How does Larry David do it?
Curb Your Enthusiasm, David's semiautobiographical sitcom, brilliantly blends spontaneity, social commentary, and intricate plotlines that resolve with the precision of a typical Seinfeld episode. The comparison makes sense, since David co-created that show too.
"I think [Curb] has a spontaneity to it, because it's improvised, that's really refreshing," David says. "I think it deals with a lot of subjects that a lot of people think about but never express. There's an honesty to it."
Since Curb Your Enthusiasm debuted on HBO as a one-hour special back in 1999, David has provided his actors with just outlines, not scripts.
"We have a fantastic cast. They're wonderful. And also, we spend a lot of time in casting every episode as well," David says. "We get really good people coming in and we're pretty sure that by the time we start shooting, that we've got the person we want."
The freedom he gives his actors helps ensure fast, honest reactions to David's provocative behavior on the show. Playing an irascible, argumentative version of himself, he inspires debate about which social conventions are truly necessary and which are a waste of everyone's time.
The situations inspired enough debate for a new program, Curb: The Discussion, which will follow Curb Your Enthusiasm after its basic-cable debut Tuesday on TV Guide Network. The Discussion, which David is co-producing, features an array of guests, including actors, musicians, and social figures, dissecting the ethical issues raised by each episode.
"[Executive producer] Scott Carter has done an amazing job of casting the show. It's pretty interesting. They're putting together some great panels," David says. "I've seen a few and I kind of got a kick out of it."
David has resisted the urge to join the debate, letting his shows speak for themselves. But he was tempted to chime in once, on the classic Curb episode "The Doll." (In the episode, David damages the head of one child's doll and then steals the head of another child's doll to replace it. When he has to find a hiding place for the stolen head, he chooses the front of his pants.)
"During a break on the one that Jerry [Seinfeld] was on, I did say something because Jerry said I should have put the doll's head in my pocket instead of in my crotch, and I had to interrupt and say that it wouldn't fit in my pocket."
As he looks back on the first seven seasons of Curb, David is also gearing up for an eighth season, which is set to premiere in 2011. Given that it's now the longest-running scripted series in HBO history, David is confident there's plenty of Discussion fodder still to come.
"Usually when a season ends, especially a season as successful as last season, it takes a while to recharge and come up with enough ideas so you know that you'll have a funny season. So it took some time," David says. "But I think we've got some good stuff coming up for Season 8."
Watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, followed by Curb: The Discussion, on Wednesday at 10/9c on TV Guide Network.