Larry David, Chris Williams, "Krazee-Eyez Killa"
Kym Whitley, Larry David, "The Car Pool Lane"
Larry David, Bob Einstein, "The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial"
Life was good for Larry David in 2000.
Wait, strike that. Life was pret -tayyy, pret -tayyy good. Though Seinfeld — the groundbreaking sitcom he cocreated with Jerry Seinfeld — had been gone from NBC for two years, the lucrative syndication era had kicked in.
And his droll 1999 HBO mockumentary, Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which he tries to persuade execs to let him do a special about his return to stand-up comedy, earned stellar reviews. David could have easily just sat back in his Los Angeles manse and worked on his golf swing in perpetuity. Instead, he concocted a brutally hilarious classic series.
Using that Curb Your Enthusiasm special as a de facto pilot, David agreed to carve out an HBO series that revolves around a mega-successful TV writer named Larry David who can't seem to enjoy his life's riches because he's too hung up on social norms and petty annoyances.
He has a patient wife (Cheryl Hines) and a laid-back manager (Jeff Garlin), who's married to a venom-spewing diva (Susie Essman). Comedians Richard Lewis, Ted Danson and Wanda Sykes pass through, too, never failing to leave without hurling an insult at their friend.
Ten seasons and 20 years later (with season 11 officially on the way), the Emmy-winning Curb Your Enthusiasm has aged like a fine whine.
Like Seinfeld, its credo remains no hugging, no learning. (Exception: a certain hat makes for an ideal social repellant.) Its perverse sense of humor is responsible for 9/11 death jokes, a controversial Palestinian chicken restaurant and Michael J. Fox in entitled-jerk mode.
And to up the comedy ante, all the dialogue is improvised and based solely off a plot outline the actors receive the morning of production. David himself — creator, executive producer and star — famously "breaks" more than any other cast member.
For the show's anniversary celebration, cast regular–executive producer Garlin, executive producer–director Jeff Schaffer, and former executive producer–directors Larry Charles and Robert Weide talked to emmy about the series' popularity, its talented guest stars and 20 all-time favorite moments.
How do you explain the show's sustained success?
Weide: There's a universal appeal to it. I always found it interesting when we heard that college kids were getting together to watch it. It's a show starring an old bald guy!
Schaffer: We're still telling funny original stories. When you ask, "What happened on Curb last night?" and you're just explaining the story, even the story is funny.
Charles: It's a comedy that doesn't try to catch a fad or trend or reference that will fade away. It's about that human behavior and the darkness that will always lurk inside our hearts.
Garlin: I could use a bunch of adjectives, but I'll just say "Larry David" and leave it at that.
When you look back on that first season, what surprises you?
JS: How well it's aged. Look at what he was dealing with in that season. A "pants tent" around the crotch when your pants bunch up? It's as problematic now as it was then.
RW: The first season was supposed to look like it was still a documentary. The production values were low, and the budget was so small that we all shared the same trailer. When we started doing CGI in season five [in "The End"], I definitely knew we were out of that realm.
How has Larry gotten away with calling out everyone from Holocaust survivors to disabled persons?
LC: His brilliance is that he takes a controversial and provocative subject — like surviving the Holocaust or having a relative who died on 9/11 — and finds the solution to make it palatable, digestible, accessible and relatable comedy. It's the reason why he had no notes from NBC when he wrote "The Contest" for Seinfeld.
JS: He gets to play both sides of the situation. Sometimes you're watching and thinking, "Oh my gosh, I wish I had told them off like Larry did," and other times you can think, "I can't believe that Larry did that!"
Which guest star's off-the-cuff comedy skills legitimately impressed you?
JG: During the Seinfeld reunion episodes, I had a new discovery for the genius of Jason Alexander. I was amazed by his strength as an improviser and an actor. I've known him for years and he blew me away.
JS: Lin-Manuel Miranda had to do a little rap when he's talking to Larry and Jeff. We had written a few lines for him and sent them to him, which is like sending an instructional video to Michael Jordan on how to dunk. He just said, "I got it." Every take was brilliant and different.
RW: Dustin Hoffman played an angel in heaven. I don't know how much improv he had ever done, and he may have been a little nervous. But he was great. He went on this whole riff about "the system" of putting a DVD cover on top of the TV while you're watching a movie.
What's your favorite memory?
LC: We had Mel Brooks for The Producers episodes, and one of the great treasures of my professional life was the chance to collaborate with him.
RW: I was the last person to direct Anne Bancroft [in 2004's "Opening Night"]. I went to dinner with her and Mel Brooks and everything he said she would laugh at, and he treated her so gentlemanly. I said to them, "The secret of your marriage is that you treat her like she's Anne Bancroft and she laughs at you like you're Mel Brooks." When she died a year later, I was in shock.
JG: I always remember filming "The Black Swan" on the golf course with Larry, Bob Einstein and Richard Kind. Larry is actually a laid-back guy. With Bob and Richard, you're talking about two of the most insane people that ever walked the Earth, and those two going at it was crazy. Oh my God, we were there for six hours.
What can you say about season 11? Will it focus on the pandemic? Can it?
JG: All I can say is that we're doing it. As long as I dig it, I'll do it. And I dig it.
JS: Larry and I spent the initial quarantine time on FaceTime with each other doing the writing. We're feeling pretty good about where our characters are shaping up, so as soon as we're allowed to shoot, we'll shoot. But yes, the tricky thing is to calibrate what the world is going to look like in eight months. You don't want to ignore it, but you also can't be out of touch.
LC: A lot of people have talked to me about Curb and the pandemic. And it's true, you could do episodes about that subject because you can apply that modern, neurotic, conflicted, dark attitude to almost any human situation in history. Very few comedies can transcend their time, and Curb does. ...
For the rest of the story and more photos, pick up a copy of issue #10 of emmy magazine HERE
This article originally appeared in its entirety in emmy magazine, Issue No. 10, 2020