Larry David revives ‘Curb your Enthusiasm,’ finds Confederate Jewish roots
When “Curb Your Enthusiasm” ended its eighth season in 2011, viewers of the HBO comedy wondered if Larry David had lost his own enthusiasm for the show. But as its return this fall with 10 new episodes affirms, David isn’t ready to abandon the fictionalized version of himself just yet.
“I was missing it, and I was missing these idiots,” he said, referring to the show’s co-stars Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman and J.B. Smoove, as they participated with him in a recent panel discussion for the Television Critics Association. “So I thought, ‘Yeah, what the hell?’ I got tired of people asking me, ‘Is the show coming back?’ I couldn’t face that question anymore. I thought, ‘Now I won’t have to be asked that anymore.’ ”
For the past six years, David had been jotting down ideas for awkward situations he could turn into episodes, but he would not confirm that there would be a ninth season. The next season premieres Oct. 1.
“Larry insists there won’t be another season until he has enough ideas,” said executive producer Jeff Schaffer, who has worked with David since “Seinfeld,” which the latter co-created. “Only after the season is mostly written do we tell anyone that we are doing it.”
David cited the “Producers”-themed storyline in the fourth season as an example. “I wrote the shows before I even asked Mel Brooks if he would let me do it,” he said. “I guess it might have been ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ if he didn’t agree to it.”
This year, guest-starring roles were written for Lauren Graham, Ed Begley Jr., Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Jimmy Kimmel, Nick Offerman, Nasim Pedrad and Elizabeth Perkins, all of whom will appear. Richard Lewis, Bob Einstein, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and Cheryl Hines (as Larry’s ex-wife) will continue to have recurring roles.
Although David wouldn’t divulge any new plots, Schaffer teased that the series “goes to this really strange, fun, crazy place. I can honestly say you will never expect where it ends,” he said.
Questions from the reporters in the audience subsequently turned to David’s spot-on impersonations of presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” during the 2016 campaign. When David’s agent, Ari Emanuel, heard him imitate Sanders on the phone, he immediately phoned “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels and brokered a deal for his client.
Although David hadn’t publicly announced support for any candidate, he declared, “I love Bernie,” noting that he was delighted to learn that he and Sanders, both Ashkenazi Jews, are actually distant cousins — the topic of another show’s season premiere.
In the season-opening episode of the PBS genealogy series “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Oct. 3, genetic tests show that David and Sanders share identical DNA on three chromosomes.
That finding isn’t the most stunning revelation, however. It turns out David’s German paternal great-great-grandfather, Hirsch Bernstein, immigrated to Mobile, Ala., and founded a shoe company there. Bernstein fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War and owned two slaves.
“Larry had had no clue about his Confederate, slave-owning heritage,” Gates said in an interview. “Though he speculates that keeping it secret is part of why his father never told him about the family’s past.
“Nobody could make this stuff up,” Gates added. “The mysteries on your family tree … who knows what you’ll find when you go back 100, 200 years. It’s like opening a secret door.”
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” premieres at 10 p.m. Oct.1 on HBO, and “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” premieres at 8 p.m. Oct. 3 on PBS.