Curb Your Enthusiasm

I posted here about my take on what makes for good humor by looking at 30 Rock and Seinfeld, two shows that I consider funny and that many other people do as well. Even if you don’t think these shows are funny, you have to admit that given their success and popularity, there is something about them that intersects an important component of humor.

I thought that I could build on what I said there by looking at Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I’ve been watching lately. I think this show offers a rare opportunity for understanding humor because its done, as everyone knows, by Larry David, one of the creators of Seinfeld. So, it offers a way to see two manifestations of humor that come, more or less, from the same mind. The comparison might be fruitful.

And I guess it is, but mainly I just don’t like the show very much. I’m not sure what about it ruins its humor potential.

I thought at first that maybe I just had different concerns from the people on the show. They’re all considerably older, in fact, I think everyone on the show is over 40  and they have kind of old people concerns. I mean there’s stuff about golfing and which country club Larry is going to be part of and certain health issues. So at first I thought maybe that’s why I didn’t like it. But then I realizes that seinfeld is a pretty cross generational show as well. In fact, there are many recurring VERY old characters on that show, and though I guess all the characters are singled, they are dealing with solidly grown up issues. Maybe its that everyone is MARRIED in curb your enthusiasm. That’s seems like a pretty weird thing to wreck the humor of something though. So maybe it’s something else.

I tried to hone in on what it was, but I just never really got that far. I mean one thing that I think gets very annoying is the use of almost the exact same pattern for most episodes. Larry does something extremely insensitive and then has to apologize. Then the apology goes badly because Larry hedges it and isn’t genuine. That is like 90% of the episodes. Not only is that the pattern, but it’s often combined another one, which is that Larry interrupts some incredibly sacred institution with a ridiculously contrived mistake. Larry’s at a baby shower and says the doll that he gives to the wife and husband is “mulatto,” because he’s told its biracial. It’s not that that joke is offensive, it kind of is, but its also just not funny. I mean does Larry really not know that word is inappropriate?

Or, Larry goes to a baptism, but is late and so only gets a bad look at what’s happening. He doesn’t know how a baptism works and so thinks the priest is drowning the person getting baptized. So he interrupts and the ceremony is ruined. It’s not funny because you spend your time just absentmindedly agreeing with Cheryl, Larry David’s wife who spends most episodes just berating him for being so ridiculous. Boy, I would to after the dumb stuff he does.

There’s also a lot of “neurotic Jew” jokes, and I just don’t find them funny. Like Larry is always talking people to death, and its weird because it SHOULD  be funny, because its the type of jokes I like from Seinfeld. Someone gives a cut name to something, “o, she’s a blankety blank” “yea, a blankety blank” “can you believe it, blankety blanks” “yep, can’t help those blankety blanks.” Like when Elaine needs toilet paper and keeps yelling out in desperation, “you can’t spare a square.” Maybe it really does just come down to the acting. For some reason, when Larry does it, it’s just annoying, maybe because the setting is more realistic and maybe because none of the other characters get in on the act. It’s like Larry is stranded in sea of incredibly normal, boring, average people, and he’s the only one stupid enough to repeatedly say racist, blatantly sexual, or obviously offensive things all the time.

Or maybe it has something to do with the chemistry. Larry is the focus, everything is about him and so there’s no way to intertwine the destiny of the characters like in Seinfeld. For instance, when Kramer and Jerry run into each other by chance in a women’s dressing room after Kramer sells his suit to Banya (sp?).

All of this is in contrast to the office, which I’m liking more and more. I wish I knew what it was about these shows, but it’s something to do with the characters and how they are genuinely built up with a purpose in mind.

For example, Michael Scott is an egomaniac with a kind heart underneath. He really does work to undermine any attention that goes to other people. He runs the office not with an iron fist but with an inescapable ego-lust. Dwight nicely fits in this picture as the servile and mildly sycophantic acolyte. I think the large cast helps too because there’s always someone that can be the target of a joke or a subplot. The minorities are all covered, fat (kevin), gay (oscar), and stanley (black) and they are put to use in all sorts of ridiculous comments by Michael.

Also, I guess there’s the idea that the office is a documentary. The fact that the characters all smile, frown, snicker, and roll their eyes at the camera really adds a lot. They’re all very talented to put on the faces that they sometimes need to communicate what they’re thinking.




1 Response to “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

  1. July 26, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation however I to find this topic
    to be actually something which I think I would never understand.
    It kind of feels too complex and very huge for me. I’m taking a look forward to your subsequent post, I’ll try to get the
    grasp of it!

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