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Curb Your Enthusiasm (#110 of 5)

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap Season 9, Episode 4, “Running with the Bulls”

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Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 4, “Running with the Bulls”

John P. Johnson/HBO

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 4, “Running with the Bulls”

Throughout its original eight-season run, Curb Your Enthusiasm questioned the limits of political correctness and offended nearly every group in the process. In doing so, the series produced some wonderfully uncomfortable (and impossibly funny) television. “Running with the Bulls,” though, is what happens when Curb's inherently problematic humor fails.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap Season 9, Episode 3, “A Disturbance in the Kitchen”

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Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 3, “A Disturbance in the Kitchen”

John P. Johnson/HBO

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 3, “A Disturbance in the Kitchen”

In the season-seven finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld pick apart the phrase “having said that.” “You say what you really want to say,” notes Larry, “and then you negate it.” To which Jerry adds, “You win either way.” The exchange may seem like a simple semantic criticism, but it's a fitting turn of phrase for the inhabitants of the Curb universe, for whom bluntness and approval-seeking are coincident, often contradictory traits.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap Season 9, Episode 2, “The Pickle Gambit”

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Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 2, “The Pickle Gambit”

HBO

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 2, “The Pickle Gambit”

“You're doing too much,” Leon (J.B. Smoove) says in “The Pickle Gambit,” tonight's episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. He's speaking to Kenny Funkhouser (Niall Cunningham), nephew of Marty (Bob Einstein), straight-A student, all-American pitcher, and “jewel of the Funkhouser family tree.” If his SAT performance goes well, Marty gloats, he'll be off to Stanford with a full scholarship. Kenny may have a lot on his plate, but his hard work seems to be serving him well—even if he hasn't, Leon presumes, “ever seen a titty.”

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap Season 9, Episode 1, “Foisted!”

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Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 1, “Foisted!”

John P. Johnson/HBO

Curb Your Enthusiasm Recap: Season 9, Episode 1, “Foisted!”

In the uncharacteristically elaborate opening of “Foisted!,” the first new episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in six years, the camera flies over an upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles, past manicured, ritzy properties, before swooping into Larry David’s (Larry David) home through an open window. Even if this is a series largely concerned with the lives of a city’s golf-playing, fundraiser-attending upper crust, this aesthetic flourish feels out of place. After all, throughout the show’s first eight seasons, more understated camera work, sometimes shaky handhelds, guided us through gilded milieus. But a polished aerial zoom? To use Curb parlance, what a shanda!

Images of NYC and the Inscription of Louis C.K.

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Images of NYC and the Inscription of Louis C.K.
Images of NYC and the Inscription of Louis C.K.

It can be tricky to describe what distinguishes Louis C.K. from other stand-ups, even from those who specialize in observational, storytelling, confessional comedy. I first heard about him from a friend in the mid-2000s, who related to me the “suck a bag of dicks” routine, where C.K. relates his forensic analysis of a drive-by shouting. The way C.K. spins the recollection (I caught up with the routine on YouTube) into a close reading, drawing concentric circles around the moment of shock in order to reframe it and give it perspective, is a trademark for his work as a comic, and an indication of the way he thinks and dialogues with others. This practice—reframing, always examining, interrogating—occurs again and again both in his routines and on his TV show for FX, Louie. A close relative of the “suck a bag of dicks” bit is a conversation in the “Poker/Divorce” episode when he explains to a poker buddy just what another player meant when he made a crack about the first player’s mother. The crack is dissected and given context, like a Wikipedia article, and the genius of it is, he enhances, rather than mitigates, the absurdity of the original remark.