Recently, HBO announced that Curb Your Enthusiasm, the premium cable network’s longest-running scripted comedy or drama show, will return to the airwaves after a five-year hiatus. But now “It Is 2016”, to quote pandering progressive Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a time when political correctness has steadily wreaked havoc across the comedy scene writ large.
Comic luminaries Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld have openly disavowed political correctness, while the unfunny Sarah Silverman has cravenly embraced it by insisting comedians should submit to the thought control and “change with the times.” Right.
Needless to say, today’s comedy is in jeopardy. Due to the surge of identity politics, a leftist medium (and really an excuse) for self-declared societal victims to voice their grievances while silencing others in the process, comedy has been unable to breathe. Comics, satirists and provocateurs alike are now sued and made financially liable for their jokes, physically threatened, and, most recently, banned from major social media websites.
Comedy is craving a renaissance. With the upcoming return of Curb Your Enthusiasm, we may have an answer to all this speech policing. What I like to longwindedly call “the new show about nothing about the co-creator of the old show about nothing,” Curb Your Enthusiasm is about the life and pratfalls of Larry David, the said co-creator of NBC’s Seinfeld. Since Seinfeld ran for nine seasons, it is only fitting that Larry would want to attempt a season nine of this series and take one (?) more stroll along the Curb promenade.
Like with Seinfeld, Larry is known for taking his own real life experiences, harvesting their humorous elements, and applying them to Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s interconnected sitcom plots. Taking into account his conversation with Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and his stint on Saturday Night Live where he did a hilarious sendup of the finger-wagging Bernie Sanders and an idiot Donald Trump protester who can only parrot “Trump’s a racist!”, it is quite possible Larry is also privy to this assault on humor, logic, and common sense by the politically correct left.
Larry David is a rich white liberal… and he knows it
Let’s not kid ourselves, though: Larry David is, indeed, a rich white liberal who golfs with “Nobel Peace Prize-winner” Barack Obama on Martha’s Vineyard. But one of the many keys to Larry’s brand of humor is his chronic self-loathing (“I do hate myself, but it has nothing to do with being Jewish!” he insisted in Season Two’s episode, “Trick or Treat”) and obsessive self-awareness. PC liberals, however, only have the first, which they project onto others via guilt and power tripping.
As a rich white Jewish liberal, Larry is as aware and bashful about his privilege and social stature (“Oh stop it, I have no stature!” he rebutted in the show’s pilot) as he is confused by it—a Wandering Jew in high society. He is always curious, roving about and trying to decipher the purpose of the different yet equally bizarre social codes and phenomena that sheeple, typically the wealthy kind, tend to comply with and encounter on a somewhat regular basis.
After cashing in on Seinfeld, Larry became a liberal by lifestyle. His fame afforded him comfort and luxury, plus the ability to interact with Hollywood’s uppity elites. But Larry is a misanthrope; this is apparent in his early career when he walked off the stage at the start of a set after getting a bad vibe from his audience. Now you have the same recluse—only rich and living in a liberal wonderland—whose occupants are likely the same type of snooty people Larry walked off from that long-ago night.
The magic of Curb is that Larry manages to ridicule liberal attitudes on HBO, a hugely pro-liberal television platform. He pulls this off probably because Larry’s show is not political, per se; while Curb centres on Larry’s rich white liberal lifestyle, it mocks the behavior and prejudices of all creeds and colors.
No one is spared: white people, black people, hispanics, the disabled, fat people, liberals, conservatives, Christians, Muslims are all thrown under the proverbial bus. Larry’s humor is not at the expense of everyone but himself; instead, the “bald asshole” sticks himself in the middle of these antics, and whether he is on the right or wrong side of things is always up for debate.
Where Youtube essayist Nerdwriter called Louis CK a “Moral Detective”, Larry David is a “Social Detective”—one who rarely solves the case. Curb episodes are riddled with unanswered mysteries: was Michael J. Fox pissed or was it just Parkinson’s? Did Larry tip the waiter twice? Did Leon masturbate on those bedsheets? What was the Weatherman’s Golf Tip?
Putting question marks at the end of those running gags, Larry’s lack of closure here is the punchline. He shows the absurdity of life and all these little social codes. That, at the end of the day, there is no absolute answer – our curiosity remains in suspension, tormented by our own assumptions.
Political correctness will suffer at the hands of Larry David
Political correctness’s core flaw is that it discourages curiosity – it tries to shame it, control it. That is why political correctness is anathema to comedy: it inhibits comedians and comediennes from getting down in the muck of our own hypocrisies and deepest prejudices and, in turn, mocking and exposing them. Larry’s comedy takes us out of our safe space. It has nerve.
Take Season Six’s finale, “The Bat Mitzvah,” where Larry pretends to be mentally handicapped to deter a potential tenant from renting a next-door office. The scheme works flawlessly and the freaked tenant tries to feign politeness and is then scared away.
Today, I can just see PC crybabies complaining about and obsessing on Larry’s exaggerated imitation of the mentally disabled. They would take to social media and blogs and BuzzFeed castigating Larry David as ableist (or whatever new phobia they’d invent). Moderate leftists would then take cues from this and publish “impartial” think pieces like “Is “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Discriminatory To Disabled People?”, thus inadvertently lending credence to these ridiculous claims. In response, Return Of Kings would be compelled to publish a piece titled “”Curb Your Enthusiasm Is Not and Never Has Been Discriminatory – Here’s Why”, etc. All this noise when, once again, the PC police would be missing the point.
Like the majority of Curb’s gags, Larry’s intent is not to mock a type of person or thing, but the behavior in response to that person/thing. Larry pokes fun at how the abled respond to the severely disabled: with disgust sublimated into pity and “compassion.” Larry points to the fact that many able-bodied people are turned off by the disabled, so they act overly polite and courteous to them to absolve themselves of the guilt for feeling so.
Take “The Safe House” episode, where Larry asked a black man to watch a white man’s laptop at a restaurant. When the surly laptop owner loses his device, he confronts Larry and blurts, “you gave it [my laptop] to a black guy!”. Mortified, the man tempers his voice and corrects himself: “I mean… why wouldn’t you give it to a black guy?”.
That is what Curb Your Enthusiasm illustrates: people want to be decent but, deep down, we can be racist. We can be bigoted. We can be prejudiced. We can be angry. Most importantly: we can be confused–about ourselves and the way we think of and treat others. Larry David is confused like us.
Curb is so successful because it is relatable in that sense. It taps into the things we tend to think but rarely dare to say. It’s unfiltered, uncensored, mercilessly funny and yet not savage. It pushes the envelope while remaining good-natured in its comic nudging. This is why we, or I for one, eagerly await the show’s return to save us from today’s humor-resistant political correctness.
Rest assured: Larry David and the upcoming ninth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm will Make Comedy Great Again.