In its first eight seasons on HBO, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” became known for a diverse group of guest stars who came on the show as versions of themselves. While series executive producer Jeff Schaffer told Variety they were always careful not to “over-cast” a role to avoid distractions, the list of actors lining up for the show was long. Ahead of the ninth season, which will feature Elizabeth Banks as herself, for example, Variety is looking back at some of the most memorable cameos on “Curb.”
The affable actor first appeared in the second episode of the first season of Larry David’s Hollywood-set comedy when he and his wife Mary Steenburgen go on a double date with Larry and his on-screen wife Cheryl Hines. In true “Curb” fashion, which leads to Larry trying to befriend Mary, and sets up a chain of events that turn Larry and Ted into frenemies of sorts for all of Danson’s future appearances on the show. It seems crazy that someone (other than the characters on Danson’s new NBC comedy “The Good Place”) couldn’t like Danson, but then again, a lot of things Larry does on “Curb” seem crazy.
‘Seinfeld’ Stars Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, and Jason Alexander
Though many of the actors from David’s former comedy appeared on “Curb” periodically in the first few seasons, it wasn’t until Season 7 that he got the band fully back together for a handful of episodes centered on a “Seinfeld” reunion. Watching Larry try to convince the cast to come back (all so he could try to win back his wife) was funny on its own, but watching them play up antics and characteristics that drove Larry nuts was another level. Alexander in particular got to shine in that arena, not only stealing Larry’s pen but almost stealing Cheryl, too.
Season 6 sees Larry making an unlikely new friend in the retired athlete after Larry takes on a limo driver’s assignment for the day and picks McEnroe up at the airport in “The Freak Book.” Both men are known for having short fuses, so it’s not surprising they hit it off. But what is surprising is just how much time they spend together for what is supposed to be a simple job. They end up backstage at a Paul McCartney concert, offending everyone, including McCartney’s then-wife Heather Mills (who did not actually appear on the show). Of course.
Brooks appeared as himself on the fourth season of “Curb” after inexplicably casting Larry in a new staging of “The Producers.” Admittedly in his debut episode, “Mel’s Offer,” it seemed like the version of himself he was playing was one that was losing his touch for spotting talent. But by the season finale, “Opening Night,” it all became clear that Brooks was secretly trying to tank his show (just like in the play itself) so he could finally be free of the story that he’d been tied to for half a century.
In 2002, terrorist attacks were still on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Leave it to Larry David to try to put a humorous spin on one when, in the third season episode titled “The Terrorist Attack,” Larry believes he knows inside info about an impending attack in L.A. Rumors swirl and they end up causing the expected hysteria, which ruins plans for a private concert by the Canadian songstress.
O’Donnell and David have a decades-long relationship that has manifested itself as a rivalry on “Curb.” In early seasons, they fought over things like the bill at lunch, but in the eighth season, things really came to a head when they both pursue the same woman. O’Donnell gets to confront Larry about using performance-enhancing drugs to tip the scales in his favor, and of course it leads to Larry losing his chance with the woman.
Though Sykes is credited as playing a character named Wanda, it is never explicitly said that she is playing herself (and in fact, her character was engaged to a man named Krazee-Eyez Killa early in the show’s run, which leans more toward fictional character). But her brand of wit and humor on the show so seems to match Sykes’ own, the line between fictional and reality seems very thin.
It was only a one-off that the legendary basketball player appeared on the show, but it was memorable nonetheless when in the second season episode aptly titled “Shaq,” Larry attended a Lakers game and had such great seats he accidentally tripped O’Neal. In a unique twist for the show, though, rather than being ostracized for ruining the home team’s advantage, the event actually seemed to bring Larry a stroke of good luck after he visits O’Neal in the hospital and gets into his good graces because O’Neal is a huge “Seinfeld” fan.
Lewis has been with Larry from the beginning, at least of this show. First appearing in the series premiere, “The Pants Tent,” Larry and Richard’s friendship has been tested a number of times through the years by a series of mishaps, misunderstandings, and Larry refusing to change or apologize. But they have also been in on schemes together, notably during in the third season episode “The Benadryl Brownie,” in which they plan to trick Richard’s girlfriend into eating the titular medicine-laced dessert after an allergic reaction causes Richard to be ashamed to be seen with her on the Emmys red carpet.
Before she was stirring up controversy with Trump supporters, the comedienne was causing trouble for Larry in the series premiere of “Curb.” After a series of events in which Larry “jokingly” refers to his wife as Hitler and causes a chain reaction of apology messages that Larry tries to explain with lies, Griffin blows the story wide open.
In Season 6, after Cheryl finally left Larry, he somehow managed to score a date with the former Warrior Princess. In “The TiVo Guy,” Larry meets Lucy, and they go out, yet she is the one to make things weird with him. It’s an unexpected role reversal that delivers an extra bit of comedy from the woman audiences were so used to seeing kick a–.
In the fifth season episode “The Smoking Jacket,” Larry ends up at the Playboy mansion and manages to switch jackets with the iconic magazine entrepreneur. With Hefner’s recent passing, this episode has extra weight now.
Senator Barbara Boxer
“Curb” doesn’t get political too often, but when it does, it does so very memorably. In the sixth season episode “The Anonymous Donor,” Senator Boxer only appears for about a minute, but she famously schools Larry on redistribution after he rants about dry cleaners giving his items away to other people. Her “it all balances out” attitude is very zen, and she even greets Larry by saying it’s “good to see him,” which just goes to show how important it is for politicians to stay calm in even the craziest of encounters.
In the second season episode “The Thong,” the uber-producer only appears briefly, to ask Larry to take part in a charity auction for Groat’s syndrome. In true Larry fashion, he agrees but ends up making things uncomfortable. What makes this appearance extra special, though, is that it marks the first mention of the fictional hyperactivity disorder that becomes a recurring joke in the show. Later, in the eighth season, Michael Richards reveals himself to be suffering from it.
Michael J. Fox
In the eighth season finale, which seemed like it might double as a series finale, Larry shushes Fox, who is talking during a performance by his girlfriend. When Fox shakes his head at Larry in response, Larry’s mind wanders to wonder if it was in fact a reaction or just an involuntary motion from Fox’s Parkinson’s disease. Larry actually prepares to apologize, but then a soda Fox hands him explodes, leading Larry to once again wonder if it was an innocent accident or deliberate revenge. Things escalate in “Larry vs. Michael J. Fox,” setting up what could just be a new rivalry runner now that the show has more episodes coming.