Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
July 2, 1947
1980s - Present
Currently Known For:
Comedian, Writer, Actor, Director, Playwright, and Television Producer
Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld (Co-Creator)
“Women love a self-confident bald man.” Better known for his work behind the scenes than in front of the camera, Larry David is a comedian, writer, actor, director, playwright and television producer best known for his work alongside Jerry Seinfeld in creating the award-winning television sitcom, Seinfeld. Serving as the show’s head writer and executive producer from 1989 to 1997, David took home a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1993 for Seinfeld and returned to television in a big way seven years later with his next project, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Over the last 17 years, David has enjoyed stellar success with his second series and is now working on Curb Your Enthusiasm’s highly anticipated 10th season. So, how exactly did the former stand-up comedian make the transition from the stage to primetime television? Let’s find out!
Finding His Footing: Larry David’s Early Life
The son of a men’s clothing manufacturer and his wife, Lawrence Gene David was born on July 2, 1947 in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in a Jewish family, David enjoy a quiet and happy childhood in the suburb of Sheepshead Bay where he attended high school and later graduated in 1965. “I grew up in Brooklyn… I lived right under the Belt Parkway and there were four buildings, which was my little universe. My friends—my five, six, seven, eight friends—we all lived in this building,” David recalled. “And it was a very happy childhood as far as I can remember. We played sports all the time, walked to school, came home from school, played ball in the winter. We’d play basketball in freezing temperatures and every possible moment—we would invent games… And my aunt and uncle and my cousins were right next door. My grandmother, my uncle, and my cousin were on the third floor so there was no privacy. People were running in and out of the house all the time. Everybody knew your business.”
After high school, David enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park where he joined the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity and pursued his degree in history. Without any real plans for the future, David was simply studying to get by when he discovered his natural knack for comedy, which led him to try his hand at stand-up after college when he enlisted in the United States Army Reserve. “I don’t remember having any ambitions, any goals, any dreams,” David said of his future. “It was always, ‘How am I going to get by? What am I going to do?’ But I didn’t really, to be honest, I didn’t really give it much thought. Even in college… I was having fun and basically when people asked me what I was going to do, I just said, ‘Oh, something will turn up. What that was, I had no idea…’”
While his mother wanted him to be a mailman and enjoy the perks of job security and a pension, David ventured in another direction and took odd jobs as a historian, store clerk, and limo driver while living in the Hell’s Kitchen housing complex in Manhattan. At the time, his neighbor was standup comedian Kenny Kramer, who later inspired Cosmo Kramer in Seinfeld. However, it wasn’t until David’s friends suggested he try his hand at stand-up that he ever considered a career in comedy.
“I went to the Improv, the Improvisation, to watch a show,” David recalled. “And as I’m watching the show, I’m starting to think… maybe I could do this… I go up to the owner of the club, Budd Friedman, and I say, ‘I’d like to go on.’ Now, I’m just sitting in the audience on a Saturday night. I leave my seat and I go talk to the owner… and this is probably the most insane thing I’ve ever done in my life. And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I’m just sitting in the audience.’ He said, ‘No, you can’t. You can’t go on. Are you a comedian? You have to audition and then if you pass the audition, then you could start going on…’ So, thank God he said no because had he said yes, and I had gone up, it would have been a disaster and I may have never walked up on the stage again for the rest of my life.”
While David didn’t go on stage that night, he went home and started working on his act. He tried it out in the village at Gerde’s Folk City for the first time and, a week later, did his routine at Gil Hodges Bowling Alley in Brooklyn. He was then booked at Catch a Rising Star and later caught his first big break in 1980 when he was hired as a writer and a cast member on ABC’s newest series, Fridays. Spending two years on the show, he then made his way over to NBC where he was hired as a writer on Saturday Night Live from 1984 to 1985. Because only one of his sketches made it on the air, David quit SNL after the first season but had already made plenty of new contacts that would shape his next career move after working with Michael Richards on Fridays and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael McKean on SNL.
Sticking to His Guns: The Makings of Seinfeld
In 1989, David and comedian Jerry Seinfeld teamed up to create a pilot for NBC called, The Seinfeld Chronicles, which later became one of the most successful shows in history—Seinfeld. NBC picked up the pilot with Jerry Seinfeld as the star of the show alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes, Jason Alexander as George Costanza, and Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer. But, even then, it wasn’t exactly easy to get NBC to appreciate David’s style of comedy or the series itself.
“I remember when there was some interference from NBC with Seinfeld when we first started doing it,” David said. “And fortunately, I didn’t have a family at the time. So, it was very easy for me to say to them, ‘No, I’m quitting; I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to do that, and I can’t do it.’ For me, it wasn’t a big deal to just pack up and go home. Like I said, I didn’t have a family… But NBC hated that show. They didn’t even want to air it. And you know, there was a big meeting about the kind of shows they liked and the kind of shows they didn’t like… So, I just thought that I would quit. But then I learned another lesson—that when you say no, you invariably get your way. And it’s a wonderful feeling.”
David stuck to his vision and won the compromise as he took the helm as the show’s lead writer and executive producer, both of which put him behind the scenes and as far away from the spotlight as possible. Luckily for him, that’s exactly where David wanted to be as he put together an ensemble cast including Jason Alexander as George Costanza, a loosely based version of David himself. “We auditioned a number of people to play George and hadn’t really found anyone. And then this tape was sent in from New York and Jerry and I watched it. It was Jason auditioning in New York with a casting director—reading with a casting director, just sitting on a stool,” David said. “I heard ten seconds, and I went, ‘Oh boy, there he is. This guy—this is the guy.’ And I never had to say one word to him about the character or anything like that. He just had it right from the beginning. He was great. What a fantastic actor—gave me so many laughs watching him do that.”
With the cast in place, Seinfeld premiered in 1989 and spent the next eight years as one of the most successful sitcoms in television history with TV Guide naming it one of the “50 Greatest Shows of All Time.” David wrote 62 episodes including the 1992 episode, “The Contest,” that earned him a Primetime Emmy Award and was ranked as one of the “Top 100 Episodes of All Time.” Then, a year after Seinfeld went off the air in 1997, it was picked up on syndication earning David a cool $250 million from the deal and a total of $1.7 billion in its entirety.
Life after Seinfeld: Learning to Curb His Enthusiasm
Two years after Seinfeld went off the air, David returned to primetime in a one-hour HBO special and mockumentary titled Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm. The special generated such high ratings that HBO extended it into a regular series with David playing a fictionalized version of himself alongside his on-screen wife, Cheryl Hines, his on-screen manager, Jeff Garlin, and Garlin’s wife, Susie Essman. The series follows David’s life as a semi-retired television writer and producer and addresses a variety of topics like David’s incredible success on Seinfeld, various awkward situations and his annoyance with the general public, as well as his massive fortune.
With David’s name on the project, Curb Your Enthusiasm became one of HBO’s top-ranked programs over the next eight seasons as it earned widespread critical praise. In 2002, the show won a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series to add to its 38 Primetime Emmy Award nominations. As for David himself, he’s earned three Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actor in a Television Series as well as six Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor.
Despite the show’s incredible success, David did the unthinkable in 2011 when Curb Your Enthusiasm ended its eighth season and went on an indefinite hiatus leaving audiences begging for more. David, however, didn’t respond until six years later when he debuted the ninth season in October 2017. “I wasn’t into doing it until I decided to do it, I guess,” David said of forcing his fans to wait on the next season. “It’s just whether or not I’m in the mood. There were other things I wanted to. I did a movie—HBO’s Clear History. I did a play—Fish in the Dark. I did some standup, and then I was ready to the do the show again.” Just two months into the show’s ninth season, HBO ordered a 10th season with production starting in 2018.
Outside of his work on Curb Your Enthusiasm, the 71-year-old David wrote and starred in the Broadway play Fish in the Dark and returned to primetime television in 2015 and 2016 when he parodied United States presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live. “I have to say, I didn’t have to put a lot of work into that impression,” David admitted. “It’s not like I studied tapes or anything. He does talk exactly like my cousin, so I have that voice in my head. I was very surprised and pleased with how many people liked that.” Ironically, a year later, he appeared on the PBS series Finding Your Roots where he discovered that he and the Vermont Senator are actually distant cousins.
Today, David is ranked as one of the greatest comedians of all time, an honor he brushes aside especially since he’s earned the reputation as an insensitive jerk, which he doesn’t entirely mind. “That doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m actually quite happy about it,” he says. “I’m way closer to being the guy on Curb than the guy who’s talking to you right now.” Of course, his family might disagree—after all, he’s the proud and adoring father to daughters Cazzie Laurel and Romy March, whom he shares custody with his ex-wife, activist, blogger and producer Laurie Lennard.