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