Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Curb Your Enthusiasm is famously improvised, with the actors working from a rough outline provided by Larry David.

HBO / Crave

This column, like many viewers, approached the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sundays, HBO/Crave and on-demand) with some trepidation.

The show’s ninth season, airing in 2017 after a long hiatus, misfired terribly. In the context of the 2016 election and the victory of Donald Trump, the cringe-inducing antics of a misanthropic, rich older white male no longer induced cringe. Instead, there was something repulsive about the Larry David character. He was just a jerk, being rude to a lesbian who was about to get married, mocking a sex worker and being obnoxious to hotel staff.

The show seemed tone-deaf, as Larry demeaned and attacked the less privileged. Often, it looked like misogyny disguised as slapstick. David as creator just didn’t get that, in a polarized United States – traumatized and self-questioning after the election – he wasn’t being funny. That wasn’t a funny time, at all. It’s worth remembering that in the period when that ninth Curb season aired, the biggest, most profoundly praised and embraced show on TV was the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale. In that context, the ornery incivility of Curb Your Enthusiasm was toast.

Story continues below advertisement

Now, miraculously, David seems to have rescued the series. (There are references to a key incident here, so beware reading on, if you haven’t seen this season.) It looks much more attuned to the current climate. The fictional Larry David creation we’re looking at on the show is funny because he’s ignorant, idiotic and spiteful. He’s even been called out on his privilege. Asked to create a celebrity doodle for a fundraising event, he lazily scrawls a pen across paper. He’s lambasted for using his male privilege to think he can get away with barely doing anything.

The shift is subtle and audacious. Already three episodes in, he’s in trouble for touching a waitress, cleaning his reading glasses on a female assistant’s shirt and failing to hug transgender actor Laverne Cox. Teasing humour out of the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment and gender issues is a high-risk endeavour. But it’s working so far by nimbly presenting the Larry character as the sort of oblivious fool who needs to be taught a lesson. The comic sensibility is also made more weirdly complex by having Larry’s manager, Jeff (Jeff Garlin), moan about his life being hell because he’s often mistaken for Harvey Weinstein.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is famously improvised, with the actors working from a rough outline provided by David. The improvising seems diminished in this new season. According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, Larry’s bizarre interaction with Cox, in which he asks a lot of stupid questions, was created with Cox’s direct input. She told David and his team about “a lot of the really annoying and stupid questions that people in the trans community get" and they went directly into the script.

Yes, Larry is still being rude to people, often in the service industry, but now there’s a comeuppance. Yes, he thinks he’s being clever when he’s wearing a MAGA hat to keep other restaurant customers away, but there’s a downside to that – it attracts the wrong sort of admirers.

What’s happening is that the main character is no longer presented as a lovable curmudgeon. He’s more an imbecile. Otherwise, the attempt to find comic mileage in the #MeToo movement should fail miserably. The viewer can find the situations funny, but simultaneously loathe the imbecile who is intent on digging himself deeper into a hole. A comeuppance is coming, and the viewer knows it. If the Larry character is full of aggrieved masculinity – something that is often subtly celebrated on U.S. TV – he is going to get sympathy, comedic or otherwise. This Larry is not hilariously self-sabotaging; he’s just despicable.

There is audacity in that, too. It takes nerve and skill to turn a champion of churlishness, one that inspires empathy, into a figure who’s not lovable, but someone you love to hate. The power of humour to affect change is often overrated, and Curb Your Enthusiasm never attempted to be relevant. Now it is, acting as a safety-valve – the appalling, imbecilic Larry David character is getting precisely what he deserves.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies