Larry David and J.B. Smoove in a Season 12 episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
My husband and I were having dinner at a local BYOB when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned toward the table behind me, where two couples were seated.
A woman asked, “Would it be OK if we shared your ice bucket? The restaurant is running short.”
I looked at the freestanding ice bucket positioned between our tables, where the rest of the Sauvignon Blanc we’d brought from home was chilling.
“Sure,” I said.
The woman slid her bottle into the ice next to ours.
When I turned back to my husband, I said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we drank their wine, and it was more expensive?”
He laughed and said, “I could see this on ‘Curb.’”
That’s all it took. We started spinning an entire scene from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” out of a random moment in a restaurant.
For the uninitiated, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is an HBO sitcom created by and starring Larry David, who famously co-created, wrote and executive-produced “Seinfeld.” On “Curb,” Larry plays a version of himself that amplifies his worst traits, from his blistering, unfiltered remarks to his cranky intolerance for humanity.
For the next 10 minutes, my husband and I riffed off one another, putting Larry and other recurring characters into an imaginary situation that escalated from uncomfortable to chaotic.
Larry David in a Season 12 episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
Larry is talked into bringing a rare bottle of wine to a BYOB.
It was a gift from Martin Scorsese, from his private collection. Larry’s been saving it…
But Susie shames him into bringing it. “What’s the matter, Larry? We’re not good enough for your precious wine? F**k you.”
Jeff and Susie, Larry, and a date he’s trying to impress sit down for dinner at a fancy restaurant. A stranger at the next table asks if they can share their ice bucket. It’s obvious Larry wants nothing to do with this guy, he’s a real schlub…
But his date starts to answer yes, so he goes along with it. You can see on his face that he already regrets it.
All during the meal, the guy at the other table keeps reaching back and grabbing a bottle from the ice bucket without looking.
He’s one of those loud guys who has to entertain everyone at his table.
Larry can’t see what the guy’s doing, but every time he raises his voice it annoys Larry and distracts him from his date. Now she’s upset, and since Susie fixed them up, she keeps scowling at Larry.
Meanwhile, the other guy keeps pouring from Larry’s expensive bottle until it’s empty.
When Larry notices and confronts the guy, he shrugs it off and says, “Here, just take ours.”
Larry looks at the bottle like the guy’s just handed him a snake. It’s a really cheap brand, like Barefoot.
My husband and I have been married for over 30 years. Doing comedy improv is our way of making the mundane fun. Our impromptu scene not only entertained us at dinner, but engaging in lively banter and cracking jokes set the stage for an enjoyable night.
Like “Seinfeld,” the genius of “Curb” is its focus on the minutiae. If “Seinfeld” was a show about nothing, “Curb” is a show about life’s tiny annoyances — the kind that burrow like a splinter in your brain and are impossible to ignore.
What’s unique about “Curb” is that the show is largely unscripted. Storylines are written, but the dialogue is improvised, giving it a spontaneity and sense of reality, even as it spirals into the preposterous.
My husband and I have loved “Curb” since stumbling upon it early in its nearly 24-year run (the show’s 12th and final season starts Feb. 4). Larry’s cringe-inducing interactions, self-sabotaging impulses and neuroses are hilarious.
If ‘Seinfeld’ was a show about nothing, ‘Curb’ is a show about life’s tiny annoyances — the kind that burrow like a splinter in your brain and are impossible to ignore.
Being wealthy and successful gives Larry license to act like an a**hole; despite his privilege, his POV is that of an outsider. He frequently questions societal conventions and calls out the mind-boggling hypocrisy most of us grudgingly accept as normal. His outspokenness appeals to the part of me that longs to speak up but shrinks from confrontation. Especially these days, when a casual comment can ignite instant backlash, destroy your reputation, or place a target on your back.
“Curb” boldly pokes fun at everything; no subject is taboo. Some may find that offensive, but in my family, humor is a tool for survival.
The ability to joke during the darkest of times has undoubtedly buffered my husband and me against stressors that would have crushed other marriages. Our shared sense of humor was an essential coping mechanism while raising a daughter with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic illness. Happily, she also inherited a quick wit and appreciation for satire.
Laughter is the circuit breaker that keeps arguments from overheating and allows us to exhale when we’re anxious or tense. Making each other laugh helps us feel more connected, too, which leads to deeper conversations in the afterglow.
We’re also drawn to the escapism “Curb’s” brand of humor offers. Watching edgy comedies as a family helped all three of us get through medical treatments, hospital admissions and the pandemic lockdown.
In a way, our playful shtick is its own form of mindfulness. Sure, when we’re off creating scenes in our make-believe writers’ room, we’re not being mindful of the present moment. But our comedic detours are only made possible by paying attention — by noticing the awkward, petty, ridiculous moments that happen to all of us and unite us as humans.
We could let those experiences get under our skin or choose to laugh them off. Perhaps improv is simply our way of taking back control, of writing our own story.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” may be entering its final season, but its cultural impact will live on, especially in my household. Inspired by “Curb,” my husband and I will continue to observe life through a lens of absurdity, and for a few blissful minutes, make the problems of the world recede.