James Delingpole James Delingpole

No pain, no gain | 28 September 2017

Larry David is both the tragic hero with whom you identify and the comical idiot whom you love to see humiliated – long may he go on suffering!

The best episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm are the ones that make you want to hide behind the sofa, cover your ears and drown out the horror by screaming: ‘No, Larry, no!’ I’m thinking, for example, of the one where our hero attends a victim support group for survivors of incest and, in order to fit in, decides to concoct a cock and bull story about how he was sexually abused by his uncle. This, of course, comes back horribly to haunt him when out one day with his blameless real uncle…

But no, I shan’t try to elaborate, for the plots in Curb Your Enthusiasm are as convoluted as any farce. And besides, you should see it for yourself. So long as you don’t mind writhing in embarrassment, and wishing the ground could swallow you up, there really are few things more excruciatingly funny than Curb.

Some people, I know, revere it because it is so groovily (and influentially) postmodern. It purports to show the further, true-life adventures of Jewish comic and writer Larry David — played and written by himself — following the massive success of his surprise hit ‘comedy about nothing’, Seinfeld. As a viewer, you feel as though you’re in on a sophisticated joke — something that the show’s distinctive and rather odd tone (part naturalistic, part archly knowing) encourages.

Underneath all that fancy, self-referential stuff, though, what you have is a very traditional comedy of character in extremis. Sure, Larry isn’t exactly Everyman, with his fame and his multimillion-dollar lifestyle and his complete lack of filter. Nonetheless, more often than not you find yourself thinking: ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’

Take the infamous scene where he bumps into some white American friends with their adopted oriental toddler in a pushchair.

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