There are things people want from Larry David. The show business strivers are looking for professional help — an encouraging word for the low-maintenance types, an actual job for the pushier iterations. Everybody else can be just as needy. They want to tell him about their personal connection with his work. They want a hug.
So when Citi invites its card holders to a special evening with David, last night's "Citi Presents Larry David and David Steinberg in Conversation at the Theatre at Ace Hotel," these people come out in droves to see the Seinfeld co-creator, Curb Your Enthusiasm star and brilliant comedy writer. At the Q-and-A following the conversation, they flock to the microphone to make their demands.
David, a lovable curmudgeon playing a grudging good sport for the evening, gives three hugs. He accepts a letter from someone's dad. He even says happy birthday to someone called Henry at the request of a young woman wielding the video function on her phone.
"What am I saying?" he asks. "Who's Henry?" Told it's the woman's father, he yells, "Happy birthday Henry! Your daughter's obnoxious!" The audience roars.
The evening features David in semi-spontaneous banter with Steinberg, who directed many episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. (Before he was a TV director, Steinberg was a frequent guest host of The Tonight Show, which explains his charming way with a softball question.)
For two silver-haired men doing nothing but talking in a pair of simple chairs on a well-lit stage, the discussion is shockingly interesting. Even David seems to be having a blast, laughing frequently and clearly enjoying the audience adulation. At one point, Steinberg asks about his plans for Curb, which is on hiatus after eight seasons. "I haven't given up the hope," David begins, and the audience erupts.
David seems touched. "If I don't get that kind of feedback, honestly, I wouldn't have thought of [bringing it back] any more," he says. "I actually feel badly I don't have shows for them."
Most of the audience is content to bask in the knowledge that David is basking in their praise. They paid to be here because they want to worship a comedy legend a little bit closer than their screens allow, but they have no intention of taking things to the next level.
And yet .... there are those needy people. They want. As everyone lines up on the sidewalk outside before the show, a kid with a visor and a backpack approaches two strangers: Do they think he'll be able to meet Larry David inside? They're not sure, but he's off and running anyway, listing his three favorite episodes of Curb — "Baptism," "Shaq," "The Doll." They aired back to back to back, he says. "In a lot of ways, Larry David is a comedic genius."
"Oh definitely," says one of the strangers.
The kid reports that someone he knew met David once: "He told him, 'Mr. David, I'm a big fan. And Larry David said, 'OK, what do you want me to do about it?' It was weird and uncool — like the whole show."
Later, when Steinberg and David allow audience members to line up and ask questions, naturally, the kid with the visor gets in line. There are at least three women who seem to think asking David a question is a good way to date him, and of course all those hug-requestors, but the visor kid is the only one shameless enough to ask David to sign his DVD of Season 2 — "my favorite season" — and give him some "fan art." The audience is booing, but David, amazingly, signs the video. "Now get the fuck out of here," he instructs. The kid is in heaven.
Not everyone is content with a simple insult. Toward the end, a pretty young woman with long, taffy-colored hair steps up to the mike. She looks great, but it's clear this question and answer is not going to go well. This, maybe, is the interaction that could inspire an episode of Curb, if things got even more awkward from here. "I want to have a relationship with you," she explains, earnestly. "Whether orthodox or unorthodox. How I can I appeal to you in a way that you will have a conversation with me? How can we talk? How can we have this conversation outside of this little microphone area?"
"You can't," Steinberg answers simply. Next.
And there's the rub.
Citi cardholders can get access to an evening at the Ace Hotel, and there they can watch an engrossing conversation with two TV titans, sort of the best live version of a podcast imaginable. They can breathe the air Larry David is breathing.
But they can never have what they really want. Tickets to the show? $75. A true connection with Larry David? Priceless.
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