By Gabriel Noble
Comedian, writer, actor and producer Larry David has made a career out of saying what you’d really like to say if you just had the chutzpah to say it. Inappropriate, socially awkward and laugh-out-loud hilarious, he has mastered telling a story about — nothing — while touching upon everything under the sun that could go wrong in the social engagements of life. Co-creator of “Seinfeld,” which is considered by TV Guide to be the greatest sitcom of all time, and writer and star of the Emmy Award-winning series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” David, at 67yrs old, is now in his most vulnerable venue yet: Broadway.
He met with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, at the legendary Sardi’s, in the heart of New York’s theater district, to talk about “quitting” “Saturday Night Live,” his fear of “going viral” and his self-penned Broadway play, “Fish in the Dark.”
“Fish in the Dark” was inspired by some entertaining and rather odd experiences that Lloyd Braun, an entertainment executive and David’s close friend, had during a three-day vigil by his father’s hospital bed. When he heard the stories while sitting shiva (a Jewish tradition of mourning) upon his death, David’s twisted creative mind began spinning.“I know it was sick that I was thinking that it was funny,” he tells Couric, “but — it was. And it seemed like, to me, the basis of a play.” To David, writing and starring in a Broadway play was not an obvious choice, considering he had not been in a play since the eighth grade, and the thought of memorizing lines and the inherent Groundhog Day routine of an 18-week theatrical run did not excite him. Furthermore, in stark comparison to the documentary style of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or the quick cuts of “Seinfeld,” in “Fish in the Dark” improvisation is not allowed — “under no circumstances,” Tony-winning director Anna Shapiro sternly reminded David. Even after his play exceeded box office projections during its preview run and is the hottest ticket on Broadway when it opens officially on March 2nd, David remains skeptical of his involvement, lamenting, “I don’t know what I thought I was getting myself into.”
In his childhood, David recalls, “my mom wanted me to be a mailman. She had such confidence in me.” Instead, he did stints as a bra salesman, a television repairman and a private chauffeur for a blind woman. “I cannot say enough about having a blind employer. You can get away with murder,” David recalls with his trademark smirk on his face. He soon began trying his luck as a comic and garnered a reputation for being volatile, going into tirades laced with profanities aimed at the audience if they were not paying attention, and even walking off the stage and leaving if the crowd was “not right.”
His stint as a writer on “Saturday Night Live” in 1984 was short-lived, due to “creative differences” with the producer, and he got only one sketch on the air before he quit because of the work schedule, which called for staying up all night to write sketches. “I quit on Saturday night — five minutes before air — and then came back on Monday, pretended it never happened. Business as usual.” Like many of his true-life experiences, this one lent itself to an episode of “Seinfeld,” called “The Revenge,” in which George Costanza tries to slyly return to work after quitting the previous week. Invited back to celebrate “SNL’s” 40th anniversary, David shared a bit with Seinfeld about his time working there and how he went on to create the “biggest show of all time.
Meeting Jerry Seinfeld in the late 1980s as a young comic and writer changed his life. After nine uber-successful seasons, “Seinfeld” finally came to an end, but David was not ready to retire. He and a friend, Jeff Garlin, came up with an unscripted mockumentary about David’s life and career post-“Seinfeld,” incorporating fictional scenes and standup. There were no scripts — rather, outlines of scenes that David presented to the actors to improvise from. With a cast including Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, JB Smoove and Garlin, keeping a straight face during takes was not easy. “I’d have to hold up my hand for the cameras not to cut, but to give me a second to compose,” David reminisces to Couric. “Every take I was interrupting with laughter.”
The conversation — as expected with the undisputed champion of tangential tirades and social observations — then moves on to social media, of which David is not a fan. He believes we do not need any more connection in our daily lives — rather, more disconnection.
Reveling in David’s ability to riff on just about anything and turn it into something witty and (at times) socially inappropriate, Couric proceeds to ask him four questions about his personal life. Invited to explain his idea of a “perfect day,” David responds, “This is what ‘the’ Katie Couric is asking me? You should be fired for asking that question!” and then erupts into laughter before giving a very detailed account of how that day would look. It is only when she asks about what his last meal would be if he were on death row that David’s eyes light up and he assures Couric, “That was an excellent question — you have redeemed yourself! I think about this one often.”
Just as the producer of “Fish in the Dark,” Scott Rudin, would not let Couric, or anyone else from the press, see the play before conducting an interview with David in order to maintain a level of surprise for audiences, it is best to wrap up this blog before exposing any more laugh-out-loud moments of their conversation. And if you are unable to catch the theatrical run of the play, which opens March 2 at the Cort Theater in Manhattan, rest assured that you are in good company with Couric and David at the bar at Sardi’s, talking about nothing.
Watch: Katie Couric swig whiskey with Larry David