By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
CRITICS LIKE TO STRESS HOW "DARK" Curbis, even going so far as to hang Sartre's sourpuss motto, "Hell is other people," as an existential banner over the show. What they forget is that, even for Larry, other people can be fun too. Though he'd probably agree with the notion that we'd all be better off if we just stayed in our rooms, there's nothing he likes more than getting together, trading insults and joking around. (In fact, it's not clear that he likes anything else, except, perhaps, for sex.) And though almost every episode ends in disaster, for the simple reason that Larry is a one-man universe of bad karma, a human banana peel, almost every episode begins with him in a cheery, upbeat mood, ready to trade quips with Richard Lewis or shoot the breeze with his agent over lunch. He's undoubtedly a very strange person. When he told Cheryl in this season's opener that he was going to invest in a restaurant so he'd have a place to hang out and talk to people, she reminded him that he doesn't actually like talking to people. "I don't like talking to people I know," he corrected her. "Strangers I have no problem with."
It's a classic Larry David line, and I thought of it recently as I was reading an article by Frank Furedi, a British journalist, about the growing trend for solo living in the West. According to a study cited by Furedi, more than 50 percent of households in Munich, Frankfurt and Paris contain just one person. In London, nearly four out of 10 people live alone, as do the same percentage of Swedes. What's more, people have fewer friends and see a "best" friend less frequently than they did just two decades ago (though presumably they stay in touch through the telephone and e-mail).
I don't know the statistics for L.A., but I doubt if they're very different. On Sunday nights, with The Sopranoson at 9 and Curbfollowing immediately after, there are neighborhoods in the city that become so quiet it's as if the entire population has entered a witness-protection program. (By now, The Sopranos must have broken up more Sunday-night gatherings than any television show in history.) Given the choice, most people would rather spend time with fictional characters than with their messy flesh-and-blood counterparts. That may always have been true -- think of those serialized 19th-century novels -- but never before have there been so many fictional characters to choose from.
So who are these people on Curbwhose company we seek out so faithfully? Are they really friends, or do they just talk to each other because, massively self-absorbed though they are, they're in the same business and can't stand their own company allthe time? What the show tells us is that we're all isolated from each other into separate groups, with very little in common. In Larry's world, what unites the Japanese-American with the Anglo- or Jewish-American is that the former is very good at making sushi and the latter likes to eat it. Nor do things get much better within a particular community. "What do I have in common with the Jews?" asked Kafka. "I don't even have anything in common with myself."
Larry David would second that. No one can say what goes on inside that head, and the more he reveals about himself, the less you really know. Which is just how he wants it. When Jeff worries that his wife will talk about his sexual peccadilloes in a nasty divorce settlement, Larry boasts that he's never been so foolish as to confide in his own wife. "I just treat her like an acquaintance," he says of Cheryl. "You think I want her blabbing about me to people? If we got divorced tomorrow, she'd have nothing to say."