It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Larry David really doesn’t care if you watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” That’s according to David’s long-time collaborator Jeff Schaffer, the show’s executive producer and director, who insists, “The wants, desires and needs of the audience have never come up.”
“People always ask, ‘It has been so long. The TV landscape has changed. How has that affected writing ‘Curb?' I can honestly tell you, and I speak for Larry in this, the wants, desires and needs of the audience have never come up. We couldn’t care less. If you told me that Larry was making this for his own shelf, he wouldn’t make it any differently.”
Schaffer’s comments during our recent discussion provoked me to compare Larry to Prince, as the legendary musician used to create albums that he would then never release.
“Larry and Prince have this in common. Disdain for their audience. It is like working in a comedy biosphere. You don’t have to worry about anything in the outside world. You just have to worry about making a funny show.”
But, after a six-year absence, why and how did Larry David finally decided to return to the world of “Curb” then? Well, it turns out, he just needed a little encouragement, which Schaffer finally gave him in the fall of 2016.
“There was a movie that Larry was thinking of doing and he wanted me to direct it, so we were talking about that,” Schaffer recalled. “But as we were talking about it Larry kept saying, ‘That would be funny for ‘Curb’. I’ll save that for ‘Curb’.’ So finally I said, ‘If you want to do ‘Curb,’ let’s just do ‘Curb.’ Forget about the movie’.”
“He was like, ‘Well, do you think the cast would want to do it?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And he was like, ‘Do you think anyone would want to see it now? It has been so long since the last season.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’”
David and Schaffer then had the hard task of trying to figure out how to explain the lengthy gap between seasons. This was when they dreamed up the idea that Larry had been writing a musical about Salman Rushdie getting a Fatwa, which would then lead to Larry getting his very own Fatwa, all of which made them “really, really laugh.”
“Larry getting a Fatwa seemed very, very right. And it just gave us this season trajectory that was very interesting. And I will say now, even knowing how the season starts, ‘You will never expect how it ends.’ We are editing the final two now, and I am just so pleased that even though it starts in an insane place, it ends beyond it.”
The absurdity of season 9 was something that Cheryl Hines, who plays Larry’s ex-wife on “Curb,” underlined when I spoke to her on the red carpet for its premiere. “I actually had to sign a contract this year saying that I won’t talk about it. Which is weird. It is kicked up a crazy, dangerous notch.”
Much has changed in the world itself in the intervening years, too, though. The biggest alteration in the U.S. actually arrived the day that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season 9 started production, when Donald Trump was elected President. That morning, Schaffer thought Larry would be so distraught over Trump’s victory that he wouldn’t actually come into work.
“I didn’t think Larry was going to make it. I thought we were going to have to take an insurance day on that first day. Everyone was in a daze in the morning. But as soon as we started shooting, it was a scene between Larry, Leon, and Jeff, it was like, ‘Thank God we are working on this, because we can finally take our minds off it’.”
When it comes to Trump and the current social climate, Schaffer admitted, “There are a few jokes here and there that are based on what’s going on,” while Susie Essman even went as far as to insist, “It is still a very politically charged season.”
But, at its heart, “Curb” is still “Curb”, and its main intention is just to make everybody howl with laughter. “I think the great thing about Larry is that he sees the petty tree and loses sight of the forest. And in a world where everyone needs to be dealing with these bigger problems, someone has to take care of the petty stuff. Someone has to take care of the minutiae,” Schaffer declared.
“I think the world needs a lot of laughter,” added Hines, before Essman went on to insist that Larry was now going to take charge. “People always need to laugh. And there’s a lot of uncertainty right now. Whatever it is, people are feeling like there isn’t an adult in charge, and I think that Larry is going to be the adult.”
“Curb” fans wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” season 9 airs on HBO at 10pm EST every Sunday.