A lot of people can relate to characters in movies and TV shows, but as I grow older and more disillusioned with everything and everyone around me, one character is starting to become startlingly reflective of myself. Years ago I watched Curb Your Enthusiasm a few times and, while I found it kind of amusing, it wasn’t something I could particularly relate to. Fast forward over a decade and I decided to give it another go and I was hooked, not just because I now considered it one of the funniest things I had ever seen, but because it is scary how much I am like the the show’s creator and main character, Larry David. No, I’m not going bald or converting to Judaism, but if you’ve watched it before, you might be able to see where I’m coming from. For those who haven’t here’s the basic premise:
Curb Your Enthusiasm often involves the minutiae of daily life, and plots often revolve around Larry David’s many faux pas and his problems with certain social conventions and expectations, as well as his annoyance with other people’s behavior. The character has a hard time letting such annoyances go unexpressed, which often leads him into awkward situations.
Sure, that could apply to most people rapidly hurtling toward forty and beyond and I guess that is the main appeal of the show, but I definitely fit the key demographic. If you know me and you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm with me in mind, you’ll notice some similarities between Larry David and myself, such as:
- We both work as writers.
- We’re both married to women far out of our league.
- Neither of us have, want, or really even like children.
- We’re both generally grumpy.
- We’re both cynical and pessimistic.
- We’re both quite daggy, avoid trends, and are relatively stuck in our ways.
- We both get extremely annoyed at the smallest, most insignificant things, particularly the actions of others.
- Neither of us particularly enjoy being in the company of other people.
- We both constantly end up in bizarre, but avoidable, situations.
- We both have a propensity to make fools of ourselves in public and prone to frequent social faux pas.
- We both like brown corduroy.
- We both hate the L.A. Lakers.
- We both hate Christmas.
Now, I know a lot of people who could tick most of those boxes, but it seems like in almost every episode there will be at least one moment where Anna will look over at me and give this cheeky smirk that says, “That is so like you” or even worse, “I remember when you did that!”
I thought I would go to both IMDB and Wikipedia to have a look at some episode synopsises and point out some situations that are similar, sometimes just vaguely, to ones that I have encountered, adding a link to a post about my experience where possible. Realistically, I could probably find something in every single episode that I can relate to, but I’ll just do the glaringly obvious ones. I’ll even add the season and episode numbers, as well as the episode title, for my own reference, too.
Season 1, Episode 1, ‘The Pants Tent’: Larry is accused of having an adultery-implying erection because of his extremely baggy trousers that bunch up when he sits down.
Mine wasn’t so much due to the type of pants I was wearing, but more the fact that I had a gigantic hernia that left quite the bulge in the groin and it became a problem while I was teaching at one stage. Since I had surgery to repair the hernia, there hasn’t been any sideways glances at my once-enormous nuts.
Season 1, Episode 3, ‘Porno Gil’: A bizarre chain of events finds Larry having dinner with a porno star. The party turns out to be one disaster after another when Larry breaks a lamp, is forced to take off his shoes, loses his watch, gets lost along the way, and has to do the dreaded “double goodbye”.
Okay, I haven’t had dinner with a porn star before, but on more than one occasion I have knocked over and smashed objects while at dinners and parties hosted by complete strangers. Also, when I lived in Melbourne my house was a shithole, so we all just wore our shoes inside. That’s something you definitely can’t do when you start dating a Chinese woman, but I could never understand why she made such a big deal out of it. And who hasn’t said goodbye to everyone when leaving a party early, only to realise that you have forgotten something, had to return to pick it up and then do the goodbyes all over again? And don’t get me started on Google Maps! Urgh!
Season 1, Episode 6, ‘The Wire’: Cheryl gives Larry an ultimatum – bury the wire in the backyard – or else! But the permit the city gives Larry requires six signatures from his neighbors, and that means having to be nice to them at all costs – or else.
I’m simply not a people-person, once someone annoys me (which is extremely easy), that’s it, they’re a thorn in my side for life and it’s hard to win me over again. Almost every time we go to a work function, which is usually more than a weekly basis, it is always prefixed by Anna saying, “Oh, just so you know, [insert random douche here] is going to be there.” Part of me will die a little inside and I’ll just spend the entire time smiling and nodding in that person’s presence while we’re there, trying my best to bite my tongue in order to keep the peace. It’s amazing how often I have to pretend to like people. As for neighbours though, I haven’t actually known any of mine since I left home 20 years ago. I’m just not that type of neighbour.
Season 1, Episode 9, ‘Affirmative Action’: Larry makes an inappropriate humorous remark to an African American doctor.
We don’t really need to get into this one, but I will anyway. I have an almost terminal case of foot-in-mouth disease, in fact there is absolutely no filter between my brain and my mouth, and I constantly say things that seem amusing when they spring to mind, but in actual fact turn out to be just plain wrong, followed by an awkward silence. Probably the worst case of this was a “humorous” comment directed at a homosexual friend of mine that left me apologising profusely for weeks afterward, despite him messaging me the following day to tell me he thought it was hilarious and that the offence was all in my mind.
Sometimes it’s just not thinking before I ask people questions, as well. Examples of this would be when I drunkenly asked my friend, Alby, if he had a cleft palate — It turns out he doesn’t, it’s just the way his facial hair grows. Another friend of mine, Ben (who was present during the comment to my gay friend), has a portrait tattoo on each arm that I thought were of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, also known as the Moors Murderers. I asked Ben if he was interested in serial killers, he replied that they are somewhat intriguing, so my follow-up question was why he had the Moors Murderers tattooed on him. It turns out they are portraits of his grandparents. You’d think I would have learnt my lesson by now.
Season 2, Episode 1, ‘The Car Salesman’: Larry buys a house and so everything seems to be going fine. Only that the house makes a weird sound at night.
Okay, this one only rang true when we stayed in Myanmar, because our hotel room kept making these bizarre, inconsistent clicking sounds. These ‘house sounds’ had no rhythm so it was impossible to tune them out, making any attempt at sleeping seem futile. But that was the least of our problems on that trip. Also, this episode begins with Cheryl arriving home and getting pissed off at Larry because he said he would be ready when she got home, only he isn’t because he’s too wrapped up in an episode of Maury. This was the story of my life when we lived in New York because Maury is one of my favourite TV shows, it can get pretty engaging, and it was the first chance I had to watch it in years, I just forgot how much I loved it. Anna eventually got us tickets to sit in the audience for a couple of episodes and she even got a closeup on TV!
Season 2, Episode 3, ‘Trick or Treat’: Larry refuses to give candy to un-costumed teenagers on Halloween, so they toilet-paper his house and spray-paint “Bald Asshole” across his front door.
I can’t stand Halloween or Christmas, but at least I can fake an interest in Christmas (mainly because I have to). However, Halloween is just a scam. Why would people, especially children, ever knock on the doors of random strangers’ houses and blackmail them into giving them free shit? That’s a perfect technique for getting raped and/or murdered! Any time trick-or-treaters come to our place, I just slam the door in their face, the ones here in Singapore are too gutless to do anything, anyway. Maybe next year I’ll hand out chocolate-coated baby onions instead. The trick’s on you, bitch!
Season 2, Episode 7, ‘The Doll’: As part of a deal with ABC, Larry agrees to attend a screening of a new mini series. While at the after-party, Larry finds that the bathroom doors have no locks, so he goes to use the upstairs bathroom, and the network exec’s daughter asks him to cut the hair off her doll’s head.
Countless times I’ve mention in this blog about how I can’t bring myself to shit in public toilets and there are several episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry has the same problem. There is no logical explanation for my phobia and I just don’t know what it is for me. I have never had a particularly unpleasant experience in a public toilet, just some weird conversations, like when a man in Bonn, Germany asked me while I was urinating if I had eaten asparagus, however I was just taking a leak on that occasion. Then there was the time I had to take a dump while drinking in a bar in Orchard Hotel, Singapore about a week before Christmas one year. A really drunk, but excited guy entered the cubicle next to me and we had the following exchange:
Drunk Guy: “Hey, how’s it going?”
Me: “Umm, not to bad…”
Drunk Guy: “Oh yeah, what are you doing?”
Me: “Ahh… just having some drinks with some friends.”
Drunk Guy: “Yeah? Where at?”
Me: “At the pub around the corner.”
Drunk Guy: “Yeah, mate, I’m going to have to call you back, the guy in the next stall keeps answering.”
I can’t think of a time I’ve ever been that embarrassed before, but who makes a phone call while crapping? As for toilets without locks, they are everywhere in South-East Asia, but the toilets on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil don’t have locks either, and they charge you US$2.00 to enter! I hope that’s what they’re saving that up for.
Season 3, Episode 3, ‘Club Soda and Salt’: Larry learns a few things – Cheryl has a new, male, tennis playing friend, people won’t take a wedding gift after a year, and that club soda and salt will get stains out of anything.
When we were in Valencia, Spain last month, we were eating in the favourite tapas bars of one of Anna’s Spanish colleagues from when we were in New York, Rosa Dolz-Marco. I was trying to cut through something with the side of my fork, but my hands were all oily from the previous thing I had eaten and the fork slammed in to the olive oil on the plate, splattering it all over Rosa’s brand new pants. Fortunately, the bar had a can of special spray for removing the resultant grease from material as the frequent outcome of such accidents. It wasn’t club soda and salt, but whatever it was was supposed to work. In the interim, however, it left some less than flattering marks on Rosa’s pants (above, left).
Season 4, Episode 1, ‘Mel’s Offer‘: Mel Brooks sees Larry performing some karaoke at a bar one night and is quickly impressed with his singing abilities. He then invites Larry to audition to star in a Broadway production of “The Producers”. But the deal quickly goes south once Mel hits Larry in the head and Larry’s doctor drools on him.
I live by the mantra of “Just because I can’t sing, it doesn’t mean I won’t,” but I don’t think I’ve ever really impressed anyone while doing karaoke before. I’ve given myself carpet-burn on my knees from sliding across the floor in shorts while serenading Anna with Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and I also used to take over the band at the Oz Bar in Tanglin Shopping Centre here in Singapore while reasonably plastered. It wasn’t so much that they were impressed, it just used to give their regular singer, Nora, a bit of a break.
Similar to what I wrote about for S01E09, I always have a knack for putting my foot in it, even at karaoke. Anna and myself joined some of my old GEOS colleagues for a Karaoke night when we returned from New York, only for me to insult a teacher who had since died tragically due to a secret double-life. I followed that up by making a “funny” comment I’d rather not go into aimed at a former colleague that I regarded as one of my closest friends in Singapore and the person who convinced me to start this blog, but it turned out he had had some personal problems since I had last seen him that I didn’t know about, but had referenced in my remark. He hasn’t spoken to me since.
Season 4, Episode 3, ‘The Blind Date‘: Jeff admits to Larry that he fantasized about Cheryl.
Okay, this one isn’t someone particularly close to me, but an acquaintance tried to get out of the accusation that he tried hitting on the girlfriend of one of my friends by saying that he was actually into Asian women and that Anna was more his type. “Look at her cheekbones!” was his defence.
Season 5, Episode 2, ‘The Bowtie‘: Wanda Sykes thinks Larry purposefully adopted a dog she deems “racist.”
This one is more about Kermit than myself. Our dog is racist, pure and simple — she only barks at Indians. Again, I have absolutely no idea why, but that’s just the way it is.
Season 6, Episode 6, ‘The Rat Dog‘: Larry repeatedly offends a hearing impaired girl about the small dog she keeps with her.
Several more occasions where I should’ve thought before I spoke. I once went into a fast food place with Anna, I’m not sure where, and got increasingly irritated by the girl serving me who just stood there, staring at me blankly. “Are you deaf?” I asked her after my annoyance reached its peak. Anna then noticed that there was a sticker on the menu stating that the person was hearing impaired and to point to the menu.
I also was unaware on one occasion that the person standing in front of me at 7-11 had down syndrome and he wouldn’t move forward in the queue. From my vantage point, all I can generally see in Singapore in a crowd is a sea of black hair so I had no way of knowing and I was in no mood for waiting for someone who was just standing there, but that doesn’t justify or excuse the question I asked him. When he turned around, I saw that he indeed was what I asked him so I promptly paid for his smokes and took him to the pub next door for a beer. We’ve been mates ever since.
Season 8, Episode 5, ‘Vow of Silence‘: Larry confronts poor parking and a buffet-line “chat-and-cut”
Oh, the ‘chat-and-cut,’ one of my most hated bitch-moves and it happens constantly here in Singapore. Saying that people here are a tad impatient doesn’t come close to describing them and there are multiple tactics for cutting queues, the chat-and-cut being numero uno. The obvious one is just to walk straight to the front and, if called out by someone waiting, say something to the extent of “oh, sorry, I didn’t realise you were waiting.” As part of another technique to avoid lining up at the supermarket, someone will walk past the line and take a random item straight to the register to ask for a price check. When told the price, they’ll then unload their basket and try to pay for everything. Others will just tell you that they are only getting a couple of things so it’s fine if they go first. This type of self-centredness and tireless need to win really gets on my tits, but I haven’t encountered it lately. The last time was at an enormous wedding a couple of months ago with hundreds of guests and a massive buffet. A woman walked straight to the front, said that her husband had already got his food but just wanted a bowl of rice, then went on to fill up several plates of food and smirked on her way back to her table. I turned around and “accidentally” gave her a bit of a bump, knocking the contents of one of her plates all over her dress. She wanted to get mad, but she also knew I was onto her.
As I said at the beginning, there were other episodes that I could’ve included in this list, but some were quite petty and most people could probably relate to them so I didn’t bother. Also, these similarities came just from reading the episode synopsises, but if I rewatched them all again, I could probably find many more parallels still. Anyway, the ninth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm has just began so that, coupled with my painful affinity with Larry David, could result in a sequel to this post.