‘Curb’ Appeal

HOLLYWOOD Curb my enthusiasm for Larry David? Never — even though he did tell me to …

"F – – – this guy! Shut up. That's enough from you!" he grinched as I glued my hands on the microphone, meeting up with him as a member of television critics gathered here, to whom the man with two first names and one opinion of mankind was doling out misanthropy and mishugas 50-50 as an equal opportunity offender, offing anyone who got in his face.

And a L'Shanah Tovah to you, too, buddy!

Insulted? Impressed! I've been insulted by better. On second thought, no, I haven't. He's the best — and the best at what he does in a corrosively brilliant way that makes bonbons out of blistering anomie.

Who else but David could tell you to be fruitful and multiply, and still be the apple of your eye?

A Jewish Scrooge? Screw that, as he might say; he's one of a kind.

Which may be why so many can't get enough of the curmudgeonly "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star, who took a comedian named "Seinfeld" and helped, as that series' co-creator, make his show the true chronicle of the times over a side-splitting nine seasons.

Now, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" gets set to premiere its sixth season this Sunday on HBO, and the man who mistook a Holocaust survivor for a "Survivor" on the apoplectically hilarious show, approaches Yom Kippur, all ready for atonement.

But it's a tone meant for arguing …

"You know what? Nobody who watches the show is offended," he says of his "Curb" audience, which knows that a chef with Tourette syndrome barking out orders takes the comedic cake, and that L'chidilatkebris passes over as the yin-yang of Yiddish-speak in LarryWorld.

Can you hear him now? Who could complain to such a complainer?

"I haven't heard anything. On 'Seinfeld,' which was on commercial television, I'd get thousands of letters every week about people who were offended from every group. But on 'Curb,' we get nothing. Nobody seems to be offended, except for the people who just hate me in general."

What's to hate? Except maybe for that self-immolation that fires up his own torch song rant against himself. Not for nothing was George Costanza the "can't stand-yeh" surrogate for David in the devilish comedy that was about oh-so much.

Audience Appetite
And now … Who knew that "Curb" would find such an audience appetite for its venal view of mankind? Not the unconfident David, who put the "diff" in the "diffi-dance" that is his waltz of worries.

"I thought I was going to stink, and I thought the show would stink," he said after the show's first season. "So anything beyond stinking was like, 'Wow!' "

Talk about curbing his expectations. But here he is now, providing his own "Jeopardy!" answer to the theme song of "If I Were a Rich Man," all fapitz and pissed, attired in sneaks and the sneaking suspicion that he can get away with anything … which, laughingly, the man can.

Kvetch me if you can, his body language seems to say. And his talents are sponge-worthy — whether as protection for Elaine ("Seinfeld") or Susie ("Curb"). But would you want to contend constantly with a crusty kibbitzer whose rye humor had him battling Ted Danson over a namesake deli sandwich in an episode that had the whitefish turning blue?

After all, isn't David the reason that "The Producers," having schtooped to conquer on Broadway, was finally forced out of its longtime home, coming on the heels of David's fourth-season send-up, in which he and David Schwimmer proved that Max and Leo were far from friends?

Doing misanthropy to the Max? "Let me tell you," he tells me, "that's the most fun I've ever had in my life, doing that episode," he says of the season-long spoof.

Dance 10 … Looks 3?

"Being backstage with the cast, and they're warming up and doing vocals. It was wild, really fun.

"And learning those … I don't know how anybody can dance. To learn those steps? I spent a lot of time on that."

Cha … cha … chuckle: At 60, he can still do a good high-kick … where it's pointed may have some covering their groins. But there's no doubt so much of "Curb's" curbside appeal stems from the jaunty Jewish quips that point to his own embrace of religion.

Maybe "embrace" is a bit too warm and huggy for such an un-haimisch heartthrob — "I'm not one of these guys that goes, 'Hey, I'm a Jew. I'm a Jew. I'm a Jew,' " he says.

But there is a sense that if he isn't exactly "The Hebrew Hammer," he may be the "Yammering Yarmulke."

After all, so much of his show shows his fascination — or is it frustration? — with what being Jewish means.

Spit-take? Ch-take! He's docked the Orthodox and made mincemeat out of matzah meal on the series. Invite a stranger to seder? Sure, so who's going to be offended if the guest's a sex offender?

Hide your afikomen now! Maybe that's why Elijah never showed up.

More than anything, David's Jewish humor takes a trip few other comedies have ever ventured on: Call them tallis la trek, an art form all their own.

Or maybe the Jewish japes are all just a matter of location, location, location. Larry David, the realtor of raucous religious humor?

"I grew up in Brooklyn in an apartment with neighbors on top of me who could hear everything that happened in my house," where "people were screaming and yelling all the time."

And it wasn't just "Put on a sweater!" But Judaism does call out to him, right? The plotz lines … the mohel the merrier?

"I don't think the show is for Jews, just as I don't think 'Seinfeld' was for Jews. I don't feel that it's a Jewish show at all."

Surely, what shows is why being heckled hits so close to home. After all is said and done, Miss Anthropy is not just another beauty contest for the erstwhile Brooklyn boychick.

"Nobody believed in me" as a kid, he says, not kidding.

"My mother said to me, 'You're not special. You're not special, Larry.' "

Well, there was some civil conversation at home, he adds of his special memory. If you think the post office has a reputation now, imagine Larry David schlepping a mailbag on a hot summer day: "She begged me to take a civil-service test to work in the post office. That was her dream for me."

Alas, some dreams don't always have happy endings. In real life, David and his wife have split, which maybe makes for an inconvenient truth for his onscreen wife — played by Cheryl Hines — possibly a little nervous if there is a seventh season?

"Oh, what a shame," he laments laughingly of her future.

Certainly, there's no shame in being No. 1. And when TV Guide named "Seinfeld" some seasons back as the best comedy of all time, the Jewish grinch whose home life seemed to have an Oliver twist to it, added his own.

He saw the magazine cover on "Seinfeld" as a sign of vindication for anyone who questioned his special talents.

Special delivery? He knew exactly where it should be sent: "Mail this to my father!" he enthused of the article — which just goes to show, as Freud might have said, when it comes to triumphs and tribunals, there's no place like home. 



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