After six years off the air, Larry David and his beloved HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” return to a world that is, well, a lot more like Larry David and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Just as the “Curb” Larry is known for his unsolicited, and often unwelcome opinions, we now live in a social media age awash with too many hot takes.
Can the cringe comedy maintain its gleefully malcontent attitude in a culture where everyone has their own awkward, awful opinion? The TV version of “Larry David” is the king of offensive behavior, typically meted out by his own hand, waged against a world that just doesn’t understand him. “Curb” did it first, and no matter your take, it’s not going to change.
“In terms of the current culture, I can confidently speak for Larry, when I say that he has never once taken the audience’s wants, needs, or concerns into consideration,” executive producer Jeff Schaffer recently told IndieWire.
He added, “To put it bluntly and truthfully, he does not care what you think. He doesn’t care if you watch, he just wants to make the show he wants to make.”
But that doesn’t mean that pushback isn’t coming. Co-star J.B. Smoove, for one, is already anticipating divisive reactions to the show, especially as its newly launched ninth season digs more deeply into this season’s major arc: Larry attempts to mount a musical about a famous Muslim fatwa placed on author Salman Rushdie (yes, “Fatwa!” the musical), even after he comes under fire by the religion’s own leaders.
Smoove fully expects new viewers to approach the show’s themes with a hot take-leaning attitude. “Only because it’s been six years, and the world has changed in six years,” he said. “Overall, people are more PC, things are happening, people are more outspoken about things.”
Smoove attributes some of that shift to the prevalence of social media and the ease in which viewers – new and old – can make plain their attitudes about the always-daring show.
“A lot of things weren’t around, weren’t that strong back then,” Smoove said. “Like Twitter, Instagram, all of these things are coming up like crazy. Bloggers, all these entertainment shows, all these different ways to connect with people and with fans. People are more willing to tell their real opinion about things.”
Both Smoove and co-star Susie Essman maintain that the enduring charm of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is rooted in just that: its endurance. Six years later, the world has changed, but the series hasn’t. That’s not by accident.
“The show is what it is, it’s been this from the beginning,” Smoove said. “If the world changes around you, does that count? You’ve always been there.”
For Essman, that attitude is indicative of not just the best of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but comedy in general. “In comedy, you don’t grow and learn,” she said with a laugh. “Six years later, we’ve learned even less.”
And one other thing that hasn’t changed? David’s ability to take even the most insane, offensive, wild, crazy plotline and make it work. “The beauty and the genius of Larry is that he knows, even with the most sensitive subjects, you can talk about anything if you do it the right way,” Schaffer said. “I think he’s proven that for his entire career.” And that’s already on display in the newest season, just one episode in.
Don’t count on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to change any time soon, either. For someone like Schaffer, a long-time producer and director on the series, the standards have not changed. “All we ever do is worry about what we think is funny, and it’s amazingly liberating. It makes it the most fun show in the world to work on,” he said.
Leave it to Smoove to approach that same idea from a slightly different angle, invoking an amusing, if meandering comparison between “Curb” and the original fried apple pies at McDonald’s, which at one point were replaced by baked pies.
“You know how that tastes, you know how ‘Curb’ tastes, you never forget that taste,” he said. “No matter what the recipe is, no matter what the new episodes are, no matter what’s going on out in the world. There’s always going to be people who fucking live for that shit, because they are those kinda people.”
“Funny is funny, goddammit,” Smoove added firmly. “Funny is always funny.”
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” Season 9 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.