The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is seldom associated with unbridled hilarity. Yet HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” tackles the long-simmering hostility in its own inimitable way, in an episode that has to qualify as an instant classic.
That half-hour, in which a Palestinian restaurant opens in Westwood, is actually the third episode in the season that begins on July 10. Characteristic of producer-star Larry David’s eccentricity, the preview package included episodes 3, 5 and 9, excluding what are apparently pretty significant events in the first couple of installments.
But never mind. David’s quirks — including those surrounding how often the show airs, and how it’s previewed — are emblematic of a series so specific in its eccentricities and detail that it’s easy to accept having to jump through a certain number of hoops. And it’s hard to think of a show that packs in more comedic plot threads per episode, then finds absurd ways to pay them off.
It’s only fair to say the Israeli-Palestinian episode, directed by Robert B. Weide, will surely offend some people on both sides. It’s taken as a given, for example, Palestinians living in the U.S. hate Jews, and that no self-respecting Jew — except David and his idiot manager Jeff (Jeff Garlin), of course — would be caught dead in a Palestinian restaurant. (That said, having never eaten Palestinian chicken, I’m now curious if it’s really that good.)
Along the way, Orthodox Jews come in for special ridicule — one of David’s friends in the show becomes suddenly devout, which threatens their Saturday golf game — in that “Only Jews can make fun of other Jews” way.
Still, funny is funny, fearless is fearless, and cleverness on this scale is unbelievably rare. Besides, “Curb” has a longstanding history of assaulting sacred cows, so anyone expressing surprise clearly hasn’t been paying attention.
A subplot in that third episode, by the way, leads to David’s character being referred to as a “social assassin,” a description he wears as a badge of honor.
At the very least he’s a comedy assassin, inasmuch as I nearly died laughing.