“All the vulgarities that come out of my mouth belong to me” – behind the scenes of the last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The highly influential comedy series of the 21st century, Curb Your Enthusiasm, will be ending with its 12th and final season. Tonight marks the premiere of the first episode, which will kick off a 10-week run and bring closure to Larry David’s groundbreaking improvised show. As a series that often teeters on the edge of killing off its main character, the prospect of a definitive conclusion sounds quite foreboding. How conclusive will this finale truly be?
“I want to make it clear that none of us die,” states Susie Essman during a video call from her hotel room in Los Angeles, where she is getting ready for the season premiere. She is well-informed about this fact, as any long-running show like Curb will inevitably have a changing cast. Some actors, like Bob Einstein, have passed away during the show’s run, while others, like Wanda Sykes, have left and never returned. Recent seasons have featured guest appearances from notable names like Vince Vaughn and Tracy Ullman. However, Essman and Jeff Garlin have been part of the show since the very beginning. Playing the Greenes – with Garlin as Larry David’s manager and Essman as his explosively foul-mouthed wife – the two are essential pieces of the Curb puzzle. Aside from Larry David himself, there is no one with a greater understanding of the show.
Essman and Garlin are accustomed to answering inquiries regarding Curb. Recently, one question has been more prominent than the rest: is this truly the conclusion of Curb Your Enthusiasm? This is not uncharted territory for us. David has previously declared the end of each season, claiming he has no intentions of continuing. However, after the 2011 season, he took a six-year hiatus to pursue other projects – a movie and a Broadway play – before coming back. So can we definitively say that this is truly the final farewell?
Garlin believes that the idea of this being the final season has been exaggerated. He points out that the phrase “The Final Season” is used on every advertisement, but in all of Curb, Larry David has never directly stated that the show is ending. However, this year he did. He made it clear that he will not be continuing with the show. So that’s the truth? Garlin states that even if there was an offer to make a Curb movie, he doubts he would be involved. He feels that the show has reached its conclusion and he is content with that.
In the final episode, no characters die, leaving some hope for a possible return. Essman admits that it is a possibility, but personally feels that the story has come to a satisfying conclusion. However, in 2011, she did not feel this way when the show initially ended. She was deeply saddened and even experienced depression after learning the news from Larry. This time around, she and Larry have discussed the end of the show at length, so she was aware that it would be the final season. She has been mentally preparing for it to end for about a year and a half, so it is not a surprise for her.
The actual events of the final season are shrouded in secrecy – Essman reveals that they’re a week away from doing reshoots of the finale, so even she doesn’t know the finer details of the show’s conclusion – but on the basis of the first episode, it’s business as usual. Social norms are breached, deliberately and accidentally. Restaurant etiquette is discussed at length. The act of butt dialling is given its own weighty subplot. Everyone’s a quarter of a century older than when the show started, but Curb remains firmly in its groove.
However, at the moment, this is a time for reflection as much as it is for looking ahead. Despite David’s impressive role as the co-creator of Seinfeld, Essman maintains that there was never any expectation for Curb to reach the level of success that it did. “I was a day player for many years,” she remembers. “I didn’t have a contract. After each season, Larry would say, ‘That’s it, we’re not doing another one,’ so I never knew if we were coming back. In season two, I was only in two episodes. I never knew if he would write me in or if the show would even continue. It was a very haphazard operation. We didn’t have trailers or dressing rooms. It was more like, ‘I have a barn, let’s put on a show.'”
Garlin and Essman express their satisfaction with the finale, but also acknowledge the exceptional experience Curb Your Enthusiasm has been for them. Essman reflects on the unique opportunity for creative input, explaining that as an actress, she typically receives a script and works with it, but with this show, she is able to write her own lines and fully embrace her character’s vulgar nature. She concludes that there is nothing more fulfilling as a performer than being a part of this type of production.
Garlin says, “I am not a fan of television. However, ‘Curb’ is the only show in my career that brings me joy and I eagerly anticipate working on it. But all the other shows I have been a part of made me feel trapped and it was a terrible feeling.”
The main factor behind Curb’s success is its unique production method, where David and his team create a thorough outline for each episode instead of following a traditional script. This gives the actors the freedom to improvise and adapt their performances in individual scenes as they please. When it first aired, this unconventional approach was groundbreaking. However, many other shows have attempted to replicate the Curb formula with varying degrees of success over the years. In fact, there have been so many imitations that it can be argued that Curb Your Enthusiasm is the most influential comedy series of the 21st century.
Garlin stated that he did not want to reveal specific names, but there are approximately twelve shows that have been accused of copying his show. He specifically mentioned his admiration for Jury Duty, an improvised show that has successfully elevated the format to a new level. Despite many attempts, it is the only show since Curb Your Enthusiasm that Garlin believes has achieved this level of excellence.
Not surprisingly, considering the somber tone of the occasion, Garlin and Essman have chosen to not completely part ways with Curb. As of last week, they have taken on the role of hosts for The History of Curb Your Enthusiasm, an officially sanctioned HBO podcast where they will analyze a new episode every week, beginning with the first one.
“It has been an intriguing experience revisiting the episodes because Jeff and I haven’t had the opportunity to watch them since they originally aired,” Essman explains. “We see our younger selves, I see myself as thinner and Jeff sees himself as heavier. It’s not just the two of us, though. Many of our crew members have been with us since the beginning. We have all witnessed each other getting married, divorced, having children, and becoming grandparents. Over the past 23 years, we have shared a lot of life together, so it’s fascinating to look back and say, ‘Do you remember that day?'”
Garlin adds: “What also is interesting, really terribly interesting, is the friendship between Susie and me. She’s one of my best friends, meaning we disagree. I am very vulnerable with her, and she is not nice about it. I’m an annoyance to her. But I think if you’re a fan of Curb, you will fucking dig the podcast. I really believe that. Maybe I’m wrong.”
Currently, the podcast industry focused on recaps is thriving. Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa were able to secure a book deal for their Sopranos podcast, while the official It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia podcast completely sold out at the Royal Albert Hall last year. However, Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman are not planning on going on tour anytime soon. Despite the podcast being new, they have already recorded over 50 episodes, which means it will be almost a year before they begin addressing listener feedback.
Fortunately, this also means that we will continue to have fresh Curb material for two and a half years beyond the show’s conclusion. The new content will feature a number of notable celebrity appearances, including the show’s creator. “There will be plenty of Larry,” Essman excitedly shares. “He is my absolute favorite person, second only to my husband.”
As we come to a close, Garlin expresses his gratitude, saying: “I want to make it clear that I am thankful for my journey on Curb Your Enthusiasm. I am grateful that we have brought joy to so many people. For me, that’s what truly matters. It’s not about praise, awards, or recognition. It’s about bringing happiness to others. And I want to apologize to all the fans of this show for its ending. But I am grateful for the experience.”
The show Curb Your Enthusiasm will be broadcasted on Sky Comedy at 9pm on Monday, February 5th.