A lot of the references you usually don’t get in my posts come from Seinfeld, but a good number of them also come from Curb Your Enthusiasm from time to time. Most of you know what Seinfeld is (I hope). Curb Your Enthusiasm is the HBO extension of the show, where Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, goes about his life and encounters some crazy situations. A lot of what happens on the show has actually happened to me in real life. I’ve written about this type of stuff on my friend’s blog before I started mines.
The show started more-or-less with plot lines that are a lot more realistic than what the show has become, in my opinion. The later episodes are a bit more far fetched and definitely seem more plotted out than the early episodes; the dialogue also seems a little more staged. The “scripts” of the show have been known to be pretty loose on dialogue, relying on improv, which makes it all that much more funny because the performers are brilliant at improv.
Frequent commenter, Valerae, who has her own fun blog, recently asked me what my favorite episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm is. For a long time, my answer for this hasn’t changed, but I think I now have to go into depth about what the difference is between my favorite episode and the best episode. Since I’m a stickler for qualifiers with no definition, my favorite is the one that makes me laugh the most. The best is the one that defines the show.
For a long time, my favorite episode was the best episode. And that is “The Nanny from Hell,” season 3, episode 4. If I am explaining Curb Your Enthusiasm to someone, and I want to get them started on watching the show, this is the episode I will tell them to watch. Here are some of the things in the episode that help to mold it into the best episode:
- Larry makes the argument that sponge cake is a completely acceptable dessert to bring to a dinner party. The sponge cake is the deus ex machina, and provides a brilliant punchline to the whole episode.
- Richard Lewis boldly claims to have coined the term “the ____ from hell” and even finds an in to try to get it attributed to him in Bartlett’s Quotes.
- Larry and Richard sit down in a jam packed restaurant and have an uncomfortable experience with a neighboring diner who even calls the experience, “the lunch from hell.”
- Larry pushes the limit on the pronunciation of the name, Hugh, throughout the episode.
- There is a porn baby.
- Larry gets into a verbal altercation with the porn baby, which leads to a confrontation with the boy’s father, Hugh. The confrontation ends with Larry again pushing the pronunciation of the name, Hugh, in the sense that you can say, “f*ck Hugh,” and it really means “f*ck you.”
- Cheri Oteri has an amazing performance as the Nanny from Hell.
- The theme music from Looney Tunes is incorporated brilliantly into the central plot of the show.
I will argue with you for days that there is no episode that is as brilliantly crafted as this one, and I think that, even after eight seasons, Larry has not made another episode that so perfectly captures the essence of the show in one episode.
“Having said that,” there is a different episode that makes me laugh more. And that episode is “The Bare Midriff,” season 7, episode 6. This episode, in my opinion, leans more toward the far fetched end, and doesn’t really give me many moments I think I can relate with, but damn is it funny.
The subplot under the episode is that Jerry Seinfeld and Larry are working on a Seinfeld TV show reunion. This is really only important in that it brings Jerry into the episode and introduces their assistant, who, let’s say, may be a little too large for a bare midriff shirt, yet wears it anyway. A big part of the episode is the deliberation between Jerry and Larry over whether they should let her go because of this; the banter between the two of them is reminiscent of the dialogue in many Seinfeld episodes.
The bare midriff is the deus ex machina of the episode, if you can even imagine that is possible.
There’s an amazing flashback to the 1950’s that the girl’s mother has where her husband, who is played by Larry, gets into an altercation with another automobile driver on the road, and winds up being beat down and killed by the driver. Somehow, toward the end of the episode, Larry winds up driving this woman somewhere, and he runs into Richard Lewis on the road. Lewis, who has something to give to Larry, motions for Larry to pull over, and the scene is totally reminiscent of the flashback; the woman, who is witnessing the same exact sequence of events, to help Larry escape certain death, leaps into the driver’s seat and plows into Lewis. It’s hilarious.
In this episode, Larry apparently has a very strong urine stream. Jerry makes fun of him early in the episode, and it seems like a completely throwaway fact, but when Larry somehow ends up at the old woman’s house, and he goes to the bathroom, he splashes onto an oil painting of Jesus that is conveniently hanging too close to the toilet. Because it beads up on the painting as a tear on Jesus’s face, the old woman and daughter, devout catholics that don’t know it’s urine, take this as a sign of divine intervention, and decide to take the painting on a national tour. This sets up the ending of the episode, which is brilliant, and I won’t try to ruin with my rant.
The best part of the episode, however, is the napkin lineup (click the link and watch it). There’s a good deal of the middle section of the episode that’s dedicated to Larry going to a pizzeria and ordering a chicken parmesan sandwich. He gets in trouble by the guy at the counter for taking extra napkins, but, on the way out, larry fills the bag with napkins and makes his exit. As he’s driving along, he is pulled over by an officer. The officer interrogates him about the napkins and ends up checking the bag to find that he took a lot of napkins. The officer brings Larry downtown, where he’s involved in a lineup. The man from the restaurant narrows it down to Larry and a bald black man with glasses. The officer dismisses both of them when the guy from the restaurant can’t seem to remember which of them took the napkins. This whole thing does little to progress the plot other than make Larry late to something, but the fact that they dedicate 10% of the episode to it, to me, is totally freaking hilarious. I’ve been laughing the whole time while I wrote this paragraph.
There’s other great stuff in this episode, but just watch it.
So anyway, there are the two episodes you need to watch again and again. Maybe one day, I’ll give Curb Your Enthusiasm the Three Stooges treatment…