4:54pm PT by Jackie Strause
Why 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Delivered That Big 'Seinfeld' Finale Sendup
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, "Never Wait for Seconds!"]
On the most recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, viewers were treated to a montage of Larry David's greatest hits. And, in keeping with the theme of the HBO comedy's long-awaited ninth season, the surprises were a well-kept secret until the seven fan-favorites from years past reappeared on Sunday.
A season-long arc of Curb has been the death sentence that has been following around the TV character Larry David. After insulting Iran's Ayatollah in the premiere, while promoting his planned Salman Rushdie-based Fatwa: The Musical! on live TV, Larry got his very own fatwa handed down by one offended Ayatollah. On Sunday, Larry managed to win over a mysterious Muslim gentlemen (played by Navid Negahban) who turned out to be stalking him to carry out the death order. First, Larry defended the man when he cut the brunch line when going for seconds. Next, his former friends and foes vouched for his character. Finally, Larry emerged from a panel of Islamic scholars as a free man.
The parade of fan-favorites included "Car Pool Lane's" Monina (Kym Whitley); Krazee-Eyez Killa (Chris Williams); "The Ski Lift's" Lisa (Mo Collins) and Rachel (Iris Bahr); Denise Handicapped (Anita Barone); "Kamikaze Bingo's" Yoshi (Greg Watanabe); and Michael J. Fox, from the memorable season eight finale.
But if the judgment tour felt familiar to the Seinfeld series finale, executive producer Jeff Schaffer says the intention was very different. That series-ender, which Schaffer worked on as an executive producer with creator David, also saw its starring foursome being judged based on all the guest characters they had wronged along the Seinfeld journey. But, they were doomed by the revisit.
"We figured people would make some sort of connection between the Seinfeld finale and this montage, but the reality is that they are very different," Schaffer tells The Hollywood Reporter. "This one was about proving that Larry had a point. Which, I think, is the heart of Curb." Below, Schaffer expands on that comparison, reveals how they corralled all the cameos for the episode and teases the final two shows of the season — which are set to deliver even more unexpected guest-stars.
How did you go about picking the list of fan-favorite characters that return in this episode?
There may be some correlation with my list of must-watch episodes. (Laughs.) We had nine seasons of donnybrooks to pull from for that montage, but some of them were obvious: We had to have Krazee-Eyez Killa, Monina, Michael J. Fox. There were a few others we tried that didn’t work because of scheduling. We actually shot a scene with Susie Greene (Susie Essman) and our mysterious Muslim gentleman, but in the end we couldn’t knock Navid Negahban — who was so good — off his line that Larry was a good man. Larry has done a lot of questionable, some might even say objectionable, things over the last nine seasons, but it was important here for Navid to always see Larry’s side of the fight. Larry is not just a psycho, he has a point. When he’s entering a confrontation, he’s doing it because he believes an injustice is being perpetrated. And, of course, he’s very happy with Larry that he didn’t follow the tenets of Jewish orthodoxy as well.
Did scheduling all of these guest-stars make filming this episode more of a challenge?
We had a list of potential actors and callback scenes and we would try and schedule them throughout the course of shooting, sprinkle them in here and there. Michael J. Fox was going to be in town, so we kept him in town a little bit longer, and his scene was actually shot in a separate corner of Larry’s house. We would sneak them in and get one or two a week, and Larry was there for all of the scenes. When Larry isn’t in the scene, which is very rare, he’s behind the camera with me. It’s fun for him to get to watch. He has a blast when he can just sit back and shout out lines.
How did Michael J. Fox react when you pitched him the cameo scene?
He was totally game to do it and was so funny. The whole idea of having another soda was his — that’s 100 percent Michael J. Fox. It really was the perfect way to end that montage, with Michael J. Fox admitting that it wasn’t just Parkinson’s in their season eight finale fight (watch below) — he was pretty pissed. We hit a lot of the fan-favorites, and they also worked well with proving that Larry may not be as horrible of a person that people think.
A walk down memory lane proves Larry was right all along.
Posted by Curb Your Enthusiasm on Friday, November 24, 2017
Was bringing back Chris Williams as Krazee-Eyez Killa a personal favorite for you?
I called Chris [Williams] and explained what we were doing and he was so excited. He had all these really funny ideas, including one where Krazee-Eyez has converted to Judaism because of Larry. He wanted to do a whole rap with a blinged-out yarmulke. I got to listen to him do it and it was hilarious. But if Krazee-Eyez were Jewish, our Iranian investigator wouldn’t have liked that very much, and knowing that we were going to have Iris Bahr [from "Ski Lift"], we had to scrap Krazee-Eyez’s conversion.
How did the Seinfeld finale influence this idea? That series ender saw a similar trip down memory lane, only in that instance, Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine were determined to be terrible people.
We weren’t thinking about the Seinfeld finale when we came up with this. We knew that we needed a way to turn Larry from having a death sentence to not having a death sentence and we thought that saving someone from a buffet line would work. It was very funny to turn Navid's character from potential hitman to advocate. We knew we had to do some digging and we thought it would be a great way to show some fan-favorite blasts from the pasts. There are a lot of times the audience is watching Larry and thinking, “You know what, maybe he’s right.” Comedy-wise, we always try to have situations that have two sides to it, because it’s both more complicated and funnier when two people both think their way is the right way. It’s brutal in politics, but it’s good for TV comedy. We never thought about how this was going to be like, or be different, from the Seinfeld finale, we just knew we needed it for this reason. Let people make whatever connections they want.
When you were plotting the season, at what point did you come up with this idea, and did you ever consider this as being the season finale?
This episode, and all the things that happen in this episode, was never going to be the finale of the season because we knew where we were headed. You don’t quite know where we are headed, but this was a necessary step to get there. We had to get Larry’s fatwa rescinded to get to where we need to go for shows nine and 10. When you see the last episode, you’ll know why this one wasn’t the finale.
So Larry is officially a free man?
Why did it feel right to have Larry’s feelings about second helpings and line-cutting end up saving him in the end?
Larry getting a death sentence was the biggest thing in his life, so we wanted to make sure that it got corrected by a tiny little Curb thing. Larry had his big Atticus Finch moment at the buffet, defending a stranger from a horde of angry brunchgoers. It’s really one of his noblest moments. Navid was probably going to finish his potatoes and kill Larry, and now he has real admiration for Larry instead. The funny thing is when we were writing and shooting this scene, I told Larry I didn’t agree with his point — I don’t think that you should be able to cut for seconds. Larry did not agree with me, but then, we were shooting a later episode and having lunch and I was sitting with Larry and he ate his lunch and he said, “That was so good, I’m going to go back and get seconds.” I asked if he was going to cut the line and he said he guessed he would. But when he came back, he didn’t have any food. He said, “I couldn’t cut the line. I couldn’t do it.” At that moment, TV Larry and Real Larry diverged. And by the way, this was with our crew. So everyone in the line has already shot the buffet scene, and he still couldn’t do it. It’s a complicated issue!
Bridget (Lauren Graham) also left Larry at brunch. Is their relationship over?
Larry and Bridget had a big fight — it was a go-home argument. But you’ll see in the next episode that they are still together. This is not the way they go down. And by the way, Elizabeth Perkins gets an unbelievable amount of respect for how many times she ate so much ketchup. It’s one thing to write and shoot all the ketchup jokes — it’s a completely different thing to be the person eating all of that ketchup take after take. I loved that Larry starts off that first brunch by apologizing for the other episode and saying, “That’s not a true representation of who I am.” When, we all know that’s exactly who he is. And then he’s trying his hardest to be good and when she starts pouring the ketchup, he just goes after it like a dog after a bone and can’t stop digging.
In the beginning of the season, people were rooting for Larry and Cheryl (Cheryl Hines), who is now dating Ted Danson (playing himself), to get back together. Do you think at this point people are liking Larry and Bridget together?
I think fans of the show, including Larry and myself, love the dynamic between Larry and Cheryl. And that’s not going away. There’s actually some very funny stuff between Larry and Cheryl next episode.
At this point, can you confirm Bridget’s son is just an asshole, as Larry says, and that he doesn't have Asperger's syndrome?
Larry has been harboring a lot of suspicions about Bridget’s son and when he comes right out and asks her, she’s pretty squirrely with the answers. Larry was already pretty sure — I think now he’s very sure. He just doesn’t quite know how to tell that to her: “I really like you, and I really think you’re lying about your kid.”
This episode closes the fatwa-threat door and brings everything back to the beginning of the season, with Larry working on the musical. Do these final two episodes tell one story, or is the finale the big hurrah?
The last episodes are going to tie together all of the threads that we set up from show one and on. All of the things we set up in the earlier episodes will come into play in the last two.
You said the finale is the most ambitious thing you’ve ever tried — and that it worked. In what ways did you take a risk?
It was the most ambitious from a production standpoint, and from a logistics and scheduling standpoint. There were a million ways that it could have never, ever happened. And very few ways that it actually could have happened. But it happened. We won’t be leaving Los Angeles for it and you will see some great and unexpected guest-stars in episodes nine and 10.
Larry did promise to deliver Lin Manuel-Miranda to the Islamic scholars in exchange for his fatwa being lifted. Will we be seeing the Hamilton star?
Everyone in the world loves Lin Manuel-Miranda. He’s even got fans in Tehran. They basically said the only way the musical Fatwa can go forward is if Larry can get Lin Manuel-Miranda — which seems like a reason to tune in next week, doesn’t it?
What is a behind-the-scenes secret about this episode that you can share?
The Mufti scene was the first Curb scene that was totally scripted. We wanted the scholars to argue about the social contract, Curb-style, and it’s a tough ask to have actors be well-versed in the complete Curb story bible as well as Sharia law. We knew exactly what we wanted, so we wrote it. And Usman Ally’s appearance at the end, I love how in the last frame you see Larry’s teeth, like the flash of a snarl. It’s so animalistic and violent the way they are fighting over that tip. The tip fight, when we were writing it, was actually way earlier in the show. When Larry went to Pemberton Academy, he had gotten a flat tire and a maintenance guy offered to fix it and they got into a fight as the admissions people watched through the window. But we didn’t need another reason for Larry to fail that meeting, considering he already failed in all the ways a man can fail in an interview. Then we realized that, of course, that tip fight should be at the very end. Also, the way this show started with Larry telling two lovebirds, “You’re allowed to be happy, just not in front of me,” is Larry distilled down to his purest essence. That might very well be on his tombstone.
What did you think of the episode? Tell THR in the comments below and keep up with Live Feed for weekly chats with Schaffer as Curb airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.