Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

Photo: Curb Your Enthusiasm-Source HBO.jpg

There are fewer names bigger in the world of comedy than Larry David. Co-creator of the seismically popular, landmark series “Seinfeld” (1989) and creator of the ongoing, critically-acclaimed “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (2000), the comedian has been an industry tastemaker for well over two decades now. For all his greatness, it seems David may be giving us his curtain call at the age of 76. The newest and ongoing season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” has been promoted as the final season of the show, ending a storied and beloved 24-year run. In the final season of his raunchy, incisively clever comedy, how has David’s writing evolved, and what remains the same? 

The evolution of not only “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but the body of David’s work as a comedic screenwriter is a fascinating one to follow. “Seinfeld” was not a show that ever seemed very intent on making any kind of political statement. The boundaries of the show, in so far as the systems under which the characters interact, remain unquestioned and silently accepted. David’s focus remains squarely on the interactions between the main cast and other characters, rather than interactions with larger, societal structures. Jerry and his friends find themselves in socially precarious situations because of their morally dubious characters, and the actions they choose to take of their own accord. This is all to say that the 1990s were a time of relative contentment with American ideals, and as such, not a period of notable upheaval or dissent in the country. Pre-social media, the fabric of American society was not nearly as contentious and angry as it appears to be in 2024. As it pertains to “Seinfeld,” there was simply not much incentive or reason — from a comedic or entertainment standpoint — to lampoon politics. It did not elicit nearly as much emotion as it does in our day, as polarization was not at the fever-pitch levels that we currently see. “Seinfeld” focused on the issues most relatable to its 1990s audience, and David clearly did not see politics as worth the trouble to commentate on at the time. 

Conversely, in the newest season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David has chosen to tackle the subject of modern politics head-on. While some have voiced discontent with this creative decision, it’s easy to see why it was made. In 2024, political discussions and disagreements are very much definitive of the American experience. Social media and populist politics have ensured that every person has at least a few issues that they passionately identify with, and are more than willing to combat others on. Politics are intricately woven into the fabric of American society at this point, an inescapable element of everyday life. This being the case, why wouldn’t David, who has been writing and performing in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for 24 years, point out the elephant in the room? Aside from coming across as invariably tone-deaf, a comedic dissection of the state of America now seems not just important, but necessary. Comedy is one of the most effective tools against hateful and/or antiquated ideologies. When you meet someone with fury, you legitimize and empower them. To laugh at them, though, strips them of their flimsy platform. Comedy is the ultimate weapon against ideas that do not deserve to be entertained or debated. Far-right conservative tendencies are often equated with racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. and bear no foundation in reality, and thus those who promote them deserve mockery rather than debate. While David never makes such statements in particularly aggressive or on-the-nose ways, his style only serves to elevate the comedic value of the people and institutions he is lampooning. The societal norms and taboos that he has always taken such pleasure in toying with have now been inextricably affected by our flaming-hot political atmosphere. It would no longer suffice as an all-encompassing parody of modern America to only satirize classic social conundrums, as entertaining as it may be. Political ideology has deeply affected the way each person lives in the 2020s, and so to engage with political themes from a comedic standpoint is not so much a decision as it is a necessity. This is not to say that David’s political themes are monolithic in his newest season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” All the elements that longtime fans of the show love are still here, just with a more mindful undertone of the society we now live in. 

Art has always been — and always will be — political. To condemn a show for being as such, using the term “political” as a negative identifier, is a fundamental misunderstanding of art’s purpose and why it is created in the first place. Comedy in particular will continue to be one of the most effective ways to poke holes in the status quo, and this is a truth that Larry David is intimately familiar with. It only makes sense that over the course of 24 years, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” would evolve into a show responsive to the society that it intends to satirize. With Larry David’s comedic genius at the helm, this is a season of television that I would recommend to anyone. 

 


Carlo Constantine is a second-year Political Science major. CC1031591@wcupa.edu

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