Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns to HBO for its 11th season on Oct. 24 — and local Jews can’t wait.
The upcoming 10 episodes will form the third season since “Curb” returned from a six-year hiatus in 2017.
Those first eight seasons, airing between 2000 and 2011, transformed David into an unmistakable celebrity and attracted millions of devoted fans. But a six-year hiatus is a long one. And the more recent seasons, airing in an era with more entertainment options, have gotten slightly lower ratings.
At the same time, local Jews haven’t forgotten about David. Instead, many were just waiting for “Curb” to come back.
“I couldn’t wait,” said Rabbi Cynthia Kravitz, a Lafayette Hill resident. “Just as I can’t wait until Oct. 24.”
“We needed it,” added Brett Goldman, who lives in Center City. “In the time we’re in, everything is so serious, and we’re so hypersensitive. It’s good that comedy can still exist.”
“They can take six months off or 20 years. Doesn’t matter. I want more,” said Perry Shall, also of Philadelphia. “That’s the one show I could watch until the end of time.”
Fans described “Curb” as timeless because it remains hilarious, oddly thought-provoking and quintessentially Jewish. David’s antics in the show do not embarrass Jews as some sort of caricature.
Quite the contrary, actually.
Local followers said David, in pointing out and questioning ridiculous social conventions, represents the very Jewish quality of being willing to question and debate literally anything.
We all have that Larry David in us, according to Goldman. Unlike David’s character in the show, though, we just learn to tame its most awkward manifestations, said Rabbi Joel Seltzer of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
“We let our better intentions win the day most of the time,” Seltzer added.
Amy Milbert, a Phoenix resident who grew up in Philly, said her husband has a lot of Larry David in him. Recently, the couple was going to a party where gifts were optional…similar to the season four “Curb” episode where the host, the comedy actor Ben Stiller, tells guests not to bring gifts.
In the show, Larry doesn’t bring a present and Stiller gets mad at him, even though the host told people not to bring presents. And comedy ensues.
Milbert’s husband, like Larry, didn’t want to bring a gift. The party was, after all, gift-optional, he reasoned.
“Even if it’s gift-optional, you have to bring a gift!” Milbert responded.
By the end of the debate, her husband agreed. And when they got to the party, everyone else had brought a present, too.
“We love the show,” Milbert said.
The show has maintained those hilarious, incisive and representative qualities for its entire two-plus decade existence. But while fans say those essential qualities keep them coming back, they also argue that the show had one key inflection point: Larry’s divorce from his wife Cheryl David, played by Cheryl Hines. The couple split up in a season six episode in 2007.
Subsequent episodes and seasons focused on Larry’s dating and sex lives. They also focused more on the show’s first major Black character: Leon Black, played by J.B. Smoove.
Smoove joined the show in season six, before the Davids’ breakup, as part of a storyline involving the Davids taking in a family displaced by a hurricane. Even after his family left the David house, though, Leon stayed, and hilarity ensued.
The comedian’s character was so popular that he became an integral part of the show. Smoove’s Leon was listed as “recurring” during seasons 6-8 from 2007-’11. But he was upgraded to “main,” alongside David, Hines and others, for season nine in 2017.
Now, according to local fans, Larry’s friendship with Leon takes up a lot of the space that used to belong to Larry and Cheryl’s marriage.
And fans love it.
David always had chemistry with the improv performers on the show, Seltzer said. But his chemistry with Smoove is on another level.
That opened the stage to Smoove’s and Leon’s different comedic perspective on the world. And by adding that perspective, Leon kept the show fresh and current. He even showed that people from other cultures often question life’s absurdities, too.
“We typify it as Jewish humor, but it’s also broader than that,” Seltzer said. “Other cultures are looking at the minutiae of things, or might like argument for the sake of argument.”
Fans are pretty much unanimous in their love for Leon’s character.
But some think the show has been a little less funny post-divorce. Milbert liked it better when Larry was married to Cheryl and doing provocative things at otherwise respectful events for married people.
She preferred that dynamic because it allowed the same rotating cast of friends, like Susie Greene (played by Susie Essman), Jeff Greene (played by Jeff Garlin) and Ted Danson (portraying himself), to have more of their own hilarious moments.
At the same time, Milbert still loves the show and can’t wait for the new season.
“I’m completely committed,” she said.
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