Larry David asking Richard Lewis (on the left) to go inside a jewellery store for him. Picture from here
Being a big Seinfeld fan, I was very interested a few years ago to see that Larry David, the co-creator (along with Seinfeld himself), was starting a new show called Curb Your Enthusiasm. However, the show didn't seem to be playing here, so I ended up slowly forgetting about it, until the odd reference appeared on some random show (I remember in particular a spoof Martin Short did on his Primetime Glick, which I didn't fully understand at the time). Last week though, I managed to see CYE for the first time - and I was disappointed! It was inevitable that I would start off trying to compare it to Seinfeld; in terms of observations on the absurd little things that pervade our life, David didn't seem to have lost his touch. However, I just felt that something was lacking, primarily because one of the episodes seemed a bit over-the-top and, well, not funny. But how quickly I changed my opinion when I saw a couple of episodes again yesterday! I think I'm just all too easy to please, for it just took a couple of lines to completely win me over.
It's clear that the show does have it's Seinfeldian side, what with the endless awkward social and interpersonal situations and rules (e.g. the "cutoff time" for phoning someone at night), but it is also quite different. I believe it airs on HBO in the US, so the cast exert the liberty to swear whenever they feel like it ('twas a bit strange to see Julia Louis Dreyfus, better known as Elaine on Seinfeld, doing so - it seemed completely inconsistent with the notion I've formed of her over these years!). Also, there doesn't appear to be as much of a focus on different characters - it seems more to be about David, and it's lucky the character is so quirky (George was based on David, and he always was my favourite character). There doesn't seem to be the layering of interconnected plots, but really, endlessly drawing comparisons is only of limited interest. Suffice to say, it's similar, but it does have a distinct flavour of its own.
Much to my surprise, apparently the show doesn't have a script, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. There are scene outlines, with the general idea of what is going on and where the scene needs to go, but the actors make up most of the lines (and hence, the jokes) on the spot! Of course, improv comedy isn't an entirely new idea (Whose Line Is It Anyway? has been around for ages!), but improv in a sitcom? It's an interesting idea, and I think the show somehow makes it work. The caveat, I would imagine, is that the other actors on the show also need to be able to think quick on their feet, and be able to make up funny lines on the spot. I'm curious to see later episodes in order to find out how other celebrities fare, especially those who aren't comedians (for instance, I believe Alanis Morrissette makes an appearance).
Some of the jokes are very clearly made up on the go, because the laughter it elicits is so clearly genuine; when Richard Lewis inexplicably says "Call me before sundown", and David replies with "Before sundown? Who are you, Gary Cooper?", both start laughing in a manner clearly unstaged. But I really wonder whether there aren't some jokes that are semi-prepared beforehand, especially the small, subtle ones. Then again, almost every episode of Whose Line amazes me!
I suppose the whole point of this post is that CYE is interesting enough for me to have now planned to try to watch it with some regularity. Which, to be honest, isn't very interesting reading, but at least there's a picture at the top.