January 17, 2020

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Returns: Producer Previews Season 10

Larry David; Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO

After a two-year break, the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns to HBO for its 10th season on Jan. 19. Per star and creator Larry David, no episodes were made available in advance. But according to writer, director and executive producer Jeff Schaffer, you can expect the usual plethora of awkward situations, misunderstandings and cringeworthy faux pas played for laughs as David’s perpetually annoyed alter ego navigates life in Los Angeles. 

“I can’t tell you much about the season or Larry would kill me,” Schaffer said. “But I’ll say that he has a brisk exchange of ideas with everyone from bathroom attendants to firemen to movie star Clive Owen.” 

One storyline involves a series of predicaments involving a new adversary that Schaffer won’t name. “Sometimes things happen to Larry that require a much more involved interaction, when there’s a mistreatment that just won’t stand,” Schaffer said. “With Larry, it’s eternal optimism coupled with eternal pessimism. He wants people to be good and wants things to work out the right way, and they so rarely do. But he keeps coming back for more, hoping that this time it’s going to be OK.”

In comparison to the previous season, which “had a very big story arc, with the fatwa and the musical, this season we wanted to get back to a more classic ‘Curb,’ ” Schaffer said. “But I can assure you that Larry has learned nothing. Like there are certain strains of bacteria that are resistant to medicine, Larry is resistant to learning. It’s a really funny season. We’re really happy with it.”

Alongside regulars Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, JB Smoove, Richard Lewis and Ted Danson, Richard Kind returns as Larry’s cousin Andy and Kaitlin Olson is back as Cheryl’s sister Becky. Guest stars Vince Vaughn, Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, Abby Jacobson, Mila Kunis, Fred Armisen, Timothy Olyphant and Ed Begley Jr. are among those who “came to play with Larry,” Schaffer said.

He noted “Larry’s Judaism does come into play in a very specific way in the sixth episode of the season. I can’t tell you more without ruining it, but suffice it to say that if Larry weren’t Jewish, this would never have happened.” 

Schaffer has worked with David on and off for 25 years starting with “Seinfeld” and still marvels at his talent. “He’s a comedy genius,” Schaffer said. “One of the most amazing skills he has is that he’s able to act and write at the same time. He’s improvising but you can see him laughing not at what was said but at something he’s about to throw in there. He has an ability to simultaneously stand outside the scene and write it while acting in it, and steer the ship.”

Personality-wise, “Larry is a doll,” Schaffer said. “He’s kind, generous, sweet and sensitive. The difference is TV Larry is the neurotic Spider-Man to real life Larry’s Peter Parker.”

Schaffer also talked about his and writing partner Alec Berg’s first meeting with David and Jerry Seinfeld in 1994, and feeling the intimidating pressure of “two giants staring at you. We pitched the idea of George [Costanza] getting caught eating out of the trash. It was the first episode we wrote.” 

Schaffer, who “didn’t have the diligence” to follow his father and grandfather into medicine, received his comedy education writing for the Harvard Lampoon. In the early ’90s, he moved to Los Angeles, teamed up with Berg and secured gigs including writing for two Fox series that didn’t air, one starring Garlin. Another failure proved more fortuitous. Writing an episode of the quickly canceled sitcom “Great Scott!” led to an invitation from the producers, who had landed at “Seinfeld,” to submit ideas. 

“I can’t tell you much about the season or Larry [David] would kill me. But I’ll say that he has a brisk exchange of ideas with everyone from bathroom attendants to firemen to movie star Clive Owen.” — Jeff Schaffer

By the time David left after “Seinfeld’s” seventh season, Schaffer and Berg were running the show, which, Schaffer said, was daunting. “They built this nice car and we didn’t want to drive it into a lamppost,” he said. When “Seinfeld” signed off, Schaffer took “everything I learned [including] how to edit and sound mix” to “The League,” which he created with his wife, Jackie.

The two have other ideas in development, and Schaffer collaborated with his brother Greg on the forthcoming Netflix series “Brews Brothers,” about siblings who run a Van Nuys brewery. Schaffer also has “Dave,” a series about “a white, neurotic Jewish rapper from suburban Philadelphia,” premiering March 4 on FXX.

Originally from Warren, Ohio, and descended from German Jews on his mother’s side and Romanian Jews on his father’s, Schaffer grew up celebrating the major Jewish holidays but considers himself less religious than his parents. “I feel a very strong connection culturally. I grew up in a world where Judaism was important in terms of the culture, the morality and emphasis on education,” he said, noting that he raises his two young daughters with those principles.

Schaffer, who directed eight of the 10 “Curb” episodes this season, can’t yet confirm there will be an 11th season. “We’re talking about talking about it,” he said. “Larry puts all the ideas he likes into the show and at the end of the season he has none left. He doesn’t think he’ll have any more, so he says, ‘We’re done.’ But then he comes up with an idea and before we know it, we’ve got seven more. That’s how it happens.” 

As far as Schaffer is concerned, there is no shortage of ideas. “Since shooting on the 10th season ended, pages’ worth of stuff has happened that I want to tell,” he said. “Documenting the shortcomings of humanity is a pretty evergreen business.”  

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” premieres Jan. 19 on HBO.