After six years off the air, Curb Your Enthusiasm finally returns to HBO on Sunday, with Seinfeld co-creator Larry David’s turn as a heightened, extra-curmudgeonly version of himself. In eighty largely improvised episodes starting in 2000, we’ve seen Larry airing his grievances, no matter how petty, amid a fever dream of celebrity guest stars drawn from the same Hollywood ecosystem that Larry calls home. The caliber of talent Curb attracts is no doubt a credit to just how damn good the HBO comedy is, with season nine’s roster of bold-faced interlopers including Lauren Graham, Carrie Brownstein, Nick Offerman, Elizabeth Banks, and Judge Judy.
On the occasion of Curb‘s prodigal return, let’s celebrate the cavalcade of celebrities whom Larry has horrified or been horrified by. Or, more likely, both.
Bob Odenkirk as Gil Bang
In only the third episode of Curb ever, Larry and Cheryl find themselves having dinner with Bob Odenkirk’s porn star, who recounts filthy anecdotes from set and provides what is no doubt the greatest publicity that Tabasco never wanted. Saul Goodman got a spin-off; surely Porno Gil deserves one, too.
Shaquille O’Neal as Himself
Larry and Richard Lewis’s floor seats at a Lakers game result in tragedy when LD’s stretched legs trip none other than Shaq, terribly injuring him. Lest you forget the star of Kazaam is a real-deal comic talent, O’Neal also makes a convincing-ish argument for peanut butter as a dairy product in between rounds of Scattergories with his doctor at the hospital.
Ricky Gervais as Himself
The Curb version of Ricky Gervais is possibly the most obnoxious Ricky Gervais has ever been, which I really do mean as a compliment. He shades Seinfeld’s laugh track and “broad comedy” before stealing Larry’s date, but our hero ultimately prevails when he saves the couple from being mugged on the subway by fighting off their attacker with some crusty Italian bread. (This baguette is among the most important loaves in the greater Larry David–verse, up there with the marble rye. I’d include the chocolate babka in there, but that’s more of a cake, no?)
Stephen Colbert as a Tourist
When Larry is in The Producers on Broadway, a pre–Colbert Report Stephen Colbert approaches him on the street and asks him to take a photo of himself and his wife. But he and Larry end up fighting over the framing, only for Colbert’s character to realize this guy is the star of the show they just bought tickets to. Colbert places a curse on him: “You…will…fail.” Well, let’s just say it doesn’t not work.
Ben Stiller as Himself
Larry accidentally scratches his Producers co-star’s retina with a skewer, but as far as Stiller is concerned, his far graver offenses are neglecting to bring a present to Ben’s birthday party (despite the fact that he was explicitly told not to bring one) and opting out of singing “Happy Birthday.” Of all Larry’s extremely correct, ahead-of-his time opinions, his anti–“Happy Birthday” stance might be my personal favorite. I do not want any part of any social contract that would compel me to publicly sing.
Catherine O’Hara as Bam Bam Funkhouser
International comedy treasure Catherine O’Hara is Bam Bam, ambiguously mentally ill sister to Morty Funkhouser. Jeff cheats on Susie with her (of course), leading Larry to overhear one of the greatest-slash–most upsetting lines in Curb history: “Fuck me, fat boy!” Watching Bam Bam’s wildly unsubtle flirting with Jeff at a subsequent dinner party is pure delight, particularly when she licks her wine glass.
Michael J. Fox as Himself
Notable nice person Michael J. Fox — whose invaluable contributions to time-travel science the academy, infuriatingly, continues to overlook — parodied his own Parkinson’s disease in season eight, leaving Larry constantly second-guessing whether Fox’s symptoms were acting up or if that exploding soda was shaken up on purpose.
Bill Buckner as Himself
The Red Sox first baseman notoriously cost Boston the 1986 World Series when Mookie Wilson’s ground ball rolled right between his legs. But Buckner got redemption on Curb in season eight, catching a baby thrown from a burning building in a scene that’s both deeply goofy and cathartic. Plus, you have to appreciate how egregiously, American Sniper–level fake that baby is.
The Seinfeld Cast as Themselves
Curb Your Enthusiasm gave us the only Seinfeld reunion that would have ever felt right. Larry gets the gang back together in a misguided attempt to win back Cheryl in a truly incredible arc, for which HBO even dug the original sitcom’s sets out of storage. Special points for Jason Alexander and his undisguised contempt for the character of George Costanza (who was, of course, based on Larry David), and for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is just the best.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2017