Larry David made one thing clear while attending the Season 12 premiere event of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in Los Angeles Wednesday: He’s “interviewed out,” and sick of being asked why he’s decided to end the HBO comedy — yes, really!
“I’ve been asked that six times,” David told TheWrap when asked the question on everyone’s mind. “I just said I defy you to ask a question that I haven’t been asked yet. And you ask the one question that everybody’s asked.”
David’s response was very much in the vein of the series, which offers an over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek depiction of the writer/producer/comedian’s fictionalized life.
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But “Curb Your Enthusiasm” executive producer Jeff Schaffer offered a more light-hearted response when asked the question in a one-on-one interview with TheWrap ahead of the show’s premiere.
“We decided that this would be the final season because the world has run out of problems. It’s perfect now. I mean, look around! There’s nothing to make fun of,” Schaffer joked. “Maybe the world no longer irks Larry. Maybe now when he screams at people who move slowly on a crosswalk because they’re just on their phone, he’ll do it from a place of love.”
Jokes aside, Schaffer said that in discussions about the upcoming season’s “fun story arc,” it “made sense” to wrap things up given how the story unfolds (but don’t expect spoilers!).
Learning from Larry
Prior to “Curb,” Schaffer worked with David on “Seinfeld” Season 6, and would help carry the show through to its series finale. But before landing a gig on the NBC sitcom, Schaffer and his writing partner Alec Berg started out on a show called “Great Scott!,” starring Tobey Maguire and created by Tom Gammill and Max Pross.
“The show had already been canceled by the time our episode was being filmed. It was supposed to take place at the school but the school set was gone,” Schaffer said. “I don’t even know if that one ever aired.”
The pair would go on to write for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” in New York, but had to finish out a contract in Los Angeles for 13 episodes of “Herman’s Head” before moving across the country to write for O’Brien’s show full-time.
“Tom and Max were then writing on ‘Seinfeld’ and we submitted ideas and didn’t hear anything and ‘Herman’s Head’ got cancelled,” he continued. “We were packing everything up to move to New York and work for Conan full time — the moving truck is coming the next day — and we get a call from Tom and Max saying ‘Larry and Jerry read your stuff. Can you come in and meet with them?’ I remember very distinctly just standing on the phone in a bathrobe going like, ‘Yeah, we’re free.’ And so, we went in and met with Larry and Jerry as they were starting up for Season 6, and the rest is a footnote to history.”
David stepped away from “Seinfeld” after its seventh season, leaving Schaffer and Berg to keep the show going in his absence for two years.
“He taught us everything. How to write, edit, sound mix, all that stuff. And then he left and then we had to do it. He came back for the finale thank goodness.”
Schaffer and Berg kept in touch with Gamill and Pross while they were working with David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and would eventually get hired on the show’s sixth season. Shaffer would go on to direct the series and serve as an executive producer.
Aside from the tradecraft lessons, one of the biggest takeaways Schaffer took from working with David was being “fearless.”
“You can do anything. It’s all in the execution. I know where the line is, because I can look back and see it. And that was because Larry always made a show as if there was no network and honestly if there was no audience. So you just learn to not be afraid of anybody else’s opinion,” Schaffer said. “If you think it’s funny, go do it. That’s been my kind of North Star… you just keep pushing because that’s what makes a great comedy.”
Sticking the Landing
When it comes to what to expect from the HBO comedy’s swan song, Schaffer remained tight-lipped, adding that Larry David “hates spoilers.”
“He wants everyone to be surprised. You can go to bed at night and then you wake up the next morning and you’ve got like a big pimple. You’re like, where did that come from? That’s how he wants the show,” he joked. “He wants the show to just appear like a big pimple on the entertainment forehead, and you don’t know where it came from, you don’t know what it is, but there it is, and you’re stuck with it. You got to deal with it.“
Schaffer admitted that he loves the final season and its star-studded lineup, which includes Jeff Garlin (“The Goldbergs”), Susie Essman (“Broad City”), Cheryl Hines (“Suburgatory”), J.B. Smoove (“Mapleworth Murders”), Richard Lewis (“Anything But Love”), Ted Danson (“The Good Place”), Vince Vaughn (“Wedding Crashers”) and Tracey Ullman (“Tracey Ullman’s Show”). He teased that there are some unannounced guest stars coming that are going to “blow your mind.”
Schaffer, who has experience with audiences having heated debates about his TV finales after working on “Seinfeld,” compared the challenge crafting an ending with that of plotting the arc of an entire season of TV: You’re fighting against the “episodic rhythm” of a show.
“All of our shows are designed to be wrapped up at the end of an episode and ‘Oh, all these storylines come together and that’s a really funny ending.’ But when you’re trying to do the season arc, we have to set up a whole bunch of other stuff that we can’t pay off in the first episode,” he said. “We always say the hardest job we have is setting up season arcs in a show that’s supposed to wrap everything up with a nice bow every episode and that problem or that level of difficulty is magnified by 100 when you’re trying to wrap up a series.”
Still, Schaffer said that he’s “very, very happy with how we pulled off” the series finale, adding that he thinks it “works really well.”
The Legacy of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’
As for Curb’s long-lasting impact on television and the comedy genre, Schaffer says the answer is simple: comedies can be funny.
“I think there are a lot of great shows that are “comedies,” and their agenda is not to make anyone laugh and that’s fine. They’re great shows,” he said. “But I think our No. 1 priority has always been to make the funniest show we can and that in itself has value. I think people are often incorrect about what the show is coming in, because they always say it’s about Larry David’s life and that’s not true.
“The show is about Larry David’s ideas and that’s why the show was so great — because Larry has great f—ing ideas,” he added.
Though it may be the final season, Schaffer has no doubt that it’s not the last anyone will see of David.
“He didn’t go reach around to the back and turn himself off. I think he’s still going to have spirited discussions with the horrible denizens of the west side of Los Angeles,” he said. “So we’ll see.”
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” Season 12 premieres Sunday, Feb. 4, on HBO and Max.
Loree Seitz contributed to this story.
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