‘Curb’ Returns to New Comedy Era With Same Old Schtick

All photos are screenshots of hbo.com/curb-your-enthusiasm

Four years ago, Susie Essman, known for her role as volatile Susie Greene on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” told Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times, she “would do another season in a heartbeat.”

The HBO smash went on an indefinite hiatus in 2011 after eight seasons, banking on its no-hold-back attitude toward everyday life.

Essman said she received a note back then from “Curb” and “Seinfeld” creator Larry David saying he missed her. She wanted to respond that if he missed her, the best way to reunite would be on set.

Now, the woman who plays the shrew trash-talker got her wish.

“Curb” returns to HBO for season nine on Oct. 1, and it goes to show that the man with two first names is two-for-two when it comes to creating a show about nothing.

But as “Curb” enters a new era — an era of highly sensitive Twitter users quick to put anyone on blast — can a show based on leaving political correctness defenseless still thrive?

“You know what? Nobody who watches the show is offended,” David said of his “Curb” audience via Exponent archives ahead of its season six premiere.

“On ‘Seinfeld,’ which was on commercial television, I’d get thousands of letters every week about people who were offended from every group. But on ‘Curb,’ we get nothing. Nobody seems to be offended, except for the people who just hate me in general.”

Just as he believed “Seinfeld” isn’t a show for Jews, or really a Jewish show at all, he said, the same goes for “Curb.” But it’s hard to miss the plotzing, kvelling and abrasively Jewish quips in just about every scene.

“I grew up in Brooklyn in an apartment with neighbors on top of me who could hear everything that happened in my house,” David continued, where “people were screaming and yelling all the time.”

With the return of cringeworthy Larry David-isms brings along some other regulars: Cheryl David (Cheryl Hines), Susie Greene (Susie Essman) and Jeff Greene (Jeff Garlin, now featured on the also Jewish “The Goldbergs,” which he filmed simultaneously with “Curb”).

Fan favorite celebs are also expected to join, including Ted Danson, Bob Einstein as Marty Funkhouser, Richard Lewis, JB Smoove as Leon Black and a few new hopefuls, such as Lauren Graham, Carrie Brownstein, Jimmy Kimmel, Nick Offerman, Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston.

When Essman performed a stand-up routine at Congregation Or Ami in Lafayette Hill, Pa., in 2013, she chatted with the Exponent about her boisterous character.

Essman’s character wasn’t as profane as the Susie Greene we all know and love when the show first aired in 2000, such as in season four when David remarks that Susie Greene’s dreadful DIY bedazzled sweatshirts aren’t “his cup of tea.” She responds, “All right, you know what, f— you and f— your tea.”

But back in a season one episode, the Greenes’ home was robbed by an inner- city youth who Jeff Greene sponsored.

Essman told the Exponent that David wanted her to really tear into her on-screen husband, encouraging her more and more after each take.

“Finally he pulled me aside and said, ‘Make fun of Jeff’s fat.’ I was like, ‘Larry, I really don’t want to do that, I don’t like to make fun of people’s physical characteristics.’ He said, ‘Just do it, just do it. He knows you’re just acting.’ And so I did and the genie was out of the bottle,” Essman said.

Although a lot has happened in the six years “Curb “has been off the air, it is expected to return with the same witty energy and street-smart Jewishness.

“This is not a show about human growth,” Essman joked to the Exponent via archives.

The obnoxiously irritating and easily bothered curmudgeon still continues to get into obscene arguments over severely pointless issues — if one can even consider parking slightly over the line a real issue.

A lot has changed in six years, but clearly David has not. In a trailer released this month, he’s still debasing couples for being happy, arguing over someone’s level of ability to work while constipated and, of course, getting verbally castigated by Susie Greene.

While TV’s favorite worst human being continuously offends anyone and everyone, he doesn’t seem to understand that telling a hysterical, crying woman at a funeral to “shut up” isn’t decorum — yet his inability to see the parallels between his actions and consequences make the show pretty, pretty, pretty entertaining.

“I just wanted to do it again,” David recently told “Origins” podcast. “I missed it … ’cause nothing else really gives me as much satisfaction as doing this.”

As offbeat as it is to hear David say something gives him satisfaction, he continued to “Origins” podcaster James Andrew Miller that he originally wasn’t aware of the effect the show had on people.

“They had to leave the room for some scenes because they were cringing and they couldn’t bear to watch — it was like a horror movie — I had no idea it was having that effect on people. That was a complete surprise to me, and I liked it. But I never really gave it that much thought. I was just trying to do funny shows. I never felt I was going too far. I felt I was doing what I wanted to see.”

But the reasoning behind the six-year absence lies in the work behind the improvised wisecracks.

Each episode is meticulously sketched around plot points, but the rest relied on actors’ ad-libs. With each take being thrown together differently each time, choosing the best one in the editing room was a hefty process for David and the editors.

But whether it’s avoiding a stop and chat, weaseling out of a kidney transplant for Richard Lewis, discovering David’s biological goyish parents or inviting a sex offender to Passover seder, the return of “Curb” is sure to bring some new laughs, and more likely along with some cringes.

“It’s coming back with all the things about it that people love,” Garlin told ABC News’ “Popcorn with Peter Travers” in May. “But it’s not following any big formula. The storyline is rather insane. Like people are gonna go, ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this!’”

Rachel Kurland is a reporter at the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.

 

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