16 Best Curb Your Enthusiasm Guest Stars of All Time: Michael J. Fox, Jon Hamm and More
The post 16 Best Curb Your Enthusiasm Guest Stars of All Time: Michael J. Fox, Jon Hamm and More appeared first on Consequence of Sound.
For more than twenty years now (with a few years-long breaks in between), HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm has managed to keep itself centered at the apex of cringe comedy. With his patented blend of selfish grumpiness and bone-to-pick-itude at the everyday rhythms of polite society, creator and star Larry David has managed to keep himself fresh (and not age a day, somehow) in the two decades since.
The key to Curb‘s relentless skewering of Hollywood and LA culture is the cavalcade of cameos from film and TV’s best and brightest, from smaller niche stars finding their footing to major movie stars showing new, selfish sides of themselves.
In anticipation of the show’s eleventh (wow!) season on HBO this Sunday (October 24th), we broke down some of the most gut-busting, norm-breaking cameos in the show’s long history. Sit down with whatever vanilla bullshit drink you fancy, and give it a look.
We can’t start this list without Larry’s nemesis, of course: TV legend Ted Danson. In many ways, he’s the polar opposite of everything Larry David represents: where Larry’s bald, nebbish, and neurotic, Ted is confident, handsome, and rocks a full head of hair (though Danson himself has been open about his wig use for decades). And yet, where he and Larry align is their absolute simmering hatred for each other, even as their respective families hover around each other’s Hollywood orbit.
He’s proved the quintessential Larry David tormentor for many an episode, ever able to position himself as the calm, rational one to Larry’s curmudgeonly bluster. Which, naturally, drives Larry up the wall even more. Here’s to twenty more years of Ted swabbing over birthday gifts, the lengths of shorts, and so much more.
Season 1, Episode 3, “Porno Gil”
Years before he’d slip on the five-dollar loafers and combed-back hair of strip mall lawyer Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Bob Odenkirk stopped by Curb to parlay his blustering improvisational energy as a retired porn actor named Porno Gil. It’s the perfect disruption of the typical dinner-party atmosphere, as Gil treats his guests (including Larry) to completely unprompted “porn stories” about putting Tabasco up his asshole to stay hard during a scene. It’s not often that Larry gets the crown of “most inappropriate person at the party” snatched from him, but Porno Gil is a classic early example of the form.
Season 2, Episode 2, “Thor”
Comedian Wanda Sykes has cropped up on the show several times throughout the seasons as Larry’s neighbor, but her greatest cameo comes in her first appearance in Season 2 — when an offhanded remark about her “tush” sets off a gradually-building avalanche of accusations that Larry has a big ass fetish. For Larry, it’s an innocent remark: “I was just being nice and chummy!” But naturally, it doesn’t sit well with Wanda, who cusses him out the next day: “What’s all that shit on you? What you been doing, scrounging around looking for ass?”
Season 2, Episode 8, “Shaq”
Larry David is a well-known Knicks guy, which means when he accidentally trips Shaquille O’Neal during a Lakers game (courtesy of courtside tickets his manager Jeff got him) and takes him out of commission for what seems like months, Larry earns the ire of all of Los Angeles. But paradoxically, it also serves as a blessing in disguise, since Larry’s persona non grata status gets him out of a heap of things he didn’t want to do in the first place. Still, he tries to make amends to Shaq, who acquits himself nicely as he and Larry bounce off each other while playing Scattergories in the hospital.
Season 4, Episode 2, “Ben’s Birthday Party”
Larry’s love of show tunes doesn’t extend to his skill with dancing, as Ben Stiller learns all too well when the pair are put together for a production of Mel Brook’s The Producers. If that wasn’t enough, though, Larry makes a typical spectacle of himself when he drops by Ben’s birthday party without a gift, despite the invitation saying “no gifts.”
Things get even worse for him, though, when he not only refuses to sing “Happy Birthday” to Ben along with everyone else, he punches Ben in the eye while holding the chicken skewer he could never find a place to put down. Like so many great guest stars, Ben knows exactly how to allow Larry to get under his skin, and his feigned delight at Larry’s compensatory gift of one of Susie’s gaudy red sweaters is golden.
Mel Brooks, David Schwimmer, Anne Bancroft, Stephen Colbert
Season 4, Episode 10, “Opening Night”
While Ben has to drop out of the production, the show must go on, and the Season 4 finale, “Opening Night,” becomes an absolute cavalcade of stars. Yes, there’s Ben’s replacement as Leopold Bloom, Friends star David Schwimmer, who has an icy rapport with Larry (compounded by Larry’s inability to rescue David’s expensive watch). But there’s also Producers creator Mel Brooks and wife Anne Bancroft (one of her last roles before her passing), whom we see have cast Larry as Max Bialystock in a meta-Producers scheme to tank the show so they’re finally free of the long-running musical.
Surprise, surprise, though: Larry proves pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay good in the role, nailing the tap dancing and even joking his way through a flubbed line to get the audience back on his side. (A handy defeat to Colbert, who cameos as a frustrated tourist who places a curse on Larry for refusing to take he and his wife’s picture outside the theater.)
Season 5, Episode 6, “The Smoking Jacket”
There’s no better person for notorious leering pervert Larry David to meet than Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, as he tags along with Jeff to the Playboy Mansion — his wife Cheryl is already mad at him, so according to the “double transgression theory,” it’s fine because she can’t get any madder anyways, right? But eventually, he does meet the man himself, whose visible awkwardness on camera (he was never the most charismatic guy, for someone who spent his life surrounded by naked women) makes a curiously appropriate foil to Larry’s demonstrativeness. Plus, it allows him to be extra sly when making off with Larry’s father’s smoking jacket, a pitch-perfect copy of Hef’s.
Season 6, Episode 5, “The Freak Book”
In some ways, the famed tennis player John McEnroe and Larry should get along famously: they’re both, after all, world-famous curmudgeons who aren’t afraid to call bullshit when things don’t go their way. And to their credit, they start out wonderfully together, cackling wildly at the “freaks” in the gag gift book Larry intended for Ted Danson. But as Larry, taking over for a limo driver whom he’d wronged earlier in the episode, chauffeurs McEnroe around town, his barrage of quintessentially neurotic queries drive the man slowly but comprehensively insane.
Season 7, Episode 5, “Denise Handicap”
Can Rosie O’Donnell kick Larry David’s ass? That’s the rumor that hovers around Larry whenever Rosie O’Donnell comes to town, exacerbated by their escalating tug of war over who should get the check at the end of a lunch date. What ensues is a charm offensive in a very literal sense, as they keep outbidding each other to see who can be more aggressively kind to the other party. “It was my pleasure!” “No, bullshit, it was my pleasure!”
Curb is a quintessentially LA show that stars a New Yorker, but the wild-eyed zeal to get the check is maybe the most Midwestern gesture the series has attempted to date. (And for the record: Rosie could totally take Larry in a fight.)
The Seinfeld cast
Season 7, Episode 10, “Seinfeld”
Larry David was famously averse to ever doing a Seinfeld reunion show, but he made it work by folding it into the seventh season of Curb, with the gang coming back together for one more adventure about nothing. While the cast make appearances throughout the season, it all culminates in the incredible season finale, each of the gang getting their own unique subplots: Jerry bonding with Larry as the confidante to all his issues with Cheryl, Julia Louis-Dreyfus haranguing Larry over a cup stain on her precious family-heirloom endtable, and George with potential eyes on Cheryl himself as their in-show chemistry goes through the roof.
Michael J. Fox
Season 8, Episode 10, “Larry vs. Michael J. Fox”
Curb remains one of the few shows to effectively do “edgy” humor with panache, recognizing that the joke is and will always be on Larry’s own blinkered, selfish response to others with different life experiences. Take the Season 8 finale, where Larry starts a feud with beloved Back to the Future star and Parkinson’s treatment activist Michael J. Fox, his new upstairs neighbor. Are Michael’s head shakes, shaken-up sodas, and stomping around his apartment signs that he’s “pissed, or Parkinson’s”? Fox is remarkably game for poking fun at the condition, or rather Larry’s persnickety reaction to the condition — he’s still got that quintessential twinkle in the eye as he gets Larry in all manner of trouble, all with plausible deniability.
Season 9, Episode 1, “Foisted”
Portlandia star and riot-grrl queen Carrie Brownstein helped kick off Curb‘s return after a six-year absence, as Larry’s latest in a long line of put-upon assistants. Her particular brand of exasperated quiet gives Larry plenty of ammo to rant and rave, especially after she takes two days off work due to “constipation.”
Season 9, Episode 10, “Fatwa!”
Hamilton wunderkind Lin-Manuel Miranda has long established a persona as a giddy, grateful-to-be-here theater kid, so it’s nice to let him poke fun at the darker side of his unexpected stardom as he works with Larry on a production of a Salman Rushdie musical called Fatwa!
From the opening number (“I Do Not Like This Man,” opposite a game F. Murray Abraham as the Ayatollah) to his fussy micromanagement of the show’s beleaguered costume designer, Miranda bounces wonderfully off Larry with the kind of two-faced pettiness the ever-transparent Larry could never hope to pull off. Say what you will about Lin and his oftentimes-irritating omnipresence in the post-Hamilton pop culture era we live in today, but Curb lets him play the villain to expert results.
Season 10, Episode 8, “Elizabeth, Margaret, and Phillip”
What’s worse than one Larry David? Two Larry Davids. That’s what we learn in Season 10, when Mad Men star Jon Hamm drops by to shadow Larry for an upcoming role as a Larry David-like sitcom writer. Hamm’s long been known as a comic actor who kinda fell into stardom with the dramatic role of Don Draper, and Hamm makes great use of his Midwestern gregariousness alongside David.
Over the course of the episode, he gleefully takes notes and soaks in every second of Larry’s particularly tormented week (including an abortive attempt to help his friend Leon start a business where he sits in for overworked schmoes who need to go to the bathroom during a long shift). And it all culminates in Hamm donning thin-rimmed glasses and affecting Larry’s own halting mannerisms right next to each other. It’s Larry in stereo, and it’s as aggravating and hilarious as you’d expect.
Season 10, Episode 9, “Beep Panic”
Broad City star Abbi Jacobson drops by in the penultimate episode of Season 10 as a waitress at the golf club Larry frequents, who mistakes his friends’ casualness for permission to admit that she had diarrhea earlier that day as she hands them their food. Add to that her sweating in Larry’s soup, and boom, she’s out of a job.
Feeling sorry for her, though, Larry gives her a gig at his new “spite store,” Latte Larry’s, which blows up in his face after Jacobson’s Diane proves flaky and possessive of his car. Her particular brand of selfishness dovetails nicely with Larry’s misanthropy, as they argue over everything from whether you eat “sweat soup” if you like the person enough, to whether a car that was recently gifted becomes theirs… even if the giftee totals the gifter’s brand new car a few minutes later. (And sells the recently-gifted car not long after that.)
Jonah Hill, Sean Penn
Season 10, Episode 10, “The Spite Store”
The tenth season finale starts with the rare cold open, as Larry’s aforementioned “spite store” takes off as a trend across Hollywood, which makes for some delightful cameos. There’s Jonah Hill’s delicatessen, which brings him so much happiness he might just give up acting. “Whenever I see a customer walking in here that used to go to Irv’s, it’s like my own tiny human Oscar walking in.”
But the real treat is seeing Sean Penn, bedraggled and weary-eyed, propping up a competing pet store right n ext to one he hates. It’s strangely calming for him, after all: “I was never a very zen personality, but I find myself very calm now. I think it’s the birds.”
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