used intentionally. Naturally, the man Larry chucks the insult at is mortified at its casual use, as is the rest of the table, which falls deathly silent with acute embarrassment – at Larry’s expense, of course.
Stealing the shirt off a dead man’s back (‘Chet’s Shirt’, S3 E1)
Never the most tactful of people, Larry will not tip-toe around any subject: race, class, not even death. Take Cheryl’s friend Barbara, whose husband Chet just “dropped dead”. Larry turns up at her home to pick up Cheryl, before spotting a photo of Chet in a shirt he finds fetching. After grilling the widow for several minutes about where the shirt comes from (“Was it in Santa Monica?”), he manages to insult the grieving party (“That was four months ago!”) before leaving. Some time later, Larry bumps into Barbara again while he’s wearing Chet’s shirt, prompting her complete emotional meltdown – which results in Larry’s shirt getting ruined from her running mascara. Karma? Karma.
Saying the n-word (‘The N Word’, S6 E8)
It’s not a rare occurance for Larry to find himself in hot water over something he’s said, but on this occasion, Larry gets in trouble for something someone else has said. He’s busted for using the n-word – indefensible, you might think, except an appalled Larry was directly quoting a racist guy he just heard in the bathroom. Does quoting a racist also make you a racist? The jury’s out, but Larry being Larry, he quotes the offending term exactly when a black man is walking past, leading to yet another verbal assault (“You bald son of a bitch!”). The episode culminates with Larry testifying against the racist in court, but squirming over having to once again say that word in public again.
The Producers (‘Opening Night’, S4 E10)
Season 4 of ‘Curb’ revolves around Larry’s theatre debut as the lead in Mel Brooks’ Broadway restaging of his hit comedy, ‘The Producers’. The season ends with a show-stopper: Larry completely loses his place, and instead of carrying on with his dialogue, he starts riffing and going off on bizarre tangents while the world – and an unimpressed Jerry Seinfeld – watches. As it turns out, Larry’s odd casting was no accident: it turns out Mel Brooks hired Larry to tank the show on purpose, in a meta twist on the subject of the original Producers movie. Good old Larry never lets you down.
Dinner with Porno Gil (‘Porno Gil’, S1 E3)
All told, a pretty standard evening for Larry. He turns up late at a dinner party he doesn’t even want to be at – at the home of ‘Porno Gil’, played by ‘Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk – and manages to make a faux pas no sooner than he’s put one foot in the house by refusing to take his shoes off. To make matters worse, Larry and Cheryl just ate dinner, so they turn down the host’s food too. When it’s time to leave (the conversation is too vulgar, even for Larry), he commits a cardinal sin – returning to the party after already making his exit for a “double goodbye”. Worse still, he manages to smash a lamp on his way out and gets screamed at by the host for ruining the evening. It’s probably a 6/10 kinda evening for Larry.
The entire Seinfeld reunion series (S7)
David always said he’d never bring Seinfeld back, even after admitting he was disappointed with the underwhelming finale, but season seven of ‘Curb’ was a complete gift – Larry finally brought the show’s cast back for a reunion, but only a fictional one. It turns out to be a terrible mistake, of course, culminating in the last-minute exit of Larry’s nemesis Jason Alexander from the show. Given that the character of George was always based on his own neuroses, Larry attempts to step in at the last minute and play George himself – but the sight of David on set, hamming it up, almost tanks the entire multi-million dollar production. In any case, Larry later admits he set the whole thing up to get back with his ex-wife Cheryl, who he ends up insulting anyway over a coffee stain she leaves on his table (“Do you respect wood?”). All in a season’s work.
The rash (‘The Table Read’, S7 E9)
Leave it to Larry to turn a wholesome scenario into something way darker. Larry ends up befriending the nine-year-old daughter of one of his producers, and the two have a cutesy text relationship. Unbeknownst to Larry, she also accidentally gives him a rash that emanated from her… private parts. Cue Larry at the doctor’s, explaining the probable source of his infection: “The only thing I can think of is that I’ve been seeing this nine-year old girl… I took her to lunch the other day, we had a fight but we broke up, then we hugged… She’s so cute, we text all the time.” The episode ends with the Doctor calling the cops on Larry as we see him in the background, reading aloud his text: “Don’t tell your mother…” and laughing like a maniac.
Kamikaze bingo (‘Kamikaze Bingo’, S5 E4)
Two words that you’d think were seemingly unrelated: not in the Larry David universe. Where to begin? Larry is introduced to his Japanese friend Yoshi’s grandfather, who he claims was a Kamikaze pilot in the war. Understandably skeptical, Larry suggests that – given his grandfather is still alive and all – that maybe he only “skimmed” the water to stay alive. Insulted by Larry’s jibe, Yoshi attempts suicide; Larry later apologises, but his friend rebuffs the apology when it’s revealed that Larry is eating nuts while saying sorry over the phone (“You can’t eat and apologise at the same time!”). Larry has one final close encounter with Yoshi’s grandfather at a bingo game, when he charges him in a motorised wheelchair.
The Ski-Lift (‘The Ski-Lift’, S5 E8)
Even when he’s trying to be a good person, Larry causes misfortune wherever he goes. Larry’s friend Richard Lewis needs a new kidney, so Larry attempts to butter up the head of the kidney transplant consortium by taking him away on a ski weekend. The only problem is, the guy is an Orthodox Jew, so in true sitcom fashion, Larry has to play up his Yiddishness, feigning marriage to Jeff’s wife Susie, a fellow Jew, instead of gentile Cheryl. The plan works perfectly, up until the point where Larry finds himself stranded on a broken ski-lift with the daughter of the kidney guy; Jewish law prohibits her to be with a man who is not her husband after dark, so she risks serious injury to jump from the ski-lift. Given a choice of angering God or spending an evening with Larry, she made the right call.
‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ S9 is coming to Sky Atlantic and Now TV every Monday from 2 October.