Larry David's First Manager: Yes, He Was Always Miserable (Guest Column)

Courtesy of Everett Collection

Marilyn Black, who managed the 'Seinfeld' and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' creator — who made his Broadway debut March 5 with his play 'Fish in the Dark' — from 1983-86, describes representing a comic who would refuse money and walk offstage.

This story first appeared in the March 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Larry David made his Broadway debut March 5 in his play Fish in the Dark, which set a record for advance ticket sales with $14 million and received mostly positive reviews. But things weren't always so rosy for the 67-year-old Seinfeld co-creator and Curb Your Enthusiasm star. Marilyn Black, who was introduced to David by his friend Richard Lewis and managed David from 1983 to 1986, recounts his struggles during the '80s.

Larry had written a script called Prognosis Negative about a hypochondriac who goes to the hospital and overhears a doctor informing his ex-girlfriend that she only has a few months to live, so he decides it's safe to make a commitment. I pitched Larry as the next Woody Allen. The feedback was positive, but the "unlikable" leading man made it a hard sell.

When a production company optioned it, the deal stipulated that no one besides Larry could rewrite the script, which was unheard of for a novice. One day, the script was somehow sent back to Larry. He opened the envelope and read the title: SHORT TERM LOVER. To say Larry went ballistic is an understatement. We sped over to the producer's office, where an enraged Larry burst through the door threatening to sue him for ruining his career! Eventually, everyone calmed down. Larry was to do the rewrite, but he insisted he didn't want to get paid a lot of money because then they would expect a bigger rewrite. Only Larry.

After Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton and Bill Murray passed, it was decided that Larry should star in a lower-budget version of the film with John Daly of Hemdale Films producing. I set up an audition at Catch a Rising Star in New York. Larry assured me that he would not embarrass me or blow the deal. Five minutes into his act, a heckler yelled something and Larry was gone — he just walked off the stage.

Prognosis Negative then became the No. 1 script on the Black List of best unproduced screenplays.

A few years later, after Larry got hired as a writer at Saturday Night Live (he lasted a year), I took a job as director of talent for Dino De Laurentiis. I was casting a movie called Million Dollar Mystery. The director wanted Larry for a role, but Dino had final say. Larry was in L.A., and a meeting was set up in Dino's office during the World Cup.

ME: DINO, THIS IS LARRY DAVID, WHO IS UP FOR THE ROLE OF THE ACCOUNTANT.

DINO (DISTRACTED): YOU DO CABARET?

LARRY (CONFUSED): UH, CABARET?

ME: HE MEANS IMPROV.

LARRY: OH, YES! I DO IMPROV!

DINO: THAT'S GOOD. … WELL, GOODBYE, LARRY!

He didn't get the part.

Larry eventually came to L.A. for another reason. A comedian friend of his was pitching a pilot, and he wanted Larry to write it with him. Larry didn't think it was going to go anywhere. He figured he'd be back in New York in no time. The show was named after his friend. They were going to call it The Seinfeld Chronicles. …

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