Larry David is a 73-year-old white man who has somehow managed to keep himself relevant (and revered) for over 30 years, with his mix of side-splitting humour and spit your drink inappropriate remarks. As the writing force behind the cult phenomenon Seinfeld and the central character of the now 10 seasons-long Curb Your Enthusiasm, he is a staple (read: fossil) of the sitcom genre.
But in 2021, Larry David, like other old white men, finds himself skirting the edge of the acceptable in the 21st century, despite still eliciting guilty giggles from his diverse audience, which ranges from men like him, to women like me – young, black, African and thousands of kilometres away.
Amanda Xulu, a Johannesburg-based social science researcher and self-proclaimed Curb fan explains his local allure this way: "I think he was our first exposure to an unlikable man, but who also made it funny to make fun of other people – which is what South Africans excel at."
Curb Your Enthusiasm is a fictional show driven by David's real-life character, friends and interests. His real-life character is irritable and sardonic and downright hilarious. Despite having all the trappings of 'the soft life', he remains unmotivated and unmoved by the world outside his home and the golf court (for a man who hates Trump, there sure is some similarity).
David's net worth is valued between $450-800 million and yet he is the living and breathing embodiment of that age old saying: money won't buy you happiness.
But in season 10, it seems like money hasn't bought him much self-awareness either – which is why some of his most loyal fans are finding it hard to laugh through his gaffes. Season 10 builds on the 'wtf' factor established in a strange season 9 finale, which sees Larry being handed a fatwa by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, an event which he commiserates with fellow fatwa holder and iconic writer Salman Rushdie.
Season 10 then opens with a discussion with his friend Leon Black (J.B. Smoove) in which they decide white peoples' complexions are a range of warm cereal colours, while moments later David casually grabs a selfie stick from a tourist and breaks it over his knee.
My favourite Curb episode is a crossover with Judge Judy, where he hauls his elderly lady neighbour to the infamous courtroom for stealing a plant. It's shocking, it's offensive, eliciting the cringe-laugh humour that Steve Carell would later popularise in The Office US. Like Carell, David is a master of making generic white man behaviour seem dismissible and laughable. But you almost wish you were brave enough to be so brazen.
And brazen is just the word.
Larry David specialises in the brash and belligerent, taking anyone to task about issues that mildly inconvenience him. This is ironic, considering his children, in a recent New York Times profile, describe him as gentle and severely averse to conflict around him or involving him. Curb's Larry is not the same. In season 10, he opens a coffee shop to spite a rival business, antagonises a woman at the gym about exercising while pregnant and dons a MAGA hat (which he received presidential praise for via Twitter when the sentient Hot Cheeto still had access).
Larry is embroiled in a case of a "misunderstanding" involving sexual harassment, and while it is on-brand for the show to speak on topical issues, he did screw the proverbial pooch by almost suggesting that misunderstanding, rather than violence, has characterised the fight for women's equality and protection.
David falls flat on his face here – and it is any wonder why both Jerry Seinfeld and Seinfeld co-creator Larry Charles have said that David does not have a line for what is too dark or deep for public viewing. Seemingly, this remains his (potentially debilitating) Achilles heel.
Of course, avid fans of Larry David know that despite his serious missteps, the "real" David is well known for his love of liberty and interest in equitable justice. A long standing (read: suffering) Democrat, he has in the past held fundraisers for Bill Clinton (who he infamously wasn't interested in meeting) and of course played his real-life distant cousin Bernie Sanders on SNL.
He also set up a GoFund me which raised $100,000+ for local golf caddies. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he is holed up with his family and pets, languishing in his dream life of staying home, using endless sanitiser and eating sandwiches, according to The New York Times.
The great wonder too is that this pandemic has found its ultimate hero in Larry David. A man who hates interacting, doesn't believe in unnecessary touching, and Curb Your Enthusiasm provides the perfect outlet for anyone looking for a show where whining, venting and complaining are encouraged – habits we're all entitled to as we navigate the extravaganza that is 2021.
- Stream seasons 9 & 10 of Curb Your Enthusiasm on Showmax