Larry David + ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’: Why I Need Dark Fictional Characters

[NOTE: This post contains explicit language.]

larry david

I relate to Larry David more often than I am alienated by him, but I’m not proud of it.

And, by Larry David, I mean the character of ‘Larry David’ on the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. I have no doubt that the actual Larry David functions mostly fine amongst polite society. Or, maybe he doesn’t. I don’t know Mr. David, but I know Larry David from Curb. I know him, because if I were to sit down and write out a sitcom character with each of my worst qualities highlighted for dramatic effect, I would look a lot like the character of Larry David:

I would loathe the conventions of society until they directly benefit me, and then I would rail against everyone else’s rejection of society’s rules.

Larry David is the ultimate hypocrite, but I can’t help but relate to his reactions. Staying for dessert just for the sake of staying for dessert seems dumb and arbitrary. The “stop and chat” sucks. People do abuse their sampling privileges (I used to work at a Whole Foods Market). Bad drivers really are schmohawks. Furthermore, these things should be pointed out loudly and often even if it makes everyone around you hate you and your judgements and “rules”…except it’s not okay to alienate people in this fashion, and a good portion of us living out in the world have the ability to read nuance and choose our battles, and if we are able to read those nuances and adjust our behavior accordingly, we should.

But what if we didn’t have to? 

The character of Larry David exists in a world of privilege that allows him to live in a mostly-filterless way with few real consequences. He’s the creator of Seinfeld, after all (as he is in real life), and has a lot of money, friends, and influence. Even so, Larry still suffers consequences. He has to apologize for something a million times a day. His wife, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), leaves him during the sixth season. His manager, Jeff Green’s (Jeff Garlin) entire family hates Larry, and Susie (Susie Essman), Jeff’s wife, lovingly refers to him as a “bald fuck” and “four-eyed fuck.” Ben Stiller hates Larry. So does David Schwimmer. So does Paul Riser. And Alainis Morrisette. And Wanda Sykes. It’s safe to say that most people in Larry’s life have a big beef with Larry, which ultimately drives him to move to Paris with his one remaining friend, Leon (J.B. Smoove), by the series finale. But Larry is still stupid wealthy, and he’ll never not be loved by 80-gajillion Seinfeld fans all over the world (I am one of them). So, yeah, Larry can afford to be Larry, and just because Larry is a jackass who’s borderline racist and misogynist doesn’t make him completely wrong all the time. I mean…Susie’s bedazzled sweatshirts aren’t my cup of tea, either.

I get why the character of Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm turns people off. Cringe comedy isn’t for everyone, anyway, and Larry provides some of the cringiest of cringe comedy moments in TV history. But that’s why I love it. It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. The character of Larry can’t exist outside of the Curb Universe for the same reason I can’t live out my sick and twisted fantasies about peeing down the heating vent and onto my neighbor’s head while he’s down in our shared basement drinking all night and hammering nails until 4am every morning. It’s the same reason I can’t immediately interrupt someone describing to me a recent dream they had in agonizing detail to remind them that dreamtalk is incredibly boring. It’s the same reason I can’t knock someone’s device out of their hands when they are blocking a public entrance or TALKING VERY LOUDLY ABOUT VERY PERSONAL INFORMATION. It’s the same reason I recognize these desires in myself but don’t feel proud of them and certainly don’t act on them. Why? Well, I think George Costanza said it best:

We need fictional characters who live out their Dark Sides, and we need fictional characters who do it in a funny way. It’s cathartic. I can vent my frustrations at the world through fictional anti-heroes like George Costanza, Larry David, Dr. House, David Brent, and Michael Scott. I can really vent my frustrations through Julie and Billy (Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner) on Difficult People, two people I would find positively loathsome in the Real World but absolutely destroy me with laughter in the fictional world where they reside.

I relate to dark characters because humans are complicated, and it’s wonderful how complicated we are. Our complications allow us to mine the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves and find pure gold. We can turn ugliness into beauty by making someone laugh at it. Laughing at awful characters in movies, books, and TV doesn’t make light of awfulness; it makes awfulness more bearable by shining a big old bright spotlight on it. That’s why fiction is important, why art is important, why all creative endeavors are important. If nothing else, it gives us a means in which to deal with darkness in a constructive way.

So, thanks Larry David, for helping me not go nuts on people all the time, you four-eyed, bald fuck.