My daily routine includes two obsessive consumptions designed to lesson my personal misery: listening to Howard Stern and watching Seinfeld re-runs. When I got a text from my Dad early yesterday morning that Larry David would be appearing on the Stern Show for the first time, my day instantly became a lot less miserable. Much how George told a woman in an episode that he longed for her, I had longed for a sit down between my two favorite Jewish neurotics.
Yesterday was a Festivus miracle.
Prior to the interview, no doubt in honor of the day?s distinguished guest, Stern Show music and sound effects maven, Fred Norris, cued up the Rolling Stones song, Beast of Burden. As Mick Jaggar rolled off ?put me out of misery,? I scrambled for a pen and paper to take notes, for I knew I would end up writing a piece about this landmark moment. I ended up listening to the interview twice. You can do that on satellite radio. Stern admitted, ?People have been telling me for years I have to have Larry on.? Larry confirmed he?s also been asked by many, ?When are you going to do Stern??
In case you?re still trapped on terrestrial radio, I now present an unscientific review of the greatest ?get? of 2015, and quite possibly, Stern Show history. With all due respect to the Seinfeld rule, I can?t promise no lessons will be learned. Nearly everything that came out of Howard and Larry?s mouths today was gold Jerry.
On the surface, Howard and Larry appear to have a lot in common, which is why so many of each?s friends have wondered why the two have yet to become bosom buddies. Larry quickly provided a reason, ?We?re both deep down despicable people. Two miseries.? When Howard prodded him further about his unhappiness, Larry recounted, ?Not true. I have a pretty good disposition.?
Pretty pretty good.
While both were born and raised in New York, Howard on Long Island, and Larry in Brooklyn, their paths to success could not have been more different. Howard?s father was in radio. Howard decided early on, he wanted to be in radio too. He steadily climbed the proverbial ladder to ?make it.? He went to college to become a broadcaster?and that?s why he moved from Boston to Hartford to Detroit to DC and eventually, to New York City. On the other hand, Larry?s father provided no such organized path to follow. According to Larry, ?My parents never talked about the future.? His mother just wanted him to have a job, any job, ?a place to go? as she put it. She did have an idea one such place could be the post office. She thought Larry would make a good postal worker.
With little to no ambition, Larry found himself four years out of college driving a ?fucking limousine? for a living. On a whim, he decides to take an acting class. Howard surmised, ?And that was encouraging to you?? to which Larry replied, ?No. Not for acting.? As Larry tells it, ?I didn?t like waiting to talk.? After all, Larry David is a man who needs to be heard. What did happen in class, during one particular exercise, Larry received some unexpected laughs- and for him, ?That was it.? With that settled, Larry left his chauffeur?s hat behind for good, until re-enacting the real life role on a future Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. However, the limo driving, along with a stint as a cab driver, did eventually pay off for Larry in another way. He told Howard, ?It?s (driving) the only thing in life I have any confidence in my ability. I?m a fantastic driver.? Makes sense why George was such a great parallel parker.
Buoyed by these new found laughs, Larry thought he?d give stand-up a try. What he discovered was ?the audience is not your friend.? That experience turned into a nightmare. ?People would gong you. They?d do an oral gong? in reference to the infamous 70?s TV talent show, The Gong Show. By the way, Larry declined an invite to perform on the actual Gong show. Larry?s highlight as a stand-up was the legendary night he walked off stage at Catch a Rising Star in New York City. From the stage, microphone in hand, he took one look at the crowd and said, ?Eh, I don?t think so.? He left the stage without ushering another word. The audience didn?t get it ? other comics loved it.
Unlike Howard, Larry had little problems making friends with his fellow showbiz performers. Howard never felt like he fit in anywhere. Larry seemed to fit in everywhere- aside from the military of course. The New York comedy club scene is where Larry met Jerry Seinfeld, and re-connected with his 13-year old camp nemesis, Richard Lewis. Larry and Richard remain very close today, as Lewis has guested on Curb (and Stern) many times. And when it comes to sharing the bill, David admits, ?Lewis is very generous with his friends.? And Larry still hangs out with Jerry too. The two are set for lunch Sunday in the city. No word on who?s paying.
From a failed stand-up life, David went onto write and appear (even Larry would agree ?star? is too strong a word) on the show Fridays where he was known as ?everyone?s pal.? (Larry appears :45 seconds in).
The show?s also where he met the brilliant Michael Richards, who would later become Kramer.
Howard likened Larry?s path to the ?Wizard of Oz? in how he kept meeting the ?right people? along the way.
Next up for Larry was the season as a writer for Saturday Night Live. SNL is where Larry cemented his comic lore. After one of his sketches was rejected for the upteenth time at the last minute by, then producer, Dick Ebersol, David went on a particularly emphatic rant. Larry told Howard, five minutes before showtime he walked right up to Ebersol and shouted in front of the entire crew, ?THIS FUCKING SHOW STINKS! IT STINKS! IT?S SHIT! I?M DONE! I?M GONE! FUCK THIS! I?M OUT!?
And Larry, just like that night at Catch, left the stage.
As Larry tells the story, by the time he got home, he was in a full on state of regret and panic. ?What had I done?? he anxiously pondered. His neighbor, Kenny Kramer, the inspiration for Seinfeld?s Cosmo Kramer, suggested he just go back to work on Monday, and show up like nothing happened. And that?s exactly what Larry did. Ebersol never recalled Larry?s meltdown and Larry resumed his writing gig. Just like that. He?d later re-enact the experience in Seinfeld with George. While SNL did not work out much longer after that for Larry, he once again met another key character on his yellow brick road- the incomparable Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who?d later become Elaine, was a cast regular.
By the time NBC knocked on Jerry?s door for the series, unbeknownst to Larry, nearly all of his pieces were in place. Even though Larry?s only previous attempt at creating a TV show was writing a pilot with Gilbert Gottfried for HBO, Jerry wanted his help. Larry told Howard that Jerry loved a film script he wrote called ?Prognosis Negative.?
At this point, not a lot of positives were happening in Larry?s world. Every great comic will also tell you there?s nothing inherently funny about happiness. Despite Larry?s self proclaimed ?pretty good disposition,? if it wasn?t for his accompanying doom and gloom negativity, none of this would have been possible.
The only missing piece to the Seinfeld puzzle was ?George.? Larry was not initially familiar with Jason Alexander, but within 10 seconds of seeing his audition tape, he told Jerry, ?That?s the guy.?
After the first 3 episodes of Seinfeld aired, Larry confided to Jerry over lunch, ?I can?t believe they?re letting us do this.? To this day, no one is more surprised at his success than Larry himself, and maybe his Mother. Even after Seinfeld was well established as the #1 show on TV, Larry?s mom would ask him, ?Are they going to keep you? Are you sure they like you?? Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George got engaged and called his parents to tell them. And his mother wondered why someone would love her son enough to marry him.
By most accounts, the crown jewel of Seinfeld had to be the ?masturbation? episode in season 4. Inspired by another of Larry?s real life trials, ?The Contest? was intentionally left off the ?big board? of upcoming episodes in the office. Larry did not want any NBC network executives to know about it in advance. He recalled to Howard, ?I had worked myself into such a lather, that I thought, if they don?t do this show, I?m quitting.?
Of course, by now, we all know dramatic walk-offs and walk-outs are nothing new for Larry- it?s his go to move. George couldn?t go left. Jerry couldn?t go right. Larry could just go.
In true Stern fashion, the King of All Media pressed to uncover more of Larry?s personal masturbatory habits back then, ?Were you a big masturbator?? Larry laughed and said, ?Let?s just say I was a young man and leave it at that.? For the record, Larry did win the actual contest after his buddy ?was done in two days.?
I only wished Howard delved deeper into Larry?s present day sexual escapades. I needed more than just your standard ?yada yada.?
I wanted to know if Larry?s post marital affairs came anywhere near the cavalcade of beautiful women he scored on Curb, post separation. I?m talking about women like Vivica A. Fox, Lucy Lawless, Gina Gershon and the Palestinian.
And what about that Jennifer Lawrence thing?
A bit out of character for Howard not to go there. Perhaps, Howard can address this on Larry?s next visit.
Not too long ago, the two ran into each other while on separate vacations in Mexico. It was Larry who approached Howard, which Howard appreciated. Howard confessed, ?I saw you and knew who you were, but figured you wouldn?t want to talk to me.? Larry dismissed such nonsense. And therein lies perhaps the biggest difference between the two icons. For all their similar quirks and mishegas, Larry is the one who revels in acceptance- while Howard cringes at it.
Ralph Cirella, Howard?s long time friend and stylist, observed on the Stern Wrap-Up Show, ?Howard avoids anything at all costs that makes him miserable, whereas Larry can make the best of things.? Just don?t ask Larry to operate a camera- he doesn?t know how, nor does he care to learn. Meanwhile, Howard?s recently taken up photography as a serious hobby.
While Howard routinely documents his ongoing therapy sessions on air, Larry?s only confessed visit to a shrink came when he was trying to get out of extended duty in the Army Reserves by having a psychiatrist declare him insane. Yes, the Larry David was in the Reserves for a brief period; but, only so he could get out of potentially being drafted and shipped off to Vietnam. ?I wasn?t going to do that (Vietnam) under any circumstances.? However, Larry still had to go through basic training. ?I cried the first night there.? Luckily for Larry, the psychiatrist believed his charade and declared him to be ?stark raving mad and he can?t be in the military.? Before such a revelation, David did manage to last two years in the Reserves where his main responsibility was ?Petroleum storage.? Naturally.
Many of Howard?s probing questions to Larry could?ve easily been directed at himself. Maybe that?s the key to being a masterful interviewer. Ask the questions, you?d want asked of yourself.
Howard: Are you able to enjoy the experience? Your success?
Larry: If only I could be that person.
We know Howard has a difficult time living in the moment. Larry went on to admit there?s not a lot of self-congratulations and that he?s ?nothing special.?
Howard: Who are you trying to impress? Your parents?
Howard frequently talks about constantly trying to prove himself to his parents. Larry seemingly gave up on that one long ago.
Howard: You mean your parents weren?t encouraging?
Larry: That?s an understatement.
Howard: What type of Dad are you?
Larry: I wasn?t getting on the floor playing Barbie. I?m much better at being a father now that they?re teenagers.
Howard: I can?t stand the great Dads. My producer (Gary) is a great Dad. Always doing this and that with his kids, coaching, buh buh buh?.
Larry: The great Dads renounce their lives. They no longer have time to get a cup of coffee with you.
Howard: I can?t stand it.
Larry: Because it makes you feel inadequate.
Howard: Do you worry about being taking advantage of because of all your money?
Larry: I always feel like I?m getting ripped off.
Howard: Are you husband material?
Larry: I?m not husband material. I?m not boyfriend material.
Both are divorced with daughters. Only Howard has remarried thus far.
Howard: Did it kill you to write that divorce check?
Larry: No. It?s more money than I could ever need. My wife put up with me all those years. Let her enjoy it. Besides, my kids will end up getting it anyway.
Howard: Are you still getting Seinfeld royalties?
Larry: Yes. If they want to give it to me, what am I supposed to do?
Call me crazy, but I?ve always thought of Larry David as a rational neurotic. He complains and worries about things that should concern all of us- the only difference with him is that he will actually make a point to point them out directly to you. That?s what made Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm so special. Both shows offered Larry a chance for Larry to be the Larry he aspires to be: open and brutally honest. He?s admitted in other interviews to not exactly being as ?free? as his TV persona. He told Howard he still loves doing Curb and won?t rule out a return, or even a ?Curb movie,? although admits, ?right now, the odds are against it.?
Right now, and the real reason Larry finally sat down with Howard, is his pending foray on Broadway, Fish in the Dark. After friend Lloyd Braun (not to be confused with the Seinfeld character who was Mayor Dinken?s crazy assistant and Frank Costanza?s top computer salesperson) recounted his father?s death and the unpleasant aftermath, Larry?s brain began circling. Howard asked him if the story ?moved? Larry to which Larry responded, ?I wouldn?t say moved, as much as I thought, this could be a play.? With his engine sparked, Larry began writing as soon as he got home.
For the first time, Larry?s life is now imitating his art, rather than the other way around. In season 4 of Curb, Larry starred in Mel Brooks? The Producers in a story-line that saw Mel hoping Larry would be so terrible, the play would close and he could return to a normal life once again.
Larry?s hoping this is not the case for him and that his new play actually turns out better than Mel Brooks? would be scheme ? which actually backfired on Curb and Larry was a hit. So maybe, he does want it turn out like that. Hmmm.
Howard wondered why Larry would subject himself to such a potentially painful endeavor. He pleaded with Larry, ?What are you doing to yourself? This is going to be your home, your life, for the next 6 months.?
Then again, if this whole acting thing doesn?t work out for Larry, he can always coach the Jets, of whom he?s a ?huge fan.? He informed Howard, ?When I was a kid in the parking lot, I designed really good plays.? He went on to proclaim, ?Teams don?t go for it enough? and ?If I was the defensive coach, no running back would ever catch a ball in the flat.? ?I think, why not me??
Robin Quivers asked Larry, ?Are you a fan of Broadway??
Larry?s response? ?Not really.?
Howard concluded, ?It?s (the opening) either going to be Larry?s greatest day of his life or his worst.?
Larry concurred, ?Probably.?
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Fish in the Dark opens March 5th at the Cort Theater on Broadway. Previews begin February 2nd.