J.B. Smoove is having a very good summer. The comedian is thrilled about the recent announcement that HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will return for a ninth season, and he cannot wait to see himself on “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” Jerry Seinfeld’s runaway hit of a web series, which premiered today on Crackle with Jim Gaffigan in the passenger’s seat.
“I don’t know what’s more fun, hearing that ‘Curb’ is back, or actually shooting the season and hearing it comes on tonight, you know what I mean?” the comedian told IndieWire by phone on Wednesday.
Known for his singular cadence, Smoove got his start on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” wrote for “Saturday Night Live” in the early aughts and became a household name with shows like “The Millers,” “’Til Death” and Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Some fans may know him best from “Curb,” but Smoove was well known to other audiences long before that.
“’Curb’ definitely opened crazy new doors and new avenues for me, a new demographic, if I may say that,” said Smoove. It also changed what was expected from him on other projects: “People are more lenient, they’d rather see your take on things since you come from an improv based show.”
Earlier this week, Smoove hinted that “Curb” might be returning for a ninth season during an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show,” saying Larry David had gauged his interest during one of the pair’s bi-monthly phone conversations. Smoove said he would make himself available. “It’s still fun to see Larry’s damn face, always good to see Larry.”
David is not the only “Seinfeld” creator in Smoove’s life, though he is admittedly much closer with David. Smoove first met Seinfeld while doing an episode of his short-lived reality show, “The Marriage Ref.” A car fanatic, Smoove was a big fan of the web series. “Every season I’m like, ‘Damn! When is Jerry gonna call me to do this damn show?’” Call he did, and the two Jerries had a grand ‘ole time.
“My real name is Jerry, his name is Jerry. Jerries are a very particular animal. Jerries are actually the leopard of the animal species. We have a very particular pattern of things we do, a very particular style,” Smoove said.
The show has been a surprise hit. (In early episodes, almost every comedian ribs Seinfeld about doing a web show). Now in its eighth season, the previous season took the internet by storm when President Obama appeared on the first episode.
Filming is fast and pleasant, according to Smoove: “Jerry picks you up in the car, you talk about the car for a few minutes. You get in the car, you go get coffee, you sit there and you talk about life, love, career, kids, wife, anything.” That’s a pretty accurate description of what happens in each episode.
The result is a very candid conversation between two comedians at the top of their craft about what they see as the world’s greatest profession. “The comedian is that person who can take tragedy and still be able to give an audience something to go home with,” said Smoove.
The two “Seinfeld” creators are more different than they seem, according to Smoove. “Larry’s a little more neurotic, Jerry seems very outgoing and has lots of energy. You can tell when his eyes light up, certain things he loves,” Smoove said. “Larry is very observant. Larry will walk around a party with his hand in his pocket and just sit there and nod his head and watch people.” After working with both, Smoove can see why the two worked so well together. “It’s the little nuances in life, the little bits of humor that people can relate to,” he said. “That’s what made ‘Seinfeld’ so amazing which also makes ‘Curb’ so amazing.”
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” finds humor in the cringeworthy situations Larry David gets himself into. Almost every character on the show is a foil for Larry’s neuroses, but not Leon, the character Smoove plays. “Larry gets something from Leon that he can’t get from anybody else on the show. He gets honesty, he gets someone who has his back, someone who agrees with him, who can say: ‘You’re damn right, Larry.'” Some people claim the show is too painful to watch. “You know why? Because it’s too real,” says Smoove.
Smoove’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” will air sometime in the next eight weeks. It appears Seinfeld is just as secretive as David when it comes to his shows. Smoove has no idea what is in store for Season 9 of “Curb,” because “Larry is very secretive.” Even if he weren’t, Smoove says he never looks at the 6-7 page script outlines for the improvised show, because he “think[s] it would take the edge off the funny.”
What he can say about “Comedians in Cars” is that things will definitely get personal. “They’re gonna see a deeper side of JB.” If his deeper side is as unique as his funny side, it’s going to be a very interesting ride.