Larry David is a petulant, bickering, irritating, unredeemable jackass of a human being. I understand that David’s misanthropy is why so many people enjoy “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and for a few seasons, I found it amusing, too. But save for last season’s “Seinfeld” reunion, I’ve lost my taste for Larry David. I hate him as much as the rest of the characters in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” do, and I hate the rest of those characters almost as much as I hate Larry David. Given how intelligent I think that David probably is, I’m also beginning to wonder if it’s not purposeful. It feels like an exercise, as though he is saying, “I’m Larry David. I created ‘Seinfeld,’ and there is so much reverence for me that I can be as bitter, ugly, unlikable and hostile as I’d like, and people will continue to watch.” It’s the sort of exercise he’d do on his show to see how much he can alienate his neighbors before they reach their breaking point. It’s mostly why I’m hanging in there, in the hopes that at the end of the season, he’ll break character, get to the thematic punchline, and redeem himself.
The problems I have with “Curb,” I often have — to a lesser extent — with later seasons of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” There’s no one to sympathize with, and the characters never betray any humanity. They’re awful people, unlikable to the core; “Sunny” can get away with it more because it’s funnier and Charlie Day contains the life force of this nation, but there’s nothing relatable about “Curb Your Enthusiasm” anymore. “Seinfeld” was similarly misanthropic, but it was grounded in smart observational humor. Larry David, on the other hand, uses a five-minute scene to break down all the reasons why he dislikes a sandwich. That’s not observational humor; that’s complaining. It’s tiresome.
But in addition to the grating nature of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” it now feels perfunctory. He’s run out of ideas, so now he’s rehashing old one with more ugliness, hostility, and kvetchery. He’s trying too hard to shock us, trying to elicit our outrage. There’s a difference between saying out loud what everyone else is thinking, and what Larry David does: Saying out loud what we’re not awful enough people to even think.
He did suceed in last year’s season finale with Michael Richards; that sequence was funny because Richards was making himself the butt of his own racist joke; and it was uncomfortable because we’re still not sure how to feel about someone many of us consider a racist making racist jokes, even in jest. I laughed, and then I took a shower.
Now, when David casually throws out the word “ni**er,” as he did in the opening episode of the season, it’s not funny, it’s just uncomfortable. It’s bristling and unpleasant, like the first two episodes of this season. Living with a black roommate doesn’t give David carte blanche to use racial slurs. But, being Jewish does give him a certain liberty when it comes to Jewish humor. That’s why the anti-Semitic hate fuck on Sunday night’s show was actually funny, as opposed to just uncomfortable. Granted, it felt like David was trying to see how far he could push the boundaries of ethnic humor, but in that regard — in this scene where David sleeps with a Palestinian woman — he pushes it about as far as it can go without having to put him on a Hate Crime Watch List.
Check it out; it’s NSFW for language.