Home Shows Curb Your Enthusiasm Episodes That Define Its Signature Humor

Curb Your Enthusiasm Episodes That Define Its Signature Humor

While it may have followed Seinfeld as Larry David’s second major TV series, Curb Your Enthusiasm has the most unique voice of any TV series of the modern era. 

While set almost entirely in Los Angeles, Curb has a very New York-centric and Jewish sensibility. And at the center of it all is Larry David, playing a probably-not-that-exaggerated version of himself. 

The show started in October of 1999 as a one-off HBO special, meant to depict the return to stand-up comedy of Larry David, best known at that point as the co-creator of Seinfeld.

He was playing a version of Larry, who is independently wealthy yet seemingly never far from a confrontation about something small. 

It soon became a surprisingly long-running comedy series, as its final season launched in February of 2024, nearly 25 years after that special. 

Curb, as the show is often called, weathered numerous changes throughout its long run, from improvements in the quality of the cinematography to significant shifts in how subscribers watch HBO.

But some things haven’t changed during the run. 

That funny music, the improvised comedy style, and Larry himself, whose on-screen persona has remained the same and will likely always be.

Larry is a caustic, often angry guy who doesn’t behave himself in social situations and doesn’t seem too worried about the feelings of others or the consequences of his actions.

The series has never been afraid to do things and go places where no TV show has ever tread before. 

Among the things Curb has always been uniquely unafraid of making its star unlikable while also taking advantage of his chemistry with certain actors, using guest stars well, and constructing intricate plots. 

Beyond that, Curb may be the first significant comedy series with no concerns about its protagonist appearing highly unlikable. 

Of the more than 100 episodes of Curb that have aired to date, here are the 15 most outstanding examples of its unique style, which never worries that we’ll find Larry loathsome or unreasonable. 

“Trick or Treat” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 2 Episode 3)

Larry may have a reported net worth in the hundreds of millions, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get into a fight over something as meaningless as Halloween candy. 

On Halloween, Larry refuses to give Halloween candy to girls who aren’t in costume (“It doesn’t mean you’re allowed to go to people’s homes and bilk them out of candy.”)

Soon, they vandalize his house and, providing a template for Curb that would last for years, the plots ultimately intersect. 

As in many Curb episodes, this one has Larry doing something that would probably make you think he’s a jerk if someone you knew did it in real life. Most series would be afraid to do it, especially that early in its run. 

“Palestinian Chicken” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 8 Episode 3)

Many series would fear trying to mine comedy from something fraught like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Curb dove headlong into it with a memorable Season 8 plot. 

Larry and Jeff (Jeff Garlin) discover a Palestinian restaurant that serves fantastic chicken. Larry soon embarks on an affair with a woman who works there and invokes the conflict while in bed with him.

Soon, Larry must choose between the Jewish community and his beloved chicken.

Jewish humor is a big part of what Curb is about, and this episode, among many others, showed just how adept David was at leveraging Judaism for comedy. Larry’s then-friend, Alan Dershowitz, even once proposed trying to get the episode to the leaders of Israel and Palestine. 

“Mister Softee” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 8 Episode 9) 

The best of the run of Season 8 episodes that had the characters in New York, this one features a redemptive cameo from Boston Red Sox World Series goat Bill Buckner, buried memories of the titular ice cream truck, and a supporting role from longtime comedy stalwart Robert Smigel.

Smigel, very memorably, plays his part with the same voice as his Triumph the Insult Comic Dog character, another touchstone of the Jewish comedy of the mid-20th century. 

This one showed that whether it was a non-actor like Buckner or a longtime pro like Smigel, Curb can bring just about anyone into its universe and leverage them in hilarious ways. 

“The Anonymous Donor” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 6 Episode 2)

Part of Curb’s genius is that it can find relatable comedy in the problems and activities of the very rich. One of the better examples is this one, in which Larry and his friend Ted Danson donate to an environmental charity.

But while Larry put his name on the wall, Danson donated “anonymously,” even though he told everyone he was doing it.

Their argument would be priceless, even if it didn’t come right in front of Senator Barbara Boxer in one of the series’ better cameos by a non-actor.

This episode made excellent use of Danson, reputedly a nice guy but who has consistently appeared on Curb as a much more smug and irritable version of himself. 

“Krazee-Eyez Killa” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 3 Episode 8) 

This episode, from early in the series run, had Larry interacting with Krazee-Eyez Killa (Chris Williams), a famous rapper who, at the time, was engaged to his friend Wanda Sykes.

Larry gives him lyrical advice, leading to the coining of the catchphrase “Are you my Caucasian,” although the two later end up at odds.

This one finds Larry out of his element with a hip-hop guy when we know he behaves awkwardly enough when he’s in his element. 

“Foisted!” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 Episode 1) 

After Curb went six years without a new episode, it returned in 2017 with an arc involving Larry writing a play about the Iranian Ayatollah’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, which leads to another fatwa against David himself.

Once again, a foreign death decree isn’t often played for comedy, but Larry David found a way. 

But this episode is most memorable for an exchange between Larry and his longtime friend Richard Lewis, who objects when Larry texts him after the death of his parakeet (“Sorry about your bird- the good news is, I’m still alive.”)

Whether it’s a guest star like Martin Short or a cast mainstay like Bob Einstein or Lewis, Curb has always found great moments in Larry arguing with one other person- even if it’s someone who’s his lifelong friend. 

The Grand Opening” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 3 Episode 10)

Many different seasons of Curb set up a year-long arc in which Larry pursues a new business opportunity, and in Season 3, it was a new restaurant that he and his friends had invested in. 

The episode ends with the restaurant hiring a chef who has Tourette’s Syndrome, leading to a final scene in which everyone in the restaurant screams creative curse words at one another.

Being on HBO certainly helped, but having the entire cast yell bad words at each other was something no other TV series had ever attempted. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the restaurant is never mentioned in the series again after this episode, just as most of the projects, from TV pilots to the “spite store,” never come to fruition. 

“Meet the Blacks” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 6 Episode 1) 

The episode introduced the family, with the last name Black, whom Larry and his then-wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) took in after a hurricane, although Leon (JB Smoove) wouldn’t show up until later.

Once again, taking in hurricane refugees is the furthest thing imaginable from a traditional sitcom plot, but Curb pulled it off.  

But the episode is best known when Larry discovers the cake he’s been enjoying had been purchased from an erotic bakery. It’s another of Curb’s trademarks: a plot that builds itself up before paying off gloriously. 

“Beloved Aunt” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 1 Episode 8) 

This is another one that would never work on network TV, especially the language. 

This episode from the first season is built around the worst typo imaginable: Larry submits an obituary to a newspaper for his wife’s aunt, only for the word “aunt” to be misspelled, with a “c” instead of an “a.” (I’m just glad you weren’t in charge of the headstone!”)

Larry and Cheryl have been divorced since relatively early in the run, although Larry’s clashes with her family were a big part of the show in its early days. 

“Shaq” (Season 2 Episode 8) 

Sitcoms have always made frequent use of cameos from sports stars. But Curb did something unique with Shaquille O’Neal, making Larry responsible for his injury. 

Larry ends up drawing the ire of the entire city of Los Angeles when putting his feet out while sitting in Jeff’s courtside seats; he inadvertently causes an injury to Shaq, a Lakers superstar at the time. 

It’s a rare episode when Larry makes things right when he gifts Shaq an entire Seinfeld box set- and gets the team doctor fired for cheating at Scattergories.

It’s another example of the show’s delicate touch with guest stars, even counterintuitive ones. As for Shaq, he proved a compelling on-camera presence, foreshadowing his long TV career to come. 

“The Table Read” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 7 Episode 9)

This is another episode that takes advantage of HBO’s allowance for dirty words. 

This is from the season when the Seinfeld cast reunited. Its most famous moment is undoubtedly when Larry’s friend Marty Funkhauser (Bob Einstein) has a chance to meet Jerry Seinfeld and tells him a long, filthy joke.

The clip of the joke was shared very widely after Einstein died in 2019 and was funny on multiple levels: The joke itself, the idea that Marty is meeting a famous comedian and telling him THAT joke, and Larry’s exacerbated reaction. 

“Igor, Gregor and Timor” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 11 Episode 9) 

One of the show’s best latter-day episodes, featuring Larry and Jeff trying to do an errand in downtown Los Angeles and having to repeatedly deal with a trio of heavily-accented men, played by Bill Hader, who keep using the word “shplendid.”

Why is “shplendind” so funny? Because that’s how this show rolls.

It’s something else Curb does very well, sketching out an absurd premise and asking the audience to go with it. 

“The Lefty Call” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 6 Episode 4) 

Another one that powerfully uses the native-HBO ability to use foul language.

Probably the best Larry-and-Leon moment of the series is when Leon gives Larry advice on how best to deal with a man who dropped slurs on him.

“You spraypaint ‘Larry was here,'” as well as much more vulgar advice. “That’s how you handle people.” 

“Larry vs. Michael J. Fox” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 Episode 8) 

Not many shows would take the risk of putting its protagonist up against a beloved entertainer like Michael J. Fox, much less one with Parkinson’s Disease. But Curb showed no such hesitation. 

The legendary actor guest-stars as himself, getting into a series of skirmishes with Larry.

The episode also has multiple references to Hitler and swastikas, as well as the flamboyant son of Larry’s girlfriend (Ana Gasteyer).

“The Freak Book” (Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 6 Episode 5) 

This episode highlights the unique, bickering friendship between Larry and Ted and Larry doing a nontraditional job. 

Larry gifts Ted a book called “Mondo Freaks,” which is the source of much humor, even though Larry and Jeff find it much funnier than Ted. Meanwhile, a drunken limo driver (Toby Huss) breaks into Ted’s party (“Happy birthday, Becker!”)

This leads to Larry having to step in and become a limo driver, once again drawing humor from taking him out of his element. 

Stephen Silver is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow more of his work on his Substack The SS Ben Hecht, by Stephen Silver.You can follow him on X.

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