At the premiere of HBO’s inimitable comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s,” 11th season, creator and star Larry David dutifully, charmingly performed the requisite press line interviews with nary a hint of his onscreen alter ego’s curmudgeonly agitation, even gamely delivering a “Prettyyyyy, prettyyyyyyy, pretty good” byte to an Australian TV crew. But as he revealed to Variety at the Paramount lot premiere what he imagines TV Larry’s take is on the traditional Hollywood red carpet: “He hates it as much as this Larry.”
Preferring not to reveal too much about a given season’s episodes before they air – just know that the new episodes are set in a future time after Covid – David did offer some insight about his creative process, given that for the last 20 years he’s enjoyed the rare luxury of deciding, on his own terms, if and when he wants to deliver another season.
“I’ll sit down with Jeff Schaffer, who is our director, and I say, “Do we want to do one? What have we got?” And we’ll go over some big story ideas, a season arc. And then if we like it, we’ll start writing,” David explained. “After a couple of episodes, I’ll feel like, ‘All right – I think we can do this!’ And then we’ll call HBO and say, ‘All right, we’re going to do it.’ That’s pretty much how it works.”
One of the great hallmarks of David’s comedic style is penchant for tying seemingly disparate, unrelated plot threads together cleverly, surprisingly and unfailingly hilariously, both in individual episodes and in the overall arc of a season, and he reveals that he’s always been drawn to the storytelling challenge.
“That’s how we put it together, like a puzzle. I’ve often said that it feels like a puzzle,” he said. “It just sort of developed on ‘Seinfeld’ for me. And I don’t know, it’s just the only way I know how to tell a story. I just like seeing how stories can bounce off each other and combine. And to me, it’s easier to tell stories that way, because you can move the stories along. I like how one story influences another story.”
Executive producer Shaffer, who’s worked on every season of the series with David, says that mosaic style of storytelling gets pushed to its zenith in Season 11. “There’s the thousand-piece puzzle that’s the whole season that’s made up of ten 100-piece puzzles – I think my math is correct,” he laughed. “This year we’re throwing a lot of puzzle pieces out at you in the beginning, but I promise you, they all come together in a real nice, completed puzzle of pettiness and awkward vengefulness.”
While the overall gist of scenes are written, the performers famously improvise their dialogue. Thus co-star Cheryl Hines admits she’s can’t ever quite be sure how all those plotlines will actually knit together in the final edit. “I never really know what’s being shot if I’m not there, so I’ll be watching along with everybody else wondering ‘How this is gonna wrap up?”
Co-star Jeff Garlin says that after two decades of working together, the cast is like a seasoned jazz ensemble creating beautiful, spontaneous comedic riffs. “We’re Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins and all that put together, for sure. Yeah, it’s a groove. It’s not easy, but it’s natural,” Garlin explains, adding that bringing on guest stars like Tracey Ullman this season brings fresh energy to the mix. “Tracey Ullman is like bringing in Sarah Vaughn! She was the highlight of the season for me.”
Ullman’s role is, as yet, unrevealed, but Shaffer notes “She was so good at making Larry so uncomfortable that it’s like a masterclass in how to get under someone’s skin.”
David says personally he loves exorcising his most anti-social and misanthropic impulses through his character. “The show is way more cathartic than any hour of therapy I could go through,” he laughs. “I just enjoy doing it. That’s why it’s lasted as long as it has.”
Indeed, Shaffer – who’s routinely asked during hiatuses if the show will be coming back – predicts its longevity might just last as long as human beings retain the capability to aggravate each another. “That’s Larry’s genius,” he says. “Every time he has this righteous indignation, he yells at someone and [the viewer] goes, ‘Oh my God, I wish I could do that!’ The beauty of Larry is that he can play both sides, and you end up rooting for someone you never expected you’d root for. Like Liz Cheney.”