HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Features Larry David’s Prophetic Anticapitalism
The season finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” aired on HBO this week, and the episode – titled “The Spite Store” – was a welcome snapshot of pre-pandemic America, a seemingly alien place that also recently existed. than in February. It also acted as a metaphorical harbinger of the current dramatic turn of world events. This is not surprising, as the series feeds off a litany of complaints centered on the hypermundane traps of capitalism, which “Curb” star Larry David has honed to an extremely fine point in 30 years, dating back to his first success as a co-creator of the outperforming “Seinfeld”.
Both vehicles exploit and challenge the unspoken social contracts that bind and control workers in the service, retail, healthcare, airlines and various other industries that frame the contemporary Western way of life.
“Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” both brought the fear of the everyday consumer to the opera level. But while “Seinfeld” was squeaky and claustrophobic inspired by David’s time as a struggling comic, “Curb” is largely a rich man’s comedy. It’s an imaginary retreat journal where you walk the earth in loose clothing and comfortable shoes, owing nothing to everyone and raising your voice in protest if anyone objects.
(Some spoilers from Season 10 below.)
Both vehicles exploit and challenge the unspoken social contracts that bind and control workers in the service, retail, healthcare, airlines and various other industries that frame the contemporary Western way of life. But in our current social climate, the antisocial aspects of Season 10 of “Curb” often come across as unintended prophecy. What was once supposed to be paranoia now reads as nifty protection. Always a fan of social avoidance before it was a must, Purell Hand Sanitizer is readily available at every table at David’s cafe, Latte Larry’s, due to healthy germophobia. Latte Larry’s also refuses to store toilet paper in the toilet to discourage any activity that may require it.
While David is considered a singular misanthrope, many of the most beloved jokes revolve around the universality of their premise, including the pains of the doctor’s office and that comedy favorite punching bag: airplanes. Or sometimes both, like when a doctor doesn’t see a sick patient on a plane in Season Nine episode “The Accidental Text on Purpose”.
The show also touched on how the homeless are cruelly rejected by society, such as in the first season episode “The Bracelet,” where Larry is falsely portrayed as living on the streets simply because of the the way he is dressed and for having had a conversation – albeit refusing to shake hands – with a homeless man. As a result, he is refused entry into a jewelry store.
Early in his career, David’s real-life friends suggested he go on welfare because of his lack of a well-paying job, according to the comprehensive “Origins” podcast with writer James Andrew Miller. David himself has claimed that during those formative years he chose the exact spot where he would live on the streets if it became necessary, according to a 2015 interview with PBS.
Meanwhile, the extremely American custom of tipping plays such a big part in most of the show’s storylines that it’s practically his own character. If today’s expensive LA valets, bellboys, and sloppy waiters were paid a living wage, most of these scenes would evaporate.
There are several sequences throughout the various arcs of the series that feature characters in the punitive reticle of our commerce-driven society. Elsewhere, Larry is barred from medical treatment until he pays his doctor’s bill in advance, as well as his doctor’s wife’s billing hours as a lawyer, whom Larry also hired. While it may be played for effect, there is no shortage of people who feel overwhelmed by the limitless and confusing bills of medicine and the law in this country. There are a number of jokes about how difficult it is to get medical care or prescriptions. In the finale, elective surgery gets a second opinion as David continues to make absurd demands of his healthcare providers. Lest we mistake David for a true anti-capitalist, while he is known to have portrayed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, indeed his distant cousin, in “Saturday Night Live,” he also noted that a Democratic socialist as president would be “good for the country” but “terrible” for him.
A lot of the show’s 10th season gags got old incredibly fast, of course. Even the non-fiction of Jerry Seinfeld’s post-“Seinfeld” activities – the self-explanatory “comedians in cars having coffee” – is an impossibility as we resist emergency shelter-in-place warrants. . There is an episode where David worries about being seated with supposedly unattractive guests in “The Ugly Section”. There are surprise party and dinner fiascos. It all looks like a tease at the moment – it would be a luxury to complain about any of the above points now. Even past stories such as making a musical about a fatwa or the discomfort caused by a guest working in pornography are unthinkable now – the theater and porn industries have closed their doors.
It all looks like a tease at the moment – it would be a luxury to complain about any of the above points now.
As a scholar of history, David weaves both the past and the present fluidly and is not above an uncomfortable and somber disaster capitalism in its intrigues. Season 6 of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in 2007 featured a New Orleans family displaced by a hurricane just two years after Katrina and Rita in 2005. David, who lost family members in Germany Nazi, worked for a long time on references to the Holocaust which sometimes provoked negative reactions. Last season, David wore a MAGA hat, which he used to fend off fellow Angelenos, only to then be armed, even incorrectly, by the president himself. There are even some environmental undertones – the series was one of the first to adopt the Toyota Prius hybrid model and we hear David shaming others for “respecting the drought” in California by using less water to wash their hands. hands in the last episode.
This final season ends with David’s so-called “spite store” – which he opened specifically to compete with a neighboring business he despised – engulfed in flames. It was a fitting bookend for 20 successful years of reinventing the boundaries of the sitcom against the tropes and clichés of its predecessors and the competition. But where will “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – or comedy in general – go? As essayists began to figure out the way forward after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the so-called “death of irony” never materialized despite the collective mood. (And it’s a good thing.)
Season 10 has been celebrated as a kind of return to form. But in a country that moves down the chain of social mobility and faces the grim realities of widespread systemic failures, everything that comes next will have to answer increasingly difficult questions about what our comedy says about us. Fortunately, David seems ready for the task. The comedian has spent decades perfecting the observational humor that captures a particular era in 21st century life. If he were to respond to the sobering challenges of the current neo-apocalypse, his supernaturally grim prospects could come at the right time.