‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Burns the Purell

Accidentally making fun of the epidemic

Season 10 of Curb Your Enthusiasm ended last night, with the show’s 100th episode. The plot revolved around celebrities opening “spite stores” to ruin the lives of small-business-owners who’d done them dirt. Larry starts the the original “spite store,” “Latte Larry’s,” because a coffee shop called Mocha Joe’s serves him coffee that isn’t hot enough. Also, Mocha Joe’s scones are too soft, and his store has wobbly tables. These are typically Larry David complaints.

Curb Your Enthusiasm filmed months ago. Now, special guest stars like Jon Hamm and Jonah Hill are in voluntary quarantine. Jewelry-store owners haven’t boarded up because Mila Kunis is “spiting” them. They’ve closed because the city is in lockdown. The world of Larry David’s petty complaints seems far away indeed. We  all wish were arguing about wobbly tables at Mocha Joe’s.

And yet you can’t get too upset at Larry David, who practiced social distancing as best he could long before it was cool. This season ranks among the top third of Curb seasons, which is pretty incredible considering how long he’s been doing the show. Comedy cannot sustain itself. Even the best funny shows burn out. 30 Rock had long peaked by its seventh season, Arrested Development couldn’t sustain a fourth season, and even Seinfeld, David’s meal ticket, weakened by the end.

But Curb Your Enthusiasm marches on. This year’s Curb brought in fresh, hilarious talent, with great guest turns from younger comic actors like Kaitlin Olson, Abbi Jacobson, and Nick Kroll. But the old cast was all still there, looking longer in the tooth. Richard Lewis, in particular, has taken on a kind of Crypt Keeper vibe. But they’re all still pitch-perfect, and J.B. Smoove is funnier than ever. It’s the richest world in comedy.

A show revolving around a rich Jew, “the world’s biggest asshole,” may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s the best-constructed and most quotable episodic comedy show in TV history. Last night’s episode contained at least a half-dozen jewels, including the forever legendary “Big Johnson Club”.

And then came the denouement, the burning-down of Latte Larry’s. The fire happens for a number of reasons, but it gets worse because of Larry’s Purell obsession. As his vast stores of Purell bottles, which he provides at every table, ignites, the entire block turns into an inferno. And when that happens, he accidentally says “fuck you” to the world, pre- and post-coronavirus.

The fictional Curb Your Enthusiasm ended just as America descends into the extended mortality phase of its pandemic hell. I can’t be the only one who sat there wishing we could just go back to a world where people argued over handicapped parking spaces. We’ll probably get back there. Meanwhile, though, I hope that Larry David is staying safe and healthy. There are all kinds of crazy new norms and social codes in the Coronavirus world. It’s almost mandatory that David construct the next season around them. Who doesn’t want to see him and Leon trapped in the house together, social distancing as the world descends into chaos?  The world needs a virus manners czar. No one on earth is better qualified than Larry David.

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 12 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer for both film and television, Neal has written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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