"New York, Same Larry," promises the tagline for the eighth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which sees our favorite curmudgeon landing back in his native city and encountering guest stars such as Michael J. Fox and Ricky Gervais. In honor of the show's premiere Sunday, Mr. David spoke with us about taxi patrons versus subway riders, the dearth of bald celebrities (and politicians), and why "Curb" is like an ex-girlfriend.
How was filming in New York different from filming in L.A.?
There were very big crowds watching us film in New York as opposed to L.A., where you can't get one person to stop. In New York, they're very vocal and really tend to be enthusiastic. And in L.A. they're pretty blasé about TV shows filming there, I guess because so many do. Nobody really cares, because they see so much of it.
Why did you want to work with Ricky Gervais?
There was a part that I thought he'd be right for, so I offered it to him. We never write anything just to get a person on the show. Fortunately he was right for this part and it was a great opportunity to work with him and he accepted. And he did a great job.
How do you decide what celebrities play themselves versus made-up characters?
If you look at the history of the show, I'm sure we could unearth the answer. Dustin Hoffman didn't want to play himself on the show, so he played a character that was suited to him. Some actors don't want to play themselves. And other actors are comfortable playing themselves. Of course, when we say "playing themselves" they're not really playing themselves. They're playing themselves like I'm playing myself.
In the season eight trailer, you accuse someone of trying to "upstream" you for a cab. What are your other pet peeves when it comes to taxi and subway etiquette?
Well, I don't think there's anything more egregious than the upstreaming. That's the worst... when you're standing in a spot and then somebody moves ahead of you, up to where the cabs are closer. But it's done all the time. The etiquette on the subways is pretty good. Usually the people trying to get on don't shove their way past the people trying to get off... they step aside. I'm pleasantly surprised by the subway etiquette, actually. It's better than the taxi etiquette. There is no taxi etiquette.
If you found out you had Groat's syndrome [the fictional disorder that afflicted Michael Richards last season] and had one day to live, how would you spend it?
Yelling and screaming, how else could I spend it? I'm not going to have any fun, if that's what you're getting at. I'm not going to do anything enjoyable. I'd be too nervous and scared. I'd just be crying and weeping and screaming. That's how I'm going to spend it -- on the floor, in the fetal position.
In the episode "The Seder" [season five], Larry was concerned that a follically-challenged sex offender was "very bad for the bald community." Who, in your opinion, is good for the bald community?
I'm not the president of Hair Club for Men. I'm not president of the bald celebrity league. I don't even know who the bald celebrities are. It used to be Telly Savalas and Gavin MacLeod. Who else is there? Mikhail Gorbachev is bald... Joey Pants... there's not that many of them. I mean, we always welcome new members with open arms. Most actors don't let themselves get bald. They get transplants or weaves or something. When's the last time you saw a bald president? There'll be a woman and a Jewish president and maybe even a Muslim president before a bald president. That's my prediction: There'll be a Muslim president before a bald president.
There are times when Larry has seemingly altruistic motives -- bringing the limo driver dinner, for example -- and others when he seems to be doing it for show, such as when he's worried that Jason Alexander left a bigger tip. Does Larry genuinely care about people?
Whatever will get the biggest laugh is what we'll have him do. Whatever works for our story is how we'll manipulate the character. I do think he's a lot nicer than people give him credit for. Or, rather I am. I like the example you cited. I got the guy a plate of food. Exactly. I think that's the true Larry. But back to Jason Alexander, that wasn't an example of Larry being mean. I think he was being smart. He wanted to split the tip. I think he was right to do that. When you split a check, you should also leave the same tip.
What percentage of Larry's views on etiquette on the show do you agree with?
What's something that people are surprised to find out about you?
That I don't use a computer. Well, they're not really surprised to find that out. They wouldn't be surprised to find out that I don't care for bicycles, and hiking and fishing, and boating and water skiing, and snow skiing. I think they would be surprised to find out that I actually can ride horses.
Your show revolves around a small group of very good friends. Who is your best friend?
What am I, 14 years old? I have a couple of very good acquaintances. I could name my best acquaintance.
If you were interviewing yourself, what's the one question you'd ask Larry David?
That's the one question I wouldn't ask Larry David.
Susie Essman recently said that after every season you say "That's it." Why is your gut reaction to end it, and what keeps you coming back?
I get intimidated by the prospect of trying to come up with 10 good shows. And after you go through a season, you want to get away from it for a while. You can't quite see yourself doing it again because of how difficult it was. But then usually after I'm away for a while, it's like an ex-girlfriend... when you break up with them you start to miss them. You forget the reason you even broke up with them. And then you go back and go, "oh, that's why." So that's what happens with the show. I start to miss it like the ex-girlfriend. I don't know why I ever wanted not to go back with it. And then I go back, and go, "oh, that was a mistake."