‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Return’s Improv Nature Challenges Editors

The much anticipated ninth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which debuts on HBO on Oct. 1, ends the socially caustic comedy’s six-year hiatus. The long layoff posed a special challenge for picture editors Steve Rasch and Jonathan Corn.

Rasch has been cutting the series since the pilot, with Corn stepping in to help during season two. “Everyone’s been wondering how we’re going to get back up to speed after the break,” says Rasch. “We justify it in the first episode and don’t pretend it’s an immediate continuation from season eight. Other than that, the show is the same as it was before.”

“Curb” uses no script; instead the actors improvise their dialogue based on a bare outline. Two opposing cameras simultaneously record the action, and then in post the editors must comb through all the footage to find the beats of an episode that can take up to three weeks to finish. Creator Larry David and series director Jeff Schaffer are both heavily involved.

“We’re trying to pluck together the best stuff into a coherent scene in the funniest way possible,” says Corn. Adds Rasch: “Our goal is to make great sentences, not great edits. We make scenes sound natural — as if they were written that way.”

The editors will sometimes use different takes to finish sentences based on performance or what’s deemed funnier. Cutting on specific consonants — like s, t or p — is a trick they commonly use to combine two takes into one sentence. They’ll also turn to the opposing cameras as a way to cut around the actor’s face. “The lack of b-roll is one of the challenges in this show,” notes Corn. “You wish you had something to cut to because it would be convenient editorially, but at the same time, we want to keep a docu feel.”

As for “Curb’s” soundtrack, David first heard the eventual theme music, “Frolic,” composed by Luciano Michelini, in a bank commercial. “Music is our tool to bring the mood back up and cue the audience to laugh,” says Rasch, who also serves as music supervisor. “It’s this enjoyable circus track that has good energy and counterbalances the sour humor in the show.”

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