TV review: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry puts no curb on his Jewishness
Larry David: hilariously un-PC
Curb Your Enthusiasm is back for its eighth series. As usual, devotees live from one episode to the next while the rest of the country completely fails to get it.
So what is so funny about an outspoken, sex-obsessed, obnoxious bald guy who swears a lot? The answer: a lot - even though every episode is so excruciating that most viewers probably end up watching from behind the sofa.
The delight of Curb is Larry's verbal incontinence and the trouble it invariably gets him into. Larry (David plays a version of himself in the show) says what everyone else is thinking and invariably pays the consequences. This, and the fact that he is pathologically unable to hide his irritation about anything, makes him possibly the most annoying but compelling character on television.
Sunday's episode was typical. Larry is getting divorced from his wife, Cheryl, and has hired a lawyer called Berg. However, one morning, Larry sees Berg pull up at the lights on a motorbike. Who ever saw a Jew on a motorbike?
It turns out that despite saying "oy" a lot and wishing everyone mazeltov, Berg is not Jewish, but from Swedish stock. So Larry, in whose world the only lawyers worth hiring are Jews, fires him and hires a Jewish divorce lawyer instead. He also persuades his friend O'Donnell, the owner of the LA Dodgers, to lose the Swede and hire the Jew. But as always in Curb, Larry's impetuosity comes back to haunt him. The Jewish lawyer turns out to be incompetent and as a result Larry loses his house and O'Donnell loses his baseball club. Meanwhile, there are side-plots involving girl scouts and tampons (don't ask).
One of the delights of Curb is that Larry is the kind of Jew many of us would describe as "too Jewish", meaning that he is as out there about his ethnic identity as it is possible to get. This makes for embarrassment, an essential prerequisite of comedy of this type. The makers of Channel 4's British comedy Friday Night Dinner could learn much from it. They left out most of the Jewish references from their show because they were afraid the general audience would not understand them. One of the delights of Curb is that it is so unselfconsciously Jewish. In this episode alone there are references to shofars and Chanucah and the kind of blatant prejudice against non-Jews which would have most British TV executives quivering. Strangely enough, of all the accusations I have heard made against Larry David's creation, no one has ever complained that there was too much Jewish content.
Despite being the least PC show on TV (or more likely, because of it) Curb is also the funniest. And either a lot of people from the general population tune in or there are far more Jews in the world than anyone ever suspected.