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Article by Stephen Stone
He may have become famous for creating a show about nothing, but when Larry David took the stage at Semel Theater Wednesday night, he certainly had a lot to say.
A packed house of students sat attentively as the “Seinfeld” co-creator and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star spoke with friend and fellow New Yorker Michael Kay – the television voice of the New York Yankees – about his post-graduate life, his struggles breaking into show business and the inspirations behind our favorite Seinfeld and Curb characters and episodes.
Larry’s early to mid-twenties were not unlike your average post-grad. Comedy wasn’t on his horizon and writing and acting in one of the biggest television shows in the world wasn’t in his stratosphere.
“I never really knew what I wanted to do,” he said.
It wasn’t until after he took an acting class and managed to entertain classmates with comedic antics what Larry decided to try his luck in comedy. What happened next was stuff of legend and helped him and Jerry Seinfeld change television history.
Larry detailed the first days of Seinfeld and while much of the tale is well known – Seinfeld was a show about how a stand-up comedian got his material – but much of what he shared was news to me. I was surprised to learn how much of Larry David’s life was directly displayed on the screen. There was the time he loudly quit his job as a Saturday Night Live writer, realized he made a mistake and ultimately followed the advice of his friend Kramer (yes, Kramer) to go back to work the following Monday as if nothing had happened. A season two episode of Seinfeld saw the same thing happen to George.
Even the decision to create the show found its way into an episode. Larry described the time he and Jerry walked around a grocery store in the late 1980s and made comments about the food for sale. After the rather mundane experience, he said “This should be the show,” and thus Seinfeld was eventually born. Later, during season four of Seinfeld, a storyline involving Jerry and George trying to get a show about nothing on television began after a conversation about salsa prompted George to say “this should be our show.”
The connection between Larry David and George Costanza is not a secret, but when you listen to him talk you realize there’s much more Larry in George than you initially thought. In fact, the real Larry David is far closer to George Costanza than he is to Curb’s Larry David, a statement he made when asked which character he better resembled.
“I aspire to be that Larry David,” he said, indicating that the brazen character he plays on the hit HBO show is who he would be if he didn’t have to comply with society’s standards.
Overall, the night was informative and compelling, but it was mostly hilarious. And that describes Larry David perfectly. It’s not that he doesn’t understand there are serious issues in the world, he just tries to find the humor in them, even if that humor is dark and twisted.
Students showed up to learn how to become better screen writers and further develop their careers in show business, but they instead learned things like Larry David’s college roommate was the inspiration for Kenny Bania and that Larry actually competed in and won “the contest” long before it was made into a Seinfeld episode (which he revealed was his favorite on the show.)
But maybe that was the point. Larry David observed the people experiences in his life and turned it into gold. His outlook on life and work and the interaction between the two are what inspired his creativity, and that was the biggest lesson I walked away with.
The show ended with a Q+A session and the final question was whether or not we’ll get a new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Larry said he honestly didn’t know, but it seemed as if the idea’s in the pipeline. And even if we don’t see another episode of Curb, we at least got to see Larry David in his purest form – thoughtful, neurotic, but mostly the hilarious character we’ve grown to love.
Emily Conti, Marlo Jappen, Alex Stills and Stephen Stone collectively worked on this project.