Curb Larry David Pretty
Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm (Home Box Office, 2000)
Stories & Ideas

Thu 01 Oct 2020

Curb Your Enthusiasm – Pretty, pretty, pretty

Pop cultureReadTelevision
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Anthony Stipanov

Visitor Experience

How can one of the most awful characters become one of the most iconic?

Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein), Larry David’s self-anointed best friend, is throwing a party to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary in the episode ‘The Bowtie’ and he wants Larry to come – or so he thought.

Funkhouser’s daughter, Jodi (Mayim Bialik), has recently stopped dating women and has a new boyfriend. At Marty’s party, Larry congratulates Jodi’s new boyfriend “Fantastic, great news!” Jodi’s new boyfriend smiles and nods in agreeance. But Larry seems to push the celebratory words to another level and unleashes his now trademark line.

“It’s pretty good, pretty, pretty, pretty good!” Larry says while his double-barrel index fingers pointed between the two, his eyes wide and grin mischievous. Later we discover that Jodi’s new beau has left her, and Jodi has returned to dating women, all because of his conversation with Larry.

The line originated from a stand-up bit that Larry David used to do related to how depressed he was, and not wanting to reveal the extent of it to his parents. The line, imbued with David’s chutzpah, has resonated with audiences and become a highly popular gif and meme.

Larry David is well, Larry David. Known to his friends in Curb Your Enthusiasm as LD, Lar, Larry, or ‘four-eyed f@#K’, he’s a somewhat braver and more misanthropic version of the real Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld and the inspiration for George Costanza. Larry David has said that LD in Curb represents the man he aspires to be. He calls himself a phony and insists LD is genuine.

Curb Your Enthusiasm sees Larry go through his everyday post-Seinfeld life inflicting his idiosyncratic rules and ideas on anyone and everyone. Each episode becomes a circus of conflict from which David derives his comedy. Emily Nussbaum, the American critic, suggests that Curb can be seen as a “…lampoon about an ultra-privileged white Westerner...” David’s privilege is what makes his awkward interactions with coffee shop owners, waiters, Uber drivers, people of colour, the deaf, the blind, the elderly, people in wheelchairs, children, and anyone else, so cringe-worthy and funny.

Leaving the NBC produced Seinfeld in 1996, David chose to work with cable network HBO first on a one-hour special in 1999 before Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered in 2000. Joining HBO gave him complete creative freedom. Curb has been nominated for numerous awards and won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 2003.

A major part of what made Curb so notable is improvisation. Having spent years on the stand-up and improv comedy circuit, David doesn’t write a script as he would have done for an episode of Seinfeld. Instead he prepares a seven-page outline for each episode and actors are given a brief about what each scene is about – the rest is up to them.

David has in many ways mimicked his idols. He draws heavily on his Jewish roots, his insecurities and Brooklyn childhood much like Woody Allen has done. In Curb, David has chosen to play a version of himself like Allen did on numerous occasions in his own work, playing comedian Alvy Singer in Annie Hall and television writer Isaac Davis in Manhattan. An auteur telling the stories of an auteur. Another influence was the Bilko Show, starring Phil Silvers and created by Nat Hiken, as David told Ricky Gervais in an interview. The main character was doing then, acknowledges David, what his and Gervais’ characters do now. Saying the things other people wouldn’t say and generally being unlikable. Hiken won three Emmy awards for best comedy series and the success of the series elevated Hiken from a comedy writer into a publicly recognised creator mirroring David’s Seinfeld experience as explored in Curb.

– Anthony Stipanov

This essay was written for Edit Line, an interactive experience in our centrepiece exhibition The Story of the Moving Image.

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