Curbing his enthusiasm: Larry David discusses inspiration with students

by Erica Mixon / Beacon Correspondent • November 14, 2013

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Larry David does a comedic impresion directed toward Michael Kay during their chat on Wednesday night.
Larry David does a comedic impresion directed toward Michael Kay during their chat on Wednesday night.

Even though Larry David is the creator of one of the most highly acclaimed television series of all time, he still shows up for most important events with dirty sneakers, tube socks, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.

David visited Emerson on Wednesday, Nov. 13, to discuss his career as co-creator and head writer of the television series Seinfeld and creator of the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. His daughter, Cazzie David, is a sophomore at Emerson.

“I’m very surprised in the success of [Seinfeld], especially because I participated in it,” David said on Wednesday night in Tufte’s Semel Theater, sitting across from award-winning New York Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay.

David said he pulled many of his own life experiences as inspirations for Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld. The Soup Nazi is a real person. The character of Cosmo Kramer was based on David’s neighbor, Kenny Kramer. Incarnations of David himself appear in both series: One is the character he plays himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm, while the other is Seinfeld’s George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander. Each character mirrors different aspects of David’s personality.   

“I love Larry David from Curb... because he says everything that I’m thinking and gets away with it, and is a bit of a sociopath,” David said of his role. “If I had one wish in life, I want to be that Larry David.”

George Costanza, on the other hand, is how David said he thinks he comes across in real life. Constanza and David are both New Yorkers with a pessimistic worldview.

“I think the Brooklyn experience was very beneficial for me comedically,” David said, pointing out that many great comedians hail from Brooklyn, including Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, and Mel Brooks. “I think it’s because everyone’s living on top of each other, there’s no privacy, there’s screaming in the halls ... It’s a funny environment and people talk funny.”

It wasn’t until later on, however, when David would take advantage of New York’s stand-up comedy industry. David graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in history, and said that whenever people would ask him about his future, he would say, “something will turn up.”

Something did, in fact, turn up, in the form of fellow comedian, New Yorker, and friend Jerry Seinfeld. David said he met Seinfeld at Catch a Rising Star comedy club, and the two immediately connected. They were browsing in a grocery store together, engaging each other in their usual tangential conversations when David realized that was what he wanted to create a show about.

“We had a particular way of talking that other people didn’t, and I had never heard of anyone use on television,” David said.

His realistic and improvisational sense of humor was well-received by viewers and comics alike. In 2002, TV Guide named Seinfeld the greatest television program of all time. David is known for being a comic’s comic.

“Comedians enjoyed watching me, but in a sadistic kind of way,” David joked. “A lot of times I would bomb. It was not pleasant.”

For an audience filled with many students hoping to make their way into the entertainment industry, though, David’s rise to fame was inspirational.

“Coming from a comedy background, it’s really nice to hear some refreshing things about how he discovered his sense of comedy,” said Marcus Gonzalez, a journalism major who attended the event.

Ricky Downes, a visual and media arts major in the midst of making his own comedy show based on real life events called Conservative Arts, said that David provided him with a lot of relief.

“I’m kind of in the same position that Larry was in, in my web series. It was really great to hear what I do with my series that he does with his own.”

David owes a lot of his success to his passion, which is why he continues to make comedy even though he doesn’t necessarily need to anymore.

“[Working] makes me feel good about myself,” David said. “Deep down, we know that we’re all idiots in a particular way… So it gives me a little self esteem to accomplish something.”