Larry David steals a glance at his wristwatch. It’s about 11:50. He needs to check out of the hotel by noon. He pleasantly explains he’s only got a few more minutes.
And no offense meant, by the way, when he looked at his watch.
“I wasn’t bored or anything,” he assures his interviewer.
Eureka! “There’s a typical ‘TV Larry’ thing,” he says, unleashing a small rant: “In life, we can’t look at a watch! It’s anti-social to look at a watch. You can’t be at a dinner party and look at a watch. It’s rude! People think you want to go home.
“Maybe you just want to know what time it is! You’re allowed to know what time it is, aren’t you?”
He’s put his finger on another of life’s injustices. Didn’t the first President Bush lose a re-election race just by looking at his watch during a debate?
“Exactly!” says David. “The guy lost the presidency ’cause he looked at his watch! Absolutely!”
This could be a scene straight from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the sort of deconstruction site where TV Larry thrives.
“It’s certainly something that he would be interested in,” nods David — “this taboo about looking at a watch!”
Success with ‘Seinfeld’
Having already made TV history (and a bundle) as a creator-producer-writer of “Seinfeld,” David had little to prove when he shot “Curb” as a comedy special for HBO in 1999, then turned it into a series a year later.
Now with “Curb” in a sixth hit season (airing 10 p.m. EDT Sundays), David has built on his “Seinfeld” legacy with a made-for-TV version of himself: TV Larry is a former “Seinfeld” producer who lives in Los Angeles and confronts random wrongnesses that fuel each episode, which is plotted by David, then improvised by him with his “Curb” co-stars (including Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman and Cheryl Hines as Larry’s wife, Cheryl David).
Among the striking similarities between the two Larrys: Each has marital difficulties.
In June, real-life Larry and his real-life wife, Laurie David, separated after 14 years of marriage.
On “Curb” last week, Cheryl left Larry. She was fed up after he refused to take her phone call from an airplane flight she feared was going to crash. She had wanted to tell him goodbye. He told her to “call back in 10 minutes” because the cable repairman was at their house fixing the TiVo.
But there are also big differences. For one thing, David is busy channeling himself into a comedy series, whereas its hero, TV Larry, has far too much time on his hands. Instead, he lives a life of agitated leisure swollen with annoyances (slow toasters, underwear with no fly, anonymous philanthropy, indecisive people ahead of him in line), and he courts disaster by taking corrective action.
Is TV Larry just a self-involved provocateur?
“I think he’s an idealist,” says David unconvincingly.
Or maybe just bored?
“No,” David insists. “He doesn’t create messes out of boredom. No! In one episode he says, ‘I’m not an inventor. I’m an improver. I see things that are wrong, and I improve them.’ He wants the world to be run the way that he feels it should be: the RIGHT way.”
Another season likelyDavid — the 60-year-old spitting image of TV Larry, from his tennis shoes to his irredeemably bald head — says the show is a blast.
“I had such a good time this year, I think I’d probably like to do it again,” he says. “My only issue is my face. I’ve got to edit this show and look at my face six to eight hours a day. Most people just look at their face when they’re looking in the mirror. I’ve got to see it all day long.”
Another year would be fun, except for “this big bald head,” he sighs, shaking it. “It’s big and it’s bald. I gotta take that into consideration, too.”
The head and the face have become widely recognized since “Curb” began. While “Seinfeld” made David a familiar name, he mostly stayed behind the scenes on that show. He says he likes being a public figure now.
“It’s 95-5 on the good side,” he figures. “The world’s become a much friendlier place. Every now and then people will bother you when you don’t really want to be bothered: a small price to pay. And I’m not dealing with everybody. Most of the people who know me are fans of the show.”
And those fans, David adds with amusement, all wonder the same thing: “Am I that guy?” That friendly but intrusive guy, that calculating, never-lets-it-slide guy? “I think people really WANT me to be that guy. I think they’re probably disappointed when I’m not.”
Not yet, anyway. The distinction, always tenuous, between the two Larrys is steadily eroding, David reports.
“I feel like TV Larry is my role model,” he says, “and I’m becoming a little more like him — just because I CAN be, because that’s what people expect.
“Now it’s easier for me to make what would be perceived as an anti-social comment: If I’m at someone’s house for dinner and there’s way too much butter in the mashed potatoes, I might say so now. Whereas before I would be tactful enough not to.”
So his character has given him permission to speak his mind, not just occupy a character who does it for him.
“Absolutely,” he says. “Gradually I’m encroaching on TV Larry’s style.”
It’s a whole other benefit of doing “Curb”!
“You’re not kidding,” he grins, free to look at his watch. “It’s fantastic!”