Top Episodes is a feature in which we handpick the definitive best episodes of a groundbreaking, beloved, or otherwise awesome television series. This article originally ran in 2017 and has been updated.
In December 1997, I threw up on Jason Alexander.
Well, maybe it was at his feet — the jury’s still out.
Alexander, then about to enter his final season portraying the neurotic and quick-tempered George Costanza, was enjoying a pleasant breakfast buffet in Maui. Almost seven years old and raised in a household where Seinfeld was routinely on TV, I had seen him around the resort for a few days, always too nervous to say anything. On my last morning before flying back home, my parents pushed me to approach his table; who could say no to an (allegedly) cute first grader?
But something happened on the short walk across the restaurant — my stomach started to churn, later giving way to the flu. When I opened my mouth to speak, only vomit came out.
“It was horrifying,” my dad says. “We didn’t know what to do!”
Since the last season of Seinfeld had likely been written at this point, I’ve long been curious why this incident never made it into Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David’s LA-based comedic tour de force, assuming Alexander told his producer and co-stars about the episode. But on second thought, it makes sense my story was never a random side plot — it wasn’t petty enough.
David, the real life version of George Costanza, complains and argues his way through dinner parties, frozen yogurt lines, celebrity birthday parties, memorial services, and virtually everywhere in Los Angeles, Manhattan, and at one point, a Parisian parking lot. Over the course of eight seasons, David and his friends with extremely high tolerances for bullshit float in and out of some of the most awkward and cringeworthy situations ever put on the small screen.
Of course David couldn’t have included a story about a kid puking up breakfast at his feet, because he first had to fight back against stop and chatters, teach a girl scout how to use a tampon, fire a chef for wearing a toupee, and argue with David Schwimmer’s father about the ratio of cashews to raisins in a trail mix package.
As our favorite bald respecter of wood returns this week, we decided to revisit our favorite Curb episodes, chock full of hair-raising awkwardness and some of the funniest one-liners in TV history.
And almost 20 years later, if by any chance you’re reading this Jason, I’m sorry.
— Steven Edelstone
20. “Shaq” from Season 2, Episode 8
Premiere Date: November 11, 2001
Are You Crazy? (Larry’s Big Issue) “Breaking news: death’s less important when the Lakers lose,” Earl Sweatshirt raps on Doris single “Hive,” a play on how important the Lakers are to the city of Los Angeles (at least when they’re good). Larry and Richard Lewis get Jeff’s courtside seats for the opening game of the season, right next to the Lakers bench. When Shaq runs to the scorers table to get subbed back in, Larry stretches out his legs, tripping the Lakers’ star player, knocking him out of the game. Everyone in Los Angeles hates Larry, even yelling at him on the street, but unexpectedly, everything starts going his way.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” (Susie Quote) One of the few episodes where Susie doesn’t appear, the best insult comes from Jeff, obviously furious after he loses his hard-won Lakers season tickets. “What the fuck, what the fuck?” he screams at Larry as he runs into him across the street. “What can I do? Can I do anything?” a defeated Larry asks. “Buy the team!” Jeff responds.
Vanilla Bullshit Things (The Best LD Observation): “Can someone tell me what they did to the bottom of the broccoli?” Larry complains to deaf ears at dinner in the episode’s opening scene. “Is there one person at this table that can eat cauliflower?” he continues, though the other five people at dinner, Cheryl included, completely ignore his whining.
He’s Not My Best Friend! (Hilarious Moment Involving Someone in Larry’s Circle) Surprisingly, most of Larry’s inner circle is absent for this episode, with Jeff only appearing in a couple scenes and Cheryl and Richard taking a sort of backseat to the general plot. The best moment involving any of the major characters comes in the form of Cheryl’s disapproving looks when Larry decides to buy the entire coffee shop whatever they wanted. “This new Larry is too enthusiastic. I miss the old Larry!” she complains.
Stop and Chat (This Episode’s Guest Star): By 2001, Shaquille O’Neal was coming off of a championship season and was the biggest star in his sport, so this was a huge get for the show. But as we all know now, Shaq is a hilarious personality, which showed throughout this episode. “The whole world knows that peanut butter is a dairy product,” he proclaims while playing Scattergories with perfect deadpan. Though he’s only on screen for maybe 25% of the episode, Shaq steals the show, as he nearly always does.
Socially Assassinated (Who Gets Fucked Over): The Lakers team doctor, Craig Wiggins (Joel McKinnon Miller), at Shaq’s hospital bedside following the injury, cheated at Scattergories, adding a couple extra words to his list after the timer ran out. Larry caught the doctor fudging the score and when Wiggins went to the bathroom, he told the star player about it, resulting in Shaq firing his doctor.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass (Best Advice Given): “Aren’t you going to say goodbye?” is the episode’s mantra, repeated multiple times as Larry fails to say goodbye or good night when he leaves social situations. It’s not the best or most pointed advice out of the show’s history, but it hilariously gets recalled towards the end when Cheryl’s parents decide to fly home early so they could “leave you with your chaos.”
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good (Analysis): “I get so much satisfaction out of seeing 19,000 people disappointed when they lose,” Larry says at the beginning of the episode (though he may not enjoy it when his team wins either). But his pleasure at seeing disappointment works out much better than he could have imagined — he gets out of having to write a letter of recommendation for an acquaintance and doesn’t have to make a page in a birthday book. For once, his being hated by everyone actually benefits him, flipping the script of how Larry’s usual interactions generally go.
— Steven Edelstone
19. “The Ski Lift” from Season 5, Episode 8
Premiere Date: November 20, 2005
Are You Crazy? While the preceding episodes don’t conceal it, “The Ski Lift” confirms one thing: there are no depths that Larry won’t sink to in order to avoid taking the kidney test to see if he’s a match for his bedridden friend, Richard Lewis. When he and Jeff are exposed for hoping Lewis’ comatose cousin Louis Lewis quietly passes on — thereby possibly giving Richard one of his kidneys — plan B is characteristically ambitious.
After discovering the head of the kidney consortium, Ben Heineman, is prone to helping out “friends,” Larry invites him and his daughter on a ski trip in the hopes of bumping Lewis up. How Larry gets to that point (and the way he conspires to convince the Orthodox Heineman father and daughter that he also practices) makes for a brilliantly mortifying 30 minutes.
“Get The Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” Consigned to the floor of the ski lodge during their stay, Larry tries to quietly climb in beside his fake Orthodox wife Susie in the middle of the night. With Jeff quietly accepting his lot on the floor in the next room, Larry screws up and Susie’s reaction is perfectly heartless. “You think I care about your back? Do you know how much I’ve done for you already this weekend? Get the fuck out of the bed!” Whimpering and shivering, Larry tries to explain that he’s cold. “GET THE FUCK OUT OF BED!” Susie makes her point loud and clear.
Vanilla Bullshit Things: Nearing the end of his tether, Lewis straight up tells Larry that he’s counting on him “stepping up” and taking the kidney test at the start of “The Ski Lift.” Before plucking up the courage for that, however, he absently whines to his old friend that his baseball hero Mickey Mantle, whose 500th home-run ball he owns, once got bumped up the list. Without missing a beat, Larry says, “Yeah, well, maybe if you were a bigger celebrity you’d be on the top of the list!” Sometimes the truth hurts but, seeing as Larry and Lewis’ friendship is largely based on being frank with each other, Larry’s scathing observation manages to transcend offense.
He’s Not My Best Friend! Larry rarely holds back when it comes to giving his small yet close circle of friends a piece of his mind. Every time he hangs Jeff out to dry with a cutting putdown or caustic observation? Chances are he’s coming from a good place. When he refuses to change how he acts around Lewis when he’s knocking on death’s door? That’s true friendship. Early on in “The “Ski Lift,” Larry refuses to budge on taking the kidney test for his old friend. After serving him with a putdown of his own, Lewis turns to Larry and says Larry’s sweater is appropriate for an Andy Williams Summer Show. Subtle enough, but also quite scathing.
Stop and Chat: From Hugh Hefner and Gary Player in “The Smoking Jacket” to Rosie O’Donnell in “The Bowtie,” Season Five of Curb You Enthusiasm has its fair share of guest stars cropping up here and there. Though it’s short-lived, comedian George Lopez advises Larry to befriend Ben Heineman, making him quite instrumental in how “The Ski Lift” plays out. “Buddy up to him, kiss his ass. Who knows? He’ll probably bump Richard up the list.” Were it not for, you know, Larry being Larry, he might well have.
Socially Assassinated: When Larry removes his glasses and tells Lewis’ nurse Lisa Thompson, “I think you took the ball, stashed it in your unusually large vagina, and marched right out of here,” the expression on Lewis’ face is an absolute joy to behold. Yes, Larry goes there. In another instance, his accusation would be pretty indefensible. But, seeing how Lisa a.) needlessly tries to convince Larry that her old flame, Jeff “These Big Vagina Ladies Are Getting Away with Murder” Greene is severely under-endowed and b.) did, in fact, steal Lewis’s baseball, Larry’s cell phone and god knows what else, Larry’s audacious claim actually winds up proving to be riotous. Still, if you can manage to watch this scene without your jaw hitting the floor, you’re probably not doing it right.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: You know you’re really breaking down the walls of social taboo when Larry David — LARRY DAVID — turns to you, with an expression of mild disgust, and utters the words, “Way too much information, ok?” Although he isn’t wrong, when he offers up this counsel to Lisa early on in “The Ski Lift,” one can’t help but think he should consider heeding his own advice now and again.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: Although Season Five is arguably the weakest of the show’s eight seasons to date, “The Ski Lift” is a masterclass of highlights. Speckled with some exceptional one-liners from Larry, Lewis, Jeff, and others, it’s a by-the-book blueprint of how keeping it fairly streamlined and focusing on two or three narrative arcs is often key to making the finesse of Larry’s writing shine through. Finding LD to be someone who is prepared to adapt a totally new persona in order to shirk responsibility — as a man who offers a starving Orthodox woman edible panties as a snack — this is the definition of a watching-through-one’s-fingers episode.
— Brian Coney
18. “Chet’s Shirt” from Season 3, Episode 1
Premiere Date: September 15, 2002
Are You Crazy? Everything revolves around the episode’s namesake, which Larry first sees in a photo of Cheryl’s friend Barbara’s dead husband (that photo, by the way, is so hilariously humdrum). So taken by this two-toned black and white shirt, Larry ignores Barbara’s tears — hey, it’s been four months — and needles her about where her dead spouse got it. Eventually, he finds himself in ownership of three of them, one of which he gives to Ted Danson, who is irked when he realizes it has a tear in it — “You didn’t get me a gift,” he tells Larry, “you got me a defective shirt.” Things pretty much go downhill from there, despite Larry’s excitement about investing in a new high-end restaurant.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” No Susie this episode, but Larry is hilariously dressed down by a dude who’s apoplectic after seeing Larry throw an apple in his curbside trash can. “Next guy I see throwing garbage in there, I’m gonna kick his ass,” he warns. “I’ll give that message to the next guy,” Larry dryly responds.
Vanilla Bullshit Things: Larry’s potential investment in Bobo’s prompts plenty of restaurant industry observations. What’s with the lack of sweet potatoes in California dining, Larry asks, and why is it so hard to get a waiter’s attention. His solution to that latter issue? Bells at every table, each at a different tone so the waiters don’t get confused. “I’m so appalled by the idea that I’m struck dumb,” says fellow investor Michael York. Larry’s also very anti-kabob (a “kabobaphobe,” York quips): “I’m a little afraid of the stick, frankly.”
He’s Not My Best Friend! Ted wants Larry and Jeff to play Wizard of Oz characters at his daughter’s birthday party, and Jeff’s robust frame makes him a shoe-in for the Cowardly Lion. Unfortunately, Larry refuses to play the Tin Man — “I have no connection to the Tin Man” — and demands to play the Lion, resulting in Jeff relenting. “You do the lion,” he says. “I’ll be the fat Tin Man that’ll disappoint children.”
Stop and Chat: Ted’s a welcome presence any time he pops up, and “Chet’s Shirt” offers him an opportunity to show how he can be just as petty and obnoxious as Larry when it comes to the dumbest bullshit. Just look at them tugging the thing in the final moments — these are two children.
Socially Assassinated: Despite his good intentions, Ted ends up without a shirt and on the verge of an ass-kicking in the episode’s final moments. What he doesn’t realize is the dude who’s mad about Ted using his garbage can wouldn’t be nearly as pissed if it weren’t for his previous encounter with Larry. If Curb has one undeniable truth, it’s that Larry’s bad influence is ever rippling outward, ruining everyone who enters its orbit.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: “If you give somebody a gift it’s supposed to be a gift, not a problem,” Ted says after Larry gives him a shirt with a hole in it and expects Ted to go get it fixed. Ted’s being kind of an asshole, but he’s not wrong.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: ”Chet’s Shirt” was the third season’s first episode, and here we see the show actively working to broaden its world. If the first two seasons felt relatively contained to Larry’s entertainment circles and comedy pursuits, the third season adds an extra layer with the restaurant storyline, which allows us to see our hero flailing around and annoying people in a world he doesn’t understand.
This episode also gives us one of Ted’s best performances, where he struggles not just with Larry’s behavior but with the general sense that their friendship is doomed. “Why are you doing this?!” Ted cries at one point. “Every time we get together we push and pull like this!” It’s such a genuine expression of frustration in a show that’s built on so many exaggerated behaviors, which of course only makes it funnier. On Curb, the realer the anger, the more hilarious it is.
— Randall Colburn
17. “The Seder” from Season 5, Episode 7
Premiere Date: November 13, 2005
Are You Crazy? Someone’s been taking Larry’s newspapers, and LD wants to get right down to the bottom of it. The good news is that he has two possible witnesses in “cranky neighbors” Mac and Ethyl, who claim they’ve seen a man in a suit roaming around his property. That juicy bit of information is enough for Larry to whittle down the suspect list to his other neighbor Dr. Mark (Rob Huebel), who has recently reunited with his estranged wife.
His return is one big exclamation mark for Larry, who theorizes that Mark may be snagging the papers out of spite, seeing how LD forgot to get him and his wife a Christmas gift earlier. Naturally, he uses his Seder dinner as a way to bring them all together… like a scheming count.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” Nobody’s psyched that Larry invited (friendly) sex offender Rick (Rob Corddry) to Seder, especially Cheryl who nearly has a panic attack on their stairwell earlier in the episode, but leave it to Susie to keep things real. “What the hell are you trying to pull, Larry?” she lights up with that Susie rage. “He should not be in our presence on a holy day. Any day. What the hell are you doing?”
Vanilla Bullshit Things: When Larry helps Mac and Ethyl with their groceries, he sees they bought some grape juice and beams with joy. “What is this? Grape juice? You guys drink grape juice? You never see people drinking grape juice. I think it’s a very underrated juice.” Of course, that camaraderie doesn’t extend to Mac’s own observation that everyone’s parked in front of his house for the Seder, to which Larry humorously protests: “Are you going out tonight? I think you’re here, aren’t you? So what’s the problem?”
When Mac continues to complain, stressing how this happens “every time [Larry] has a party,” Larry offers a BS apology and adds: “I’ll inform them next time.” Classic LD shrug-off.
He’s Not My Best Friend! Save for Jeff, who attends the Seder with Susie and Sammi, Larry’s Jewish rat pack sits this one out, leaving him all the time in the world to work on his golf swing and pal about with Rick the Sex Offender. Still, Jeff brings plenty to the table in this episode, pun intended, namely his conservative brother-in-law, Len Dunkel (Stephen Tobolowsky), who believes in all sorts of a wackadoo bullshit. “Have you heard of the theory, the 77?” he asks a befuddled Larry. “Okay, every 77 years there’s a great president. Washington, Lincoln, F.D.R., and… George W. Bush. We’re turning the whole damn world around.” Larry’s little grin says it all: You’re a fucking idiot.
Stop and Chat: Who would have thought that the one stop-and-chat to truly win over Larry would be from a sex offender? That’s kind of the joke, because really, out of all the run-ins from Curb history, few have warranted an unlikely friendship like that of Larry and Rick’s. On the surface, the guy’s a total ace in the hole: he’s got “the touch” for rickety newspaper boxes, he plays golf (and eats and breathes, in that order), he knows how to help others with their golf swing, he can make a whole batch of latkes, and he’s incredibly honest. But, he’s also a sex offender, and that’s just not good for anyone. Kudos to Corddry, though, for bringing charm to the character, and making us kind of see why LD would invite him over for dinner.
Socially Assassinated: Although he acts like Don Corleone all throughout the Seder — shaking down Dr. Mark the second he arrives with threats both passive (“Something wrong, doctor?”) and aggressive (“You took that paper. I know you did.”) — Larry’s hit list really only comes down to Len, who’s later outed by Larry for pointing his son toward the hidden matzoh/afikoman. But even that’s debatable given that the source of Larry’s information comes from Rick, who, in the “throes of a moral quandary,” confesses that he saw Len whisper the location to his son. Maybe it’s just Tobolowsky’s delivery, but the way Len spits back to Larry, “Oh, your friend the convicted sex offender!”, leads this writer to believe that nobody at the table really looks down upon Len. Then again, there’s very little time to process the information since Sammi starts choking soon after. Thank god for Rick!
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: It’s not the most orthodox of friendships, but Larry’s bond with Rick warrants a revelatory golf lesson for LD. After the two meet cute, they head back to Rick’s, where he helps Larry with his swing, all by using his state-of-the-art camera equipment to map out what he’s doing right and wrong. “Watch it in slow motion, okay,” he tells Larry, who he affectionally dubs his “best student of the day.” “Look at that. See, you’re bringing your hips through.” In any other situation, it might be a pleasant afternoon between two grown men, but then you remember Rick’s sordid past, and you immediately start questioning why he has this equipment, and the whole scene turns icky pretty, pretty… pretty fast.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: From strictly a narrative standpoint, “The Seder” works exactly like an old Seinfeld episode, specifically in the way that David weaves in an unlikable character into an unlikely situation, and wraps everything up with a baker’s bow. But, there’s something here that goes thematically deeper than your traditional episode, as if David’s actually trying to say something with the premise itself. By pairing Rick’s story with the traditional Passover Seder dinner, it’s almost like he’s commenting on the hypocrisy of our own social values, namely how we’re so easily wont to cast aside people as we try to preach about unity.
Sure, Rick fuels Larry’s ego, praising “The Puffy Shirt” episode and regaling him with all sorts of flattery, and that’s easily why he wins over LD, but there’s something to be said about Larry’s invitation. He didn’t have to invite him, but he felt guilty about not doing it, and that guilt says a lot about the episode as a whole, and also about Larry as an individual. For as long as we can remember, he’s always existed on the fringe as an outsider of popular opinion, and one might argue Rick’s situation spoke to him. Or, maybe this is all bullshit and just a great premise. You make the call.
— Michael Roffman
16. “The Survivor” from Season 4, Episode 9
Premiere Date: March 7, 2004
Are You Crazy? While much of Season 4 — and “The Survivor” — is focused on Larry’s 10th anniversary present, Cheryl receives hers, the renewal of their vows. But of course, Larry doesn’t make it easy on her, offending both her parents and the temple’s rabbi who is to lead the service along the way.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” While Susie doesn’t play a big part in “The Survivor,” she makes one hilarious appearance. When Larry comes to Jeff to ask about Anna, the Hasidic employee at his cleaners and his best chance to capitalize on his 10th anniversary gift, she butts in: “They cut a hole in the sheet, the man puts the penis in; they can’t touch each other Larry. What do you guys talk about? This is what you talk about, how Hasidim have sex?”
Vanilla Bullshit Things: We’ve got a tie here, between Larry’s problem with the rabbi’s sensitivity to his son’s death on 9/11 and his mother-in-law’s refusal to get a sponge after the Holocaust survivor spilled gravy on his suit. When Larry exclaims, “Let’s roll,” a common saying that became a national slogan following the terrorist attacks, offends the rabbi, whose son was killed by a bike messenger on 57th Street in Manhattan, miles away from the World Trade Centers. On the other hand, Larry’s mother-in-law almost skips out on his vow renewal ceremony because she was so angry at him for his response to her “someone get a sponge!” comment. Let’s call this one a draw.
He’s Not My Best Friend! When preparing their vows prior to their renewal ceremony, Cheryl reveals that she intends for their marriage to continue after death through all eternity. Of course, Larry, who has always heard “til death do us part,” objects — “I guess I had a different plan for eternity. I thought I’d be single.” He later stumbles during his vows in the ceremony, even asking the rabbi if an afterlife exists, proving once again that Larry always will never truly see eye to eye with Cheryl (or any woman).
Stop and Chat: “You know, Shlomo is at shul. Want to come in for a drink?” says Gina Gershon in her most seductive voice. Playing the Hasidic dry cleaner, the Pretty in Pink and Face/Off actress gives Larry one of his best and last chances at capitalizing on his 10th anniversary gift. In the end, Susie and Jeff’s hole in the sheet idea is a myth and Larry blows it at the last second. “Did you come here to fuck or did you come here to talk about your dirty suit?” she grumbles after Larry has let her down one last time.
Socially Assassinated: The loser of “The Survivor” has to be Solly, the Holocaust survivor, who was utterly embarrassed twice in this episode, first following his Holocaust vs. Survivor debate with Colby Donaldson and later when Larry was almost blinded by his glass eye. He went down fighting, however, spilling on Larry twice, having the last laugh when Larry had to go through his vow renewals with a massive wine stain on his suit.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: “May I always have the wisdom to look past your shortcomings and appreciate all of the goodness you possess,” begins Cheryl’s vow to Larry, basically summing up their entire marriage. Almost a full four seasons into the show, we’re more than familiar with Larry’s shortcomings and his inability to stay out of unnecessary awkward and cringeworthy situations. “Marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries,” goes a Wayne’s World one-liner. If that’s the case, marriage to Larry David may be punishment for much, much worse.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: In early 2004, Survivor was still incredibly popular — America was still very much in its reality TV phase. Colby Donaldson, the second place winner in the second season, was very much a celebrity at the time, which is why the (Holocaust) survivor vs. Survivor scene is so amazing, an all-time best dialogue. Comparing the conditions between the Holocaust and Survivor: The Australian Outback, is absurd, but set up in an incredibly clever way as Larry thinks that both were survivors of the worst genocide in history — “Do survivors like seeing each other and talking about old times?”
It may not be the best episode in the fourth season — that honor goes to finale “Opening Night” — but from the survivor face-off to Larry’s inability to rebound after thinking Hasidic couples have sex with a sheet, it’s one of the best in Curb’s catalogue.
— Steven Edelstone
15. “The Black Swan” from Season 7, Episode 7
Premiere Date: November 1, 2009
Are You Crazy? Away from the hustle and bustle of the Seinfeld reunion, Larry tries to find some peace at his ritzy golf club alongside his crew, only to unconsciously spawn a murder-spree, one that starts with a little involuntary manslaughter (inciting Norm’s heart attack) and peaks with one hell of a self defense move (bludgeoning Mr. Tagahashi’s prized black swan). As per tradition, Larry’s seemingly at the disposal of his own surroundings, though to be fair, most of his qualms stem from an unnerving lack of respect. This is LD in full-on mafioso mode, refusing to silence his cell phone, protesting math, and snubbing the dead, whether it’s shrugging over a prick like Norm or a celebrated mascot like Kyoko. He hates everyone here.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” Susie’s never been one to golf, so she’s not exactly ordering crispy onions alongside Andy. However, she does come up when Mr. Tagahashi grills Larry’s crew over Kyoko’s death. As he moves from one friend to the other — specifically, Andy, Marty, Jeff, and Larry in that order — Tagahasi tells Jeff he’s “stupid” for marrying a “big-mouth wife,” saying he should call her, to which Jeff protests and hilariously adds, “I don’t even bring her around anymore out of respect.” Ah, poor Susie.
Vanilla Bullshit Things: “It’s a pointless and unnecessary social convention to introduce every single person you know,” Larry tells The Funkman (Bob Einstein), after Marty expresses disappointment that Larry didn’t introduce everyone at the table to his passing New York acquaintance. Of course, by the end, this system winds up screwing Larry over in a big way when Marty neglects to introduce the stonemason, letting his bald friend go to town on the Derek Jeter-hating son of a bitch unknowingly in his presence. Larry 0, Funkman 1.
He’s Not My Best Friend! While not exactly broken up, out of all the members in Larry’s gang, it’s Marty who’s the most temperate when it comes to Norm’s death, immediately laying blame on Larry: “Look, it may have been an accident… but you’re a murderer.” He later has trouble eating following Kyoko’s death and even expresses interest in outing Larry for Tagahashi’s offer of no monthly membership fees. He doesn’t — after all, let’s not forget, Larry’s his “best friend” — but the fact that it crosses his mind says everything you need to know about their relationship. Also, his contempt for Andy and his (deadly) crispy onions is Peak Funkman, especially the delivery of this line: “Will you please finish shoveling that shit into your face?” Great.
Stop and Chat: Given that the season is overstuffed with big guest stars, “The Black Swan” is something of a reprieve. Though, if there was ever a time to hate Andy, it’s this one. Returning star Richard Kind has made a career out of being a lovable lug, always bordering on the insufferable, and he brings his A-game to this episode, riding on Larry’s nerves in ways that are unprecedented.
We’ve already talked about his godforsaken crispy onions, the likes of which make them late to the green and stuck behind Norm’s painfully slow crew, but then there’s his embarrassing disappointment over fruit plates, his wife’s tacky hats, and their complete lack of respect over Larry’s offer to pay for their daughter’s college tuition. When Andy later revisits the kind gesture, asking Larry to put his wife through cosmetology school instead, you kind of want to burn those hats along with Larry.
Socially Assassinated: Well, there’s Norm, who actually gets assassinated, even if Larry didn’t intend for him to keel over. Then there’s the tragedy of Kyoko, that lovable black swan that may or may not have actually scared Norm, per Larry’s theory. But then there’s also Larry, whose self-righteous don act can’t stop him from tripping over his own systems, as he later discovers that the aforementioned Jeter-hating stonemason has etched his deep, dark secret on stone for all to see. Yes, he’s a swan killer, and no, he can’t bullshit his way out of this one.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: “Let me explain something to you, moron. Swan killers leave. People who aren’t swan killers stay, have a little lunch, enjoy themselves, socialize, get to know the members.” It’s maybe not the most pleasant advice, per se, but if you’re ever on the lam, never hesitate to call Larry David. His choice words to the Funkman, who’s overwhelmed with guilt and anxiety, are awash with the type of logic that’ll keep anyone out of prison.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: It’s essentially Curb gone mafioso. Much like later seasons of Seinfeld, “The Black Swan” exists in a heightened version of reality than we’re traditionally used to on the series. But that’s fine because, again like Seinfeld, these characters are larger-than-life enough to be able to try on new suits without anyone batting an eye. In Larry’s case, we know he has a vicious mean streak, so seeing him embellish that attitude only makes sense as the through-line becomes more and more extravagant.
That extravagance, however, speaks volumes for a season that revolves around the Seinfeld reunion, as if David’s making a spiritual nod to those last two years the NBC series trucked on without him, an era that brought similar out-of-this-world fare like “The Chicken Roaster,” “The Muffin Tops,” and “The Merv Griffin Show.” In other words, crazy works for Curb, too.
— Michael Roffman
14. “Mister Softee” from Season 8, Episode 9
Premiere Date: September 4, 2011
Are You Crazy? For 99.999% of New Yorkers, the Mister Softee song invokes pleasant memories of bygone summers, sprinting to the street on a hot day to get a soft-serve ice cream to cool down. But of course, Larry has to be contrarian; the ice cream truck’s jingle brings him back to his childhood when he lost to a middle school crush in strip poker inside a Mister Softee truck only to be pushed outside by the driver — her father — completely naked in front of a dozen onlookers screaming, “What the fuck?!” and laughing at the size of his penis.
Still traumatized some 50 or so years later, the jingle continues to haunt Larry, causing him to perform poorly in bed with his girlfriend and lose his softball championship by pulling a Bill Buckner and misplaying a routine groundball through his legs only to watch the winning run score from third. But by working with a therapist who has no clue how to keep a secret, he attempts to confront one of his more painful memories, but almost loses his girlfriend to another “man” — his car.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” For Jeff’s birthday, Susie tells Larry to get him a signed Mookie Wilson baseball and while at the event, Larry unsurprisingly befriends Bill Buckner, whose error cost the Red Sox their first World Series in almost 70 years. The two visit Jeff and Susie at their apartment, but they lose the ball out the window when Larry tosses it to Buckner who can’t make the catch. “I thought you were a professional, you couldn’t even catch?” Susie screams as she kicks them out. “I thought you were a baseball player — you can’t catch a god damn toss?”
Vanilla Bullshit Things: “Do you like a mixed nut?” Larry asks his girlfriend Jennifer as she is having a heavy orgasm due to the loose seat in his car’s passenger seat, causing for an incredibly bumpy and satisfying ride. “When I opened up the mixed nuts, they put some dried pineapple! Are you kidding me with the pineapple? The dried pineapple is destroying the mixed nuts!” Larry complains while blissfully unaware of what’s transpiring a foot to his right. This marks the second time in Curb where Larry complains about mixed nuts, a callback to season four when he started a fight with David Schwimmer’s father, the owner of a trail mix company, about the ratio of cashews to raisins in his packages.
He’s Not My Best Friend! How many times have you decided to split an entrée with a friend at a restaurant and it actually worked out? Larry finds out the hard way at the beginning of the episode, as Jeff decides not to share. “That fish, to be honest, don’t look so good,” Jeff says before nearly begging Larry for a bite when he raves about how fantastic his meal is.
Stop and Chat: While Bill Buckner is the most instrumental guest star for this episode’s plot, legendary SNL writer and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog owner Robert Smigel steals the show as Larry’s George Steinbrenner-obsessed softball manager and car mechanic. “Fuck these people!” he screams in his pregame speech after yelling about having sex with the opposing team’s sisters. After Larry “Buckners” the game, he refuses to fix Larry’s car, which leads to the bumpy passenger seat. As an aside, pre-fame Amy Schumer makes a five second or so appearance in the episode as Larry’s teammate, shouting, “You’re a douche,” after he loses them the championship.
Socially Assassinated: In Judaism, a minyan — a quorum of 10 Jews — is sometimes required for specific traditions, in this case, to perform a “Mourners’ Kaddish,” a prayer for the recently deceased. When walking Park Avenue with Bill Buckner, Larry is approached to join the group so the obligation can be completed for the dead relative. It turns out that the family are die-hard Red Sox fans and while Buckner is kicked out because his error in 1986. Larry also leaves, denying the mourning family the chance to perform the prayer for their dead relative. “I hope there is no afterlife!” Larry proclaims as he walks out the door.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: “She’s cheating on you with this fucking chair!” Leon exclaims as he realizes Larry’s dilemma with his girlfriend, though probably not realizing his statement’s double meaning. Now knowledgeable that his passenger seat is “the other man,” Larry runs into a lot of trouble when he has to give Susie an impromptu ride, leading to one of the most awkward and memorable scenes in the history of Curb.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: Of all of the episodes in season eight, “Mister Softee” is Curb’s most quintessentially New York show, all centered around what could be the city’s most iconic songs after taking Frank Sinatra and LCD Soundsystem out of the equation. “Mister Softee” includes references to the famed ice cream truck jingle, softball in Central Park, the ’86 Mets, and more, finally giving his fans the true New York episode we deserved, especially when realizing that Seinfeld was shot in LA.
The most surprising thing here isn’t that George Lucas enjoys the services of prostitutes, it’s the intense hatred of Bill Buckner, who gave the Mets their only title since 1969. He should be a hero in New York rather than the villain, but by the end of the episode, he finally gets his dues as he saves a baby after a multi-story fall from a burning building.
— Steven Edelstone
13. “Funkhouser’s Crazy Sister” from Season 7, Episode 1
Premiere Date: September 20, 2009
Are You Crazy? Let’s face it, any episode featuring Marty Funkhouser is automatically going to be exponentially better than one not featuring him. His face, his gruff voice, his accusatory tone at all points regardless of circumstance: the man is drier than a cracker factory located slap-bang in the middle of the desert, and we all love him for it.
Between some first-rate Funkhouser screen-time and Larry realizing he wants to end things with Loretta (Vivica A. Fox), who’s still awaiting her biopsy results, “Funkhouser’s Crazy Sister” brilliantly traverses the perils of empty gestures, Larry and Cheryl admitting they miss each other, some of Dr. Schaffer’s finest moments, and Catherine O’Hara absolutely killing it in her role as the gloriously unsound Bam Bam Funkhouser. But more on the latter later…
“Get The Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” When Susie invites Larry to a dinner party, she declines to tell him who else is going to be in attendance. When Larry pushes her for an answer she seems to bite her tongue before saying, “You should be glad [it’s a custom] because if I told people you were coming they might not show up!” Proof (not that it was needed) that Susie can be scathing without having to lunge headlong into a slew of fierce obscenities. Sure, it certainly helps but it’s not always necessary.
Vanilla Bullshit Things: When Auntie Rae informs him about the latest in a spate of robberies in the neighborhood, Larry takes a more, shall we say, philosophical stance than the concerned senior. “Why are you talking to the neighbors for? I’d rather have the thieves than the neighbors. The thieves don’t impose. The neighbors want your time; the thieves want your things. I’d rather give them things than time.” Time vs. things: the purest distillation of LD’s worldview in one surefire observation?
He’s Not My Best Friend! Lovable or not, Jeff Greene is, if we’re completely being honest here, at the wrong side of morally corrupt at the best of times. When he impulsively beds the mentally unhinged Bam Bam Funkhouser (claiming it was the result of foolishly offering up the definitive empty gesture: “If there’s anything I can do…”) there is something inexplicably funny about hearing Larry’s manager and closest confidante friend being called “fat boy” between the bedsheets.
Stop and Chat: Best known for her roles in Home Alone and Beetlejuice, we’d be lying if we said Catherine O’Hara doesn’t steal the show as Bam Bam Funkhouser. From the moment she appears on screen, flipping out about some trivial matter, right up until the scene where she flirts with Jeff before outing him at the dinner party table, O’Hara captures the character’s manic instability very persuasively. Although there are certainly some contenders, there’s a good chance Bam Bam is the strongest one-off character played by an established name in the show.
Socially Assassinated: When Larry absentmindedly tells Funkhouser, “I’ll see you at Jeff’s tonight,” he walks headfirst into a textbook social faux pas: Funkhouser wasn’t invited to the party and now his friend knows about it. “Why don’t you make sure before you ask someone ‘Am I going to see you tonight?’ that they were invited? You don’t assume anything!” Although Larry is made to look foolish for creating the super-awkward situation in the first place, Funkhouser is the real casualty here.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: Despite being all too fleeting, Leon Black makes the most of his screen-time at the start of the episode. When Loretta and Larry differ in opinion about the ideal bedroom temperature, the former decides to seek out Leon’s opinion. Sure enough, Leon has absolutely no doubts whatsoever, offering up some free, seemingly premium advice for Larry “68 Degrees” David on the ideal living conditions. “82 degrees. That’s my shit. That’s my region up in there…”
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: Kickstarting Season Seven as a classic beginning-middle-and-end episode, “Funkhouser’s Crazy Sister” finds Larry and several other characters collectively trying to navigate a minefield of dinner party etiquette, declining relationships, empty gestures, refrigerator protocol, and much more. Having been off the air for two years, the episode — directed by Larry Charles — sets up the new season in familiar (that is to say, completely uncomfortable) territory, reminding us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
— Brian Coney
12. “The Weatherman” from Season 4, Episode 4
Premiere Date: January 25, 2004
Are You Crazy? On a long enough timeline, everyone hates their local weatherman; as Lewis Black once said, “What does the word ‘meteorologist’ mean in English? It means liar.” But few, if any, would ever imagine they have some cockamamie agenda like Larry dreams up: “Cheryl, something fishy’s going on here. What if the weatherman predicts it’s gonna rain just so he can keep people off the golf course and have it for himself? What do you think of that theory?” Like any sane person, she finds the whole thing “ridiculous,” but hey, it’s Larry, and she goes with it, just like we do.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” During Jeff and Susie’s dinner party, a visibly bored Larry starts playing with Oscar, who nestles his head in Larry’s lap. Gleefully, Larry starts cuddling the dog, much to the chagrin of Susie, who watches the curious scene unfold nearby. “Enjoying the dog? Dinner’s served,” she tells him, oozing with disgust, a feeling that prompts her to warn Ted Danson about Larry watching his dog. To top it off, she sends Larry home with only one shoe after Sammi steals it during the party and has a meltdown upon discovering a photo of his tooth. He gets it back, but only after Oscar chews it to shreds. Oskie!
Vanilla Bullshit Things: Larry’s firing on all cylinders in this episode, from sleeve etiquette to lapel reluctance to how hygienists should be like prostitutes with secrets. But none of them are quite as bizarre and specific to LD as his inclination to pee sitting down, a character trait that would feel like a total plot device if it didn’t have the following reasoning behind it: “Well, it started because I was getting up to go at night sometimes and I didn’t feel like putting the light on…”; “You know what Winston Churchill said? Why stand when you can sit? Have you ever heard that expression?”; and “If I pee 20 times during a day, I get through the New York Times.” Who can argue with that?
He’s Not My Best Friend! You know, for not having a lot to do in this episode, Marty Funkhouser sure has a lot of fun with Larry. He challenges him to a “plaque contest” (“Anytime you want”), goads him on his urinary preferences (“Do you crap standing up?”), and withholds the weatherman’s juicy golf tip (“He just called me and said, ‘Don’t give it to Larry'”). In hindsight, Larry eventually gives him a handful of his own sour grapes two episodes later (see: “The Car Pool Lane”), but Marty has a ball in this half-hour, and the joke is all on our modern-day Walter Brennan.
Stop and Chat: Larry has another slightly contemptuous run-in, albeit a minor, with Ted Danson at the golf course. As expected, Danson informs him that he and his wife Mary Steenburgen have changed their minds and have decided to board their dog Roxy, instead. Feigning disappointment, Larry, as he’s wont to do, tests the waters, and asks if he talked to Susie that morning, which of course he did. But Larry doesn’t push it, likely because he has more things on his mind, like weathermen, dental hygienists, and lost shoes.
Socially Assassinated: This one’s all Larry. Despite his countless attempts to takedown his dental hygienist and, naturally, the weatherman himself, it’s Larry who comes out a loser in the end. The fact that he can’t even get out of his chair at the end says it all.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: Well, there’s the obvious one — ahem, The Weatherman’s Golf Tip — one of the treasured Season Four McGuffins in Larry’s 1% lifestyle. It all starts here, though, as the Funkman nearly lets loose the tip over dinner, cruelly teasing both Larry and us as he says: “it’s changed my entire game.” Thanks to Sammi’s toothy discovery, however, Marty never finishes his thoughts, and he’s sworn to secrecy shortly after by the weatherman himself.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: The beautiful thing about Curb is how Larry doesn’t always need to win. “The Weatherman” is one such chapter, a cloying and irritating half-hour, but only to our bald anti-hero. It’s a great example of how the world is so often out to get Larry, and how he’s so often powerless to the way of the world. Granted, most of his issues are fairly minor, but for his lifestyle, he’s really run through the ringer: Despite his many protests, he ruins his sleeve, destroys a great jacket, hurts his foot, loses a shoe, gets lampooned for hygiene, pulls out his back, and finds himself in a downpour after his grand theory about the mischievous weather never comes to fruition.
But really, we’ve all sloughed through some degree of stupidity like this before in our lives, whether it’s by our own design or from others, and there’s something relatable about that ending. In a way, it’s kind of like that saying we’re told to understand: When it rains, it pours. Don’t you hate it when people say that?
— Michael Roffman
11. “Larry vs Michael J. Fox” from Season 8, Episode 10
Premiere Date: September 11, 2011
Are You Crazy? Michael J. Fox seems like the nicest guy on the planet, so of course Larry’s going to make an enemy of him. It all begins with a shush, which Larry delivers after the actor, activist, and philanthropist offends him by speaking during his girlfriend’s ambient piano playing at a restaurant. “It’s background, Larry,” Fox says. “It’s not Carnegie Hall, it’s a bar.” What follows is a series of subtle slights on Fox’s behalf, though Larry can’t figure out whether it’s “pissed or Parkinson’s,” referring to the condition which causes Fox’s glitchy, sporadic movements.
Arguing with a personality like Fox, however, is like picking a fight with the Pope. Nobody’s on Larry’s side, not even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tells Larry to “get out of town.” The episode ends with Larry in Paris, having more or less alienated everyone in his circle (except for Leon, of course).
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” After Larry buys a sewing machine for his girlfriend’s “pre-gay” son, Greg, Susie screams at him to buy “another motherfucking gift NOW.” Later, an errant biker is all that stops Susie from ripping off Larry’s head after she discovers he showed Greg a swastika, which the boy sews onto a pillow sham for her. Her best quote, though: “You make such a big megillah about everything!” It’s always a treat when the characters lean into their Judaism.
Vanilla Bullshit Things: How does one explain Adolf Hitler and the holocaust to a “pre-gay” seven-year old? “Hitler was a bad man,” Larry tells Greg. “He didn’t really care for Jews. Thought they were a bit much.” Of course, he wouldn’t have ever had to have this conversation had he not been drawing a Hitler mustache and comb-over haircut on a magazine cover. “I just like to see what people look like with Hitler mustaches,” he says. Christ, Larry.
He’s Not My Best Friend! This one is pretty firmly Larry-focused, though Leon’s anger at Fox’s “clomping” leads to him to claim that “Michael J. Fox about to be Michael J. Fucked-Up in a minute!” But it wouldn’t be a fair fight if he confronted him, so he puts that task on Larry, who’s offended that Leon thinks he couldn’t take Fox in a fight. “All that shakin’ shit might come in handy, I don’t fuckin’ know!” he says.
Stop and Chat: Saturday Night Live alum Ana Gasteyer plays Larry’s girlfriend ivory-tickling girlfriend here, but it’s her son, Greg, that steals the show. As played by the adorable Eddie Schweighardt, Greg is a fashion fanatic with a love for old Hollywood and Project Runway, not to mention a budding sense of sass that’s bound to reach Harvey Fierstein levels of heat. This episode is wall-to-wall hilarious, but nothing in it is funnier than Larry asking which Wizard of Oz costume he’s going to make and Greg firmly, devilishly replying, “Dorothy.” One of the series’ best one-off characters.
Socially Assassinated: Jeff is almost literally assassinated in this episode when he jumps in front of a speeding biker to push Susie out of the way. Later, he finds out the best way to cure his internal bleeding is with anal suppositories.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: “Get a life, Jews!”
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: This episode aired seven years ago, and constituted what many thought would be the final chapter of Curb Your Enthusiasm. And while we’re certainly not complaining about new episodes, is there a more perfect ending for Larry than to have lied his way out of California, to be banished from New York by the mayor himself, and to end up in France, where the only difference is that he yells at “pig parkers” in French now rather than English? Even Jeff and Susie’s ending has some finality, with Jeff showing his devotion to her by “taking a bullet.”
Still, the show’s gone eight seasons without going stale so we’re willing to risk the possibility of a less-than-perfect ending if it means more Curb. We still love the final season of Seinfeld despite that last episode, right?
— Randall Colburn
10. “The Freak Book” from Season 6, Episode 5
Premiere Date: October 7, 2007
Are You Crazy? Trouble follows Larry in myriad directions in this nutty episode, which begins with Larry cackling over a book called Mondo Freaks — “I gotta tell you, this book is great, it’s sick!” — and ends with him and tennis hothead John McEnroe getting kicked out of a Paul McCartney concert. The book is a gift for Ted Danson (whose puzzled delivery of “mondo freaks” is an episode highlight), who appreciates the gift about as much as he does the limo driver that Larry invites into the party.
Played by Toby Huss, Charlie the driver gets wasted and makes a scene, leaving Larry to drive him home. Next thing he knows, Larry is picking up McEnroe at the airport, crossing paths with a Mexican funeral, and attending a party with McCartney ex Heather Mills, who, having only one leg, doesn’t appreciate Larry and McEnroe’s fascination with freaks.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” Larry, Cheryl, Ted, Mary, Jeff, and Susie have bought burial plots so they’ll all be laid to rest together (weird, right?), but Larry’s desire to switch spots doesn’t sit well with Susie. “I don’t wanna be next to you for eternity,” she says. “May I be so bold?” Who can blame her?
Vanilla Bullshit Things: When Larry drives Charlie home, he discovers the driver lives in a rundown house with a screaming, wheelchair-bound wife and her sick father. “This is the shitstorm of my life!” she screams. “Yeah,” Larry replies matter-of-factly, “it doesn’t look that great.”
He’s Not My Best Friend! Larry shames Ted at his birthday party for forcing the bartenders to wear bowties. “That’s not cool,” Larry says. “Feels like you’re putting on airs.” Later, he literally pulls the freak book away from Ted so he and Jeff can flip through it, cackling, as an irked Ted sadly opens his presents. Hilariously, he also takes it home, despite having given it to Ted as a gift. Larry is literally the worst friend.
Stop and Chat: John McEnroe isn’t known for his acting, but his general reputation as a short-tempered prick makes him a perfect foil to Larry. Their interactions are fantastic, with McEnroe warily deflecting Larry’s litany of inane questions, which include everything from “Were you shy as a child?” to “Ever been jealous of a gardener?” to “Do you believe in God, a god of some kind?” (“Yes,” McEnroe responds, “and I’m wondering where he is right now”).
Luckily, Larry makes a friend of McEnroe when he shows him the freak book — “This is awesome,” he says, “Thank you for this book.” His disgusted exclamations are as hilarious as Larry’s. There might be no funnier moment in this episode than McEnroe screaming, “WHAT A FREAK!” in the middle of a party. Who does that?
Socially Assassinated: Charlie the driver might never work again, not after making an enemy of an a-s-s-h-o-l-e like Ted Danson.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: “Just because a person’s bald doesn’t mean I necessarily have to like them,” Larry reminds Mary Steenburgen in this episode. It’s not advice, per se, but it’s helpful to know. My personal favorite piece of advice, however, is Larry helping McEnroe calm down by telling him to “check out the freaks, Mr. McEnroe.” Remember that next time you find yourself getting overwhelmed.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: For all his crotchety tendencies, Larry hasn’t lost touch with the excitable little boy at his core. Perhaps nowhere else in Curb is this more clear than in “The Freak Book,” which finds Larry giggling like a child over a “pig man” and a dude with “three penises!” and badgering McEnroe with question after question, each of which he asks with insatiable curiosity of a toddler. Larry’s behavior in this episode is abominable, but executed with such a childlike sense of giddiness that’s it hard to hate him for it. Curb’s continued success owes a debt to episodes like these, which shake up the character in ways that are surprising, hilarious, and ridiculously absurd. Only Larry David could build incredible TV around two old guys inappropriately laughing at a book called Mondo Freaks.
— Randall Colburn
09. “The Grand Opening” from Season 3, Episode 10
Premiere Date: November 17, 2002
Are You Crazy? Threaded with various sub-plots including Larry being cast in a Martin Scorsese movie, Season 3 largely revolves around Larry joining the likes of Ted Danson in backing an upscale restaurant venture. Having heightened over the nine preceding episodes — and with a series of debacles threatening to detail the project at every juncture — “The Grand Opening” is an eminently watchable farce from beginning to end.
From Larry firing the chef, accidentally breaking an important food critic’s thumbs playing dodgeball and — the icing on the catastrophic cake — hiring a new chef with Tourette syndrome, Larry is, as ever, the master of his own destiny here. Luckily for us, that destiny is total calamity.
“Get The Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” Everyone has (or should have) a favorite Susie Greene expletive-ridden outburst. Little surges of foul-mouthed majesty that always serve their purpose or have their place within the fabric of an episode, Mrs. G’s tirades take no prisoners — not least those square at her beloved “fat fuck” Jeff and, lest we ever forget, Larry (“You sick, four-eyed, pervert fuck!” from “The Blind Date” is a personal favorite).
But if we’re talking cold, hard, objective facts here, Susie’s all-time finest one-liner arrives at the end of “The Grand Opening,” when she takes aim at Cheryl with the unsurpassable and totally audacious vulgarity of “Fuck you, you car-wash c**t!” Whether it’s the alliteration, the context, how she suddenly appears at the doorway before laying waste, the fact she delivers the line with such sudden defiant bombast, or a combination of all four, it only takes five words to transform a great episode into a legendary one.
Vanilla Bullshit Things: Some of Larry’s best observations are exhibitions in real blink-and-you’ll-miss-it subtlety. A prime case in point comes a mere three minutes into “The Grand Opening.” Larry and Jeff are idly browsing the aisles of Rainbow Acres natural deli and salad bar. Before they get down to brass tacks about why Susie cancelled lunch on Cheryl (“again”) Larry turns to Jeff and parts some offhand gold. “You know how book stores make you feel stupid? Well, health food stores really make me feel unhealthy.” You and me both, LD. You and me both.
He’s Not My Best Friend! As we discover as the episode unravels, Larry accidentally breaking TV restaurant critic Andy Portico’s thumbs while playing dodgeball (a wonderfully ludicrous concept in itself) is both a blessing and a curse. When Larry later visits him in his office to attempt to make amends, Portico finds himself in a bit of bother when it comes to eating his lunch of spaghetti marinara. He’s not happy (something his PA soon discovers via Portico’s scowling, “How am I supposed to eat that, huh? Am I meant to suck it up my ass?) but Larry insists in lending a hand. As LD starts spoonfeeding both Portico and his pristine lemon shirt, the critic’s total helplessness — exacerbated by his hunger — is hilarious.
Stop and Chat: Playing George Bernier — the Tourette’s-afflicted, French Holocaust survivor and eleventh-hour replacement chef of the restaurant — actor and comedian Paul Sand is nothing short of a revelation. With his ‘tude (as investor Lou DiMaggio calls it) and curious loathing for salmon, capers and olives, Sand’s portrayal is effortlessly funny, most memorably when his condition kickstarts one of the greatest communal scenes in Curb Your Enthusiasm to date. As a horrified Larry casts his mind back to witnessing a show of bald unity earlier in the episode, he hesitantly shouts “Scum-sucking motherfucking whore!” in solidarity (and total fear). The next minute goes down as one of the most inspired and masterfully outrageous season-concluding scenes in television.
Socially Assassinated: When Larry and Jeff randomly stumble upon him in the parking lot of Rainbow Acres, head chef Phil is discovered to be a toupee-wearer (or, as Larry proudly puts it, “literally, a bald-face liar). With Jeff later noting how Larry has “far more bald professionals than the average person” it comes as little surprise that Larry is affronted. Ashamed, Phil apologizes and hopes it doesn’t “affect” things. Way off the mark. Larry fires him on the spot, saying “You came in bald just to get the job? You oughta be ashamed of yourself.” Strain your mind eye’s as far as it can go but you will never recall Larry looking more disappointed.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: Presumably mistaking him for someone who is capable of re-assuring her, Cheryl confides in Larry that she is anxious about running into Susie at the restaurant following the pair’s ongoing, paranoia-fuelled spat. “I wouldn’t even go if I was you. It’s too awkward,” Larry suggests, without even the slightest hint of irony. Despite Cheryl admitting he’s “probably right,” she passes up his counsel. A wise move, otherwise we would have been cheated of that ending.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: Featuring some of the best, free-flowing dialogue (not least between Larry and Jeff ) and doubling up as yet another stellar season finale, “The Grand Opening” is almost Shakespearian in how it plays out as the culmination of long and winding series of omens surrounding the restaurant venture. We all know tragedy is coming — we’ve felt it for several episodes — but nothing can prepare for the comedy of errors that unfolds in the end up. Much like how “Opening Night” climaxes, Larry saves the day by pulverizing social custom and cutting through the BS. Is this the all-time greatest season finale? Almost certainly.
— Brian Coney
08. “Porno Gil” from Season 1, Episode 3
Premiere Date: October 29, 2000
Are You Crazy? Larry and Cheryl’s travails this episode are an anxious person’s nightmare. First, they get lost in a series of dusty back roads on their way to a party at the house of a former porn star, then arrive to find that it’s not a party but a dinner party (with a bunch of strangers, no less). From there, Larry offends the host, witnesses whispered giggles, breaks a lamp, and then, after leaving with his tail between his legs, has to go back to the watch he left behind. Just watching it is enough to give you a panic attack.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” The show likely didn’t know what it had in Susie Essman when this episode aired, as the final scene would’ve been that much more hilarious had she walked in on Larry watching porn in her house rather than Jeff’s parents. Can you even imagine the filthy, apoplectic invective that would’ve poured from her mouth? Instead, we get a potent dressing-down from the wife of Porno Gil, who Larry deeply pisses off by refusing to take off his shoes at the door (his feet get “a little chilly,” see?). “When you walk through my door you play by my rules! You take off your fucking shoes!” she screams. The best part, though, is her description of Larry’s kicks as “fucking little soccer shoes.”
Vanilla Bullshit Things: “I see certain things and I recoil in horror,” Larry says of hats with bolo strings attached.
He’s Not My Best Friend! Jeff’s about to have bypass surgery, and while we know he’ll be okay he sure doesn’t. In case he dies, he has Larry go to his house to retrieve his porn collection. “She’s not a big porn person,” he says of Susie. They would’ve gotten away with it, too, had Larry not stopped to watch porn classic Motel Dick.
Stop and Chat: The star of Motel Dick himself: Gil Thilander (Bob Odenkirk), otherwise known as Gil Bang. “I wasn’t the biggest,” Gil says at the dinner party, horrifying Cheryl, “but I could stay hard the longest.” That must’ve been true since the glimpse we get of his acting in Motel Dick — “Yeah, you called security,” he says during a threesome, “You got it” — was certainly not enough to buy him the sprawling, off-the-beaten-path mansion he calls “The House That Cum Built” or his collection of, uh, small glass bottles. “I like ‘em,” he explains. “They’re not as big as normal.”
Socially Assassinated: Nobody really comes out on top in this episode, but Larry revealing Jeff’s porn collection to the sick man’s parents isn’t going to make recovery any easier.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: “You know what Tabasco’s good for? Keep you hard. Only you gotta stick it up your ass,” says Gil during a hilariously obscene story that Cheryl certainly doesn’t find conducive to her appetite.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: Curb evolved in a similar fashion to Seinfeld in that it went from telling stories about daily minutiae to absurd situations involving “lefty calls” and toilets so loud they ruin one’s hearing. They all have their place in David’s pantheon of greatness, but “Porno Gil” is definitely one of the former in that it draws humor, tension, and anxiety from the kinds of situations we’ve all been in. Who hasn’t felt that particular brand of helplessness that accompanies being a stranger at a party that you can’t leave?
Still, Larry’s not innocent. His refusal to take off his shoes is such a simple, dickish thing to do, and pretty much the entire reason that things go south as quickly as they do. A shame, too. Aside from Cheryl, who wouldn’t want to party with Porno Gil?
— Randall Colburn
07. “Opening Night” from Season 4, Episode 10
Premiere Date: March 14, 2004
Are You Crazy? In the Season 4 finale, the show travels to NYC as Larry prepares to open on Broadway as Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks’ The Producers. Ostensibly doomed to failure and with the added burden of Cheryl’s 10th anniversary gift/challenge of sleeping with another woman before it expires at midnight on opening night, this episode is a classic case of Larry savoring the small victories all while cushioning some crushing blows.
Despite wasting his anniversary gift (twice, due to hot sauce and political affiliation), clashing with David Schwimmer, riding out a host of tipping quandaries, and Mel Brooks casting him as Bialystock in the hopes he would tank the show and free him à la The Producers itself, Larry prevails an unlikely triumph, beaming into a sea of smiles and rapturous applause. Talk about setting up Season Five nicely.
“Get The Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” Although the episode is based in her own neck of the woods, “Opening Night” is — somewhat tragically — a 100% Susie Greene-free zone. What we wouldn’t give to see her in the opening night audience just as Larry begins to flub his lines.
Vanilla Bullshit Things: When he vows to a neurotic, tip-seeking bellman (played by a not-yet-famous Zachary Levi) that he’ll “get him tomorrow” Larry can’t resist getting specific. “Seriously, I will. There’s no problem. I’m not going to give you a 20, that’s nuts. That’s nutsy. Come on.” A fair point well made but when he adds, “You’re going to wind up with more money than me if everyone gives you a 20,” Larry yields a remark that — for a man with a net worth reportedly flirting with the upper end of $1 billion — is a sweet moment of self-parody.
He’s Not My Best Friend! Having gone through a trial trying to a secure his ticket, cousin Andy reckons he’s drawn the shortest straw when he finds himself having his view blocked by the turban of a Sikh (played by Maz Jobrani) on opening night. No such luck, Andy. This is Curb Your Enthusiasm… there is always a shorter straw. Although it miraculously saves the day, when Larry inevitably forgets his lines and the show nosedives, he ad-libs some stand-up and mercilessly riffs at the expense of his cousin. “This is my cousin Andy. It may come as no surprise to you to learn that he is the product of incest…” Even Andy can’t resist laughing.
Stop and Chat: From David Schwimmer and the late Anne Bancroft to Jerry Seinfeld and the great Mel Brooks, “Opening Night” bursts at the seams with guest appearances. But it’s Stephen Colbert’s brief cameo as a crabby, hex-wielding tourist that steals the show. “Youuu willl failllll.” Eh, you were only half-right, Colbert.
Socially Assassinated: Although cousin Andy is unwittingly torn to shreds on opening night, Schwimmer is served more subtly earlier in the episode. After informing his co-star that he found his watch, thereby seeming to finally winning the Friends star’s approval, Larry discovers that he, too, has misplaced the watch. Schwimmer isn’t best pleased but Larry clarifies things: “You didn’t even have the watch to begin with so you’re in the same position you were.” Solid logic, for sure, but it’s when Mel Brooks sides with Larry (“The watch was lost, so it continues to be lost!”) that the seemingly unassailable Schwimmer takes a hit.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: While Mel Brooks offers up some first-rate advice just before the curtain comes up on The Producers (“Break a leg. Break everything. Don’t break anything!”) Jeff is positively sage-like when he phones up an apprehensive Larry in his hotel room two days before opening night. “You know your lines. It’s going to be wonderful, don’t worry about it! Now you gotta go down and meet some gals.” Seeing as Larry’s role in The Producers was doomed all along (and despite Jeff’s advice resulting in him getting a little masochistic on the ol’ hot sauce with a fellatio teacher) it sure as heck beats sitting around in a hotel room.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: Curb Your Enthusiasm has always delivered on a strong season finale (see “Seinfeld,” “The Grand Opening,” “Larry vs. Michael J. Fox”), but “Opening Night” rounded off Season Four in style. With Larry bowing out in full-blown Broadway Technicolor with something resembling the last laugh, he tussles with everything from Schwimmer and the pitfalls of tipping etiquette to learning his lines and pretending to suffer from OCD before emerging as the unlikeliest of heroes. A classic slow-burner over its one-hour running time, “Opening Night” ranks right up there with the show’s most memorable finales.
— Brian Coney
06. “Palestinian Chicken” from Season 8, Episode 3
Premiere Date: July 24, 2011
Are You Crazy? Using a chicken restaurant as a way to joke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Curb doesn’t hold back, doing an admirable job of showing the inertia of both sides. With Marty and Susie on one side and Larry’s unlikely love interest Shara on the other, the two Larry finds himself in the middle — quite literally at one point — forced to decide between his heritage and his penis.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” Surprisingly, this episode’s best Susie quote comes from Sammi, her daughter. Relatively quiet throughout the entirety of Curb’s eight seasons, she breaks out in a big way, proving to be every bit as manipulative and angry as her mother. “So I guess you won’t be playing golf on Saturday,” she says to Larry after he initially refuses to tell off Susie for her annoying “ahh” drink habit. “Boy, you really are your mother’s daughter,” Larry proclaims only to hear her repeat her mother’s infamous line, “Yeah, now get the fuck outta my driveway, you bald prick.”
Vanilla Bullshit Things: There’s a reason why “Vanilla Bullshit Things” is pluralized; “Palestinian Chicken” likely has the most miniscule complaints from Larry of any episode in the show’s history. This episode is almost a Larry David-curated Stefon list — from Susie’s “ahh,” to Ilene’s “LOL” instead of actually laughing, to the cold potatoes at dinner to Marty’s insistence of wearing a yarmulke to a Palestinian restaurant, and much, much more, Larry has more material to complain about than ever before.
He’s Not My Best Friend! Since he’s a devout Jew, one would think that Larry would appreciate Marty’s newfound interest in Judaism, but the opposite rings true, which directly leads to Larry having sex with a Palestinian woman following a fight over Funkouser’s yarmulke. “If Rabin could break bread with Arafat, I can have chicken at this anti-Semitic shithole,” Marty says, but never makes it in the door, too proud to remove his Jewish clothing before entering a restaurant that “doesn’t acknowledge his right to exist.”
Stop and Chat: Maggie Wheeler — most well known as Janice, Chandler’s annoying on-again-off-again girlfriend from Friends — plays, Ilene, a very convincing Susie-like overbearing wife who is seemingly unable to laugh without saying “LOL.” She definitely wears the pants in this relationship; even Larry feels the need to say, “thank you for allowing him to play” in the golf tournament. When Ron leaves the driving range at the beginning of the episode to get back to Ilene, Larry can’t help but sigh and utter, “that poor fuck.”
Socially Assassinated: This is the episode where the term “social assassin” originates and, as a result, it’s the one where the most “blood” is shed. Nearly everyone’s a loser here, except for maybe Sammi, but the ultimate loser has to be Larry and Jeff’s golf partner Ron, whose wife cheats on him because of Larry’s complaints of her use of “LOL.” But in the end, Ron only finds out about it because Larry is forced to confront Susie about her annoying “ahhs” after each sip of her drink, causing the group to lose their golf tournament when Ron abruptly leaves at hole 17, screaming, “LOL honey! LOL! Fuck you!”
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: A rare late-era Curb episode without Leon, the best advice actually comes from Larry. Though in crude terms, Larry makes a push for peace in the Middle East: “The penis doesn’t care about race, creed and color! The penis wants to get to its homeland! It wants to go home!” Though none of Larry’s friends, with the probable exception of Jeff, approve of his Palestinian girlfriend, he’s acting as an unlikely diplomat between the two eternally warring sides.
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: Bordering on an Arrested Development number of plot lines, Curb’s writers were firing on all cylinders here. Every single side comment comes back in a big way, from Ron likely getting divorced after discovering his wife is cheating on him to Larry potentially turning his back on his heritage to have a threesome with a woman who wants to “fuck the Jew” out of him. At the end of the day, Larry may either directly or indirectly ruin quite a few lives in this episode, but at least he still got some great chicken out of it. LOL!
— Steven Edelstone
05. “Trick or Treat” from Season 2, Episode 3
Premiere Date: October 7, 2001
Are You Crazy? Much of the anxiety revolving around earlier seasons of Curb stemmed from rabid Hollywood yuppies going off on Larry. Walter the Anti-Wagnerite, as played brilliantly by Zane Lasky, is no exception. When he catches Larry whistling “The Siegfried Idyl” to Cheryl outside a movie theater, what follows might be the funniest altercation in the show’s history. It’s the tipoff to a through-line that only keeps giving, from Halloween pranks to further shouting matches, culminating with a little concierto al fresco in Walter’s front yard that gives Larry his triumphant comeuppance.
“Get the Fuck Outta My House, Larry!” Although Jeff appears towards the end, his wife does not, and that’s probably a good thing, at least for Larry. He’s shamed all throughout “Trick or Treat,” from Cliff Cobb (Christopher Thornton), who we’ll get to in a bit, to the aforementioned Walter. You might even say Larry’s Wagner-fearing neighbor gives this episode its own Susie Moment, especially when he chews out Larry alongside his Elvira-ish daughter (Kimi Reichenberg), shouting how he’s “a disgrace to [his] people,” before he screams for the “Postman!” What an asshole.
Vanilla Bullshit Things: Larry’s risky small talk with Cliff’s wife, Shelley (Holly Wortel), warrants this ludicrous observation about napkins: “You know, it’s etiquette. Very important! Must put the napkin on! [a beat] It seems silly to put a napkin on an old pair of pants unless it’s some kind of huge emergency.” Eh, better safe than sorry, Larry.
He’s Not My Best Friend! Jeff and Larry’s haphazard idea to sneak out for a little morning golf on Cheryl’s birthday backfires when Jeff stumbles upon a mini-orchestra in Larry’s foyer. (Don’t miss his doofus reaction. Classic Jeff.) Naturally, Cheryl shuts down Larry’s impromptu plans, denying him even a round of six holes, and Jeff storms off, whining to his friend: “Do you have any idea what it takes for me to take a day off?”
Stop and Chat: Despite revolving around a movie premiere — Cliff Cobb’s 30 Below — there are no guest stars in “Trick or Treat,” though there’s never been a more dreaded stop-and-chat than with Larry’s would-be golf buddy, Donald (Danny Breen). For Christ’s sake, who would ever want to play golf with that guy? Looks like a total schmohawk.
Socially Assassinated: Cliff’s “bullshit story” about the origin of the Cobb salad winds up forging a divide between him and Larry, one that’s further exacerbated when Cliff sees Larry yawning at the premiere of his film and hears about his sarcastic sexual innuendo with his wife. Of course, Larry has a smoking gun for his disabled acquaintance, all thanks to a little online research on behalf of his trusty receptionist (Antoinette Spolar): No, it wasn’t Cliff’s grandfather who invented the Cobb salad at Chicago’s Drake Hotel, but Bob Cobb at Los Angeles’ Brown Derby Hotel. Upon hearing this, Cliff hilariously curses the name Bob Cobb, as if he’s a Capulet to his Montague, and Larry simply walks away, proving once again that he’s a true foil to all the bullshit artists of the world.
Episode as a GIF:
Get In That Ass: “We cut the kids a little slack on Halloween,” an incredibly patient cop tells an over-irritated Larry, who’s been egged, TP’d, and dubbed a “bald asshole” by two bratty teens. “There’s kind of a social contract you enter when you open that door. They say trick or treat, I would advise you, give the treat.” Larry didn’t, and he still wouldn’t given a second chance, and so he stands his ground, contending: “I will not be intimidated, even on Halloween.”
Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good: “Trick or Treat” is hilarious for a variety of reasons — ranging from Larry’s dubious fascination with golf attire to his guilty conscience insisting that he’ll be “sitting around” all day out of respect to his wheelchair-bound “friend” — but it really boils down to Larry’s uncanny ability to attract trouble and his fascinating determination to chase trouble. Like any great Curb episode, his rivalries here all stem from the most asinine reasons: Who fights over a goddamn salad? Why would anyone ever get into a heated argument over harmless whistling? Who the hell would deny kids candy on Halloween?
Knowing all this doesn’t matter, though, because there’s something strangely relatable about the way they all get under Larry’s skin. We know Cliff’s overreacting, that Walter belongs in a padded room, and that Elvira is a liar, and that’s why when Larry loses his shit, we’re not shaking our heads, but nodding them. It’s the rare occasion where LD’s in the right, even if he admittedly winds up being a total schmuck to all parties involved. But by then, you’re whistling Wagner with him. What? Wanna check my penis?
— Michael Roffman