Who knew a 1999 mockumentary titled Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm would open the door to one of greatest sitcoms ever? Or that Curb Your Enthusiasm would return for a ninth season after a six-year absence? These are dark times for both liberalism and comedy, and so Larry David has answered the call to bring his Curb band back together to skewer everything and anything in his sight. Now that Curb Your Enthusiasm has finished its ninth season, Vulture put together this highly subjective ranking of every episode (plus the aforementioned ’99 movie), chock-full of enough trivial information to make you forget whichever parts you don’t agree with. What do we look like, schmohawks?
91. “Car Periscope” (Season 8, Episode 8)
Season eight was only so many moons ago, but in a post-Waze world, Larry probably wouldn’t consider investing in an inventor’s car periscope. Then again, he and fellow idiot Jeff opted in after seeing said inventor’s homely wife (the great Aida Turturro) and assuming he’s a man of integrity. Not only is Aida aboard in this episode, but Wanda Sykes returns to make Larry’s life miserable (“I’m still at the same email: IHateLarry”) and steal his life-altering personal trainer (Cheyenne Jackson). Equally good to see Grant Shaud (a.k.a. Murphy Brown’s perma-panicked Miles), who’s in denial that his TV-judge dad is a delirious bigot. Lenny Venito, who later played against type in the underrated sitcom The Neighbors, menaces Larry as a one-armed Scrabble bandit in an ongoing Fugitive riff. “Car Periscope” can be forgiven its lack of telecommunications foresight, but by the time the one-armed man makes haste in a cab, this episode is running on fumes.
90. “Foisted!” (Season 9, Episode 1)
Expectations were sky-high when Curb returned after a several-year hiatus. Plenty expected President Trump to be a target, though instead we got … the ayatollah? The seemingly dated fatwa story line would eventually pay dividends, though “Foisted!” was a somewhat forced reintroduction to the show’s colorful ensemble and signature crank antics, like Larry’s unsolicited opinions about lesbian weddings. It did, however, feature a gangbusters cameo from Carrie Brownstein as Larry’s constipated and insufferable personal assistant. And for better or worse, the debut of Larry’s recurring incognito accessories.
89. “The Smoking Jacket” (Season 5, Episode 6)
If, one day, Larry were at the gates of heaven (which, this being Curb, does come to pass), he may well gain entry as commendation for his honesty. With his cousin Andy (Richard Kind) standing right there, he cops to tossing Cheryl’s magazine in the trash because Andy “took it in the bathroom and contaminated it.” Were Larry Catholic, he wouldn’t even need confession. “The Smoking Jacket” is unusual in its degree of nudity, but that’ll happen when you take a barely teenaged boy to see a topless woman so he won’t tell Richard Lewis you wished him dead for your birthday. The shenanigans with the coat wear thin, but time can never scrub the sight of Larry attempting to charm Hugh Hefner’s “Girls Next Door” by suggesting a game of group ventriloquism.
88. “A Disturbance in the Kitchen” (Season 9, Episode 3)
Elizabeth Banks is just one of this episode’s blink-and-you-miss-them characters (ahem, Susie’s Little Sister Katie), but she makes her time count. Initially turned on by Larry’s boldness in the face of fatwa condemnation, she eventually realizes what everyone already knows: A relationship with L.D. is all good until you fail to enable his most adolescent schemes, like worming his way out of trouble with a policeman (Damon Wayans) after inadvertently vandalizing his car. We never do discover the titular disturbance, though listening to Salman Rushdie prattle on about “fatwa sex” is unsettling enough.
87. “The Rat Dog” (Season 6, Episode 6)
If nothing else, “Rat Dog” gave us the “schmohawk,” a term that passed down from Larry’s father and somehow didn’t originate in his own mind. The fact that Larry can barely muster any more feeling for a deaf woman’s puppy than a spider he’d squash on the sidewalk only gets so much mileage. But when Tweedledee and Tweedledum, a.k.a. Larry and Leon, accidentally switch phones and cost each other a job and social relationship, respectively, “Rat Dog” finally has some bite.
86. “The Freak Book” (Season 6, Episode 5)
Larry has a soft spot for chauffeurs. He doesn’t leave them outside an event without a hot meal, and in “The Freak Book,” he doesn’t leave his and Cheryl’s driver Charlie (Halt and Catch Fire standout Toby Huss) to Ted Danson’s birthday party outside at all. As ever, Ted and Mary are unsung heroes, straddling a line of self-righteousness and credible disbelief at Larry’s antics. (John McEnroe, meanwhile, plays exactly to his reputation as Larry’s first limo passenger when he takes up Charlie’s shift, but, yeah, long story.) Also, Huss gets one of the season’s best zingers, locking eyes with Ted after drunkenly destroying his property and announcing, “Happy birthday, Becker.”
85. “The Massage” (Season 2, Episode 10)
If you ever wanted to see and hear Larry David moan in ecstasy, here’s your chance. Larry is so preoccupied with nearly reaching completion when a masseuse goes in for the big finish, he blows yet another big network meeting with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Amy Hill is an aces casting choice as a prescient psychic who gets in Larry’s head, even if his actions — and a fortuitous dining choice worsened by a stop-and-chat snub — ensure that in this season-two finale (unlike at the climax of season one’s “AAMCO”), he won’t be getting any.
84. “Chet’s Shirt” (Season 3, Episode 1)
Had Ted Danson been warned by Rob Reiner or Julia Louis-Dreyfus not to go into any kind of partnership with their dear friend, he might have avoided the eminent disaster played out over a superlative season-three arc. Alas, Ted and Michael York are stuck debating the merits of Larry’s notions to conceive a dining area that’s part aristocratic quarters and part military mess hall. “Chet’s Shirt” can be tough to watch, since Larry is objectively in the wrong or inappropriate in every setup, e.g. tossing apple cores in strangers’ garbage cans, hectoring a grieving widow (Caroline Aaron), and fetishizing her late husband’s wardrobe. Though perhaps that’s why when Larry gets his teeth knocked out by a piñata bat (score one for his most terrorized demo, children), it’s poetically just.
83. “The Bi-Sexual” (Season 8, Episode 7)
“She’s a dyke, deal with it,” insists Rosie O’Donnell about foxy Jane Cohen (Transparent’s Amy Landecker), who expresses interest in both Rosie and Larry. Good thing for Larry that Leon shows up in time to help him sort through the dilemma of Rosie’s built-in advantages with the fairer sex. (“I would have zero interest in a person like you,” he comforts Leon as they imagine their lives as bisexuals.) Original SNL writer Alan Zweibel also visits as an East Coast buddy who can’t woo Larry to lunch. (For those fond of season seven’s “The Black Swan,” they will appreciate the consistency of his logic about the nuances of bicoastal friendships.) The juvenilia of Rosie and Larry’s competition over Jane boiling down to baseball metaphors is a rich vein, even though the pointed critique of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro may go over some heads. Larry buying Viagra from an elderly man in the park (David Canary of Bonanza fame) is a tad silly, but works as a New York bookend to his clumsy L.A. pot buy in season four’s “The Carpool Lane.” It’s really Leon, kicking back and eating Champagne-filled croissants, who can once more consider himself the winner.
82. “Thank You for Your Service” (Season 9, Episode 5)
More than most, season nine plays the long game, and the semantics over when it’s necessary to thank a veteran for their service comes full circle in the finale. But the season’s midway mark misses the bull’s-eye in its attempt to take umbrage with deferential behavior, largely because of how it makes genuine light of PTSD. Sammi Greene’s fiancé, Victor, back from Afghanistan, does a nice job alternating between puzzled, pissed off, and panicked as he tours a truly traumatic weekend in the life of Larry. But the coup de grâce of Victor freaking out amid a Revolutionary War reenactment is hard to watch, and a related story line concerning Larry’s beef with a country-club security man (hello, Murphy Brown’s Joe Regalbuto) is a bit been there, begrudged that for Curb. Who woulda thunk, however, that Larry has such a good eye for spotting Asian babies?
81. “The 5 Wood” (Season 4, Episode 5)
Everyone’s got the wrong idea about Larry. Dalilah the dental hygienist thinks he’s a sexy history-professor-type (more of a “avuncular, bald Jew,” he forewarns her), Producers choreographer Steve (Patrick Bristow, who was so memorable in Seinfeld’s “The Wig Master”) believes him to fancy the same sex, and a couple of WASP-y country club emissaries almost buy that he’s of shared stock. New castmate David Schwimmer pretty much has Larry pegged once he gripes about the raisin-cashew balance in the Schwimmer family snack-food line. It’s amazing anyone at the funeral for Leo Funkhouser was taken aback that Larry would literally steal a prized golf club from the deceased’s cold hands — an act of thievery up there with moving his mother’s body in season three’s “The Special Section” — but “Wood” really gets its name from another standout moment: Larry running out of a bathroom with pants around his ankles, screaming, “The dog bit my penis!” Now that takes balls.
80. “Kamikaze Bingo” (Season 5, Episode 4)
The irony in Larry David doubting anyone else’s dignity is that he has no honor whatsoever. Not that he censors himself from betraying skepticism that Japanese art dealer Yoshi’s father was an actual kamikaze pilot (on account of him, in line with a Curb constant, surviving). Or stops a game of poker upon receiving word that said art dealer attempted suicide. The closing moments of Yoshi’s dad speeding toward him in a motorized wheelchair screaming, “Bonzai!” are a fun callback to Larry animating the ire of a Japanese waiter in season two’s “The Acupuncturist,” but all the back and forth leading up to it about apologizing while snacking starts to needle.
79. “The Surrogate” (Season 4, Episode 7)
Too bad Wanda Sykes wasn’t at the toy store when Larry picked up a biracial children’s doll for their friends’ baby shower. (Okay, it was actually for their surrogate, whom Larry then subliminally persuaded to keep the baby as hers.) However, Wanda was nearby amid a pair of his typically bungled confrontations with black people, per her de facto duty as Larry’s parole officer of race relations. “The Surrogate” spends more minutes than is necessary on the tropiest of white-male-insecurity tropes, and entirely too many featuring Larry shirtless or in a wife beater, but it does rack up one of Curb’s most notable single-episode guest casts thanks to Melissa McCarthy, Garcelle Beauvais, and former NBA star Muggsy Bogues.
78. “Mel’s Offer” (Season 4, Episode 1)
Cheryl is a fairly flexible wife. As we know from season one’s “AAMCO,” she’s game for wagering on drive-time oral sex, and doesn’t find Larry’s masturbatory fantasies involving other women to be a turnoff. At the outset of “Mel’s Offer,” her promise of a one-time-only extramarital fling on their tenth anniversary sets one of two defined season-long arcs in motion (and treats us to a flashback of perm-coiled Cheryl, and already-bald but not as gray Larry). Those arcs dovetail brilliantly when Larry accepts Mel’s offer to play Max in The Producers on Broadway (alongside a befuddled Ben Stiller, the umpteenth individual who suffers from Larry’s lapses in etiquette) after spying the buxom actress (Cady Huffman) playing Ulla. It’s all a bit of table setting, but as fans can attest, the main course is worth it.
77. “The Therapists” (Season 6, Episode 9)
Curb has always been nimble about jumping in and out of its season-long arcs, and Larry’s painful split with Cheryl was no exception. But their separation remains a sore spot for some viewers, which makes “The Therapists” a particularly cruel tease for those hoping they’d reunite. On the bright side, we get Steve Coogan as Larry’s ironically named Dr. Bright, an idiot who underestimates the allure of his patient’s “high-pussy percentage.” Coogan is pathetic, hilarious, and also imprisoned thanks to helping Larry scheme to mug Cheryl’s therapist so he can rescue her and win Cheryl back. It’s all a bit ridiculous, and it fails miserably, but it pays off for viewers by nudging Larry ever closer to an unthinkable near-future reprisal.
76. “The Accidental Text on Purpose” (Season 9, Episode 6)
Oftentimes, the more matter-of-fact a Curb title, the cleverer its episode’s conceit. “Accidental Text on Purpose” puts a mouthful of a name to a social runaround we’ve all deployed to either correct someone’s perception of us or weasel out of a commitment no questions asked. This being Curb, it works until it doesn’t, and egg winds up on all four stooges’ (Larry, Jeff, Richard, and Marty) faces, to the delight of anyone who enjoys their comeuppance. But even with Ed Begley onboard as a doctor with tenuous ties to his Hippocratic oath, Elizabeth Perkins steals the show playing Funkhouser’s persnickety new flame, Marilyn. Larry didn’t want to spoil her dinner party over something as silly as tap versus filtered, but then again, “How could you not comment on water that’s so bad?”
75. “The Christ Nail” (Season 5, Episode 3)
After season four’s “The Survivor,” no one was going to accuse Larry of being the most observant Jew, but it still elicits belly chortles when he tells handyman Jesus that a mezuzah is something they “put over the door so every anti-Semite in the neighborhood will know that we live here in case they want to burn down the house.” Which is nothing compared to Jesus’s fury when he realizes Larry bought his wife a bra to mitigate all “the flopping” happening above her waist. He and Jesus’s climactic collision and its overtones of mock-spiritual epiphany are a fine coda, but “Christ Nail” hammers home its best punch lines at the expense of Larry’s childishness around women’s (and especially Susie’s) undergarments.
74. “Wandering Bear” (Season 4, Episode 8)
There may be no bigger idiots than Curb’s Jeff Greene and Larry David, who hatch a plan to order and screen a Girls Gone Wild VHS without their wives being any the wiser. (“College” girls, Larry clarifies for his horrified assistant Antoinette.) Moreover, the Everlast condoms Jeff recommended Larry use with Cheryl — so as to insulate his dog-bitten piece, one of the series’ funniest return gags — give her all sorts of issues down there. You’d think, given Larry’s revulsion about Cheryl appearing in Jeff’s masturbatory fantasies during season one’s “The Group,” he’d never want to hear him utter the words, “I’m sorry about Cheryl’s vagina.” In fairness, he’s a bit preoccupied with the groundskeeper/shaman (Russell Means) who cured Cheryl’s loss of feeling and followed up on how her lady parts were doing while clearing fronds from their yard. A worthy circus, but nowhere near as inspired as the episode that followed.
73. “The Weatherman” (Season 4, Episode 4)
An episode featuring Ted Danson and Shelley Berman, plus Saul Rubinek in a guest spot, would normally suffice, but “The Weatherman” also brought us Bob Einstein as Larry’s immortal foil Marty Funkhouser. (Eagle-eyed TV viewers will recognize Boris Krutonog as Oleg’s diplomat dad on The Americans.) Golf-themed arcs aren’t the show’s most dependable, but as consolation, we get Larry peeing (and falling into) the toilet, rumors about his inclinations toward beastiality, and put-upon Sammi Greene being traumatized yet again by Uncle L.D. The laughs are everywhere, even if the story is all over the place.
72. “The Group” (Season 1, Episode 10)
Notable Seinfeld alum Melanie Smith (she who spotted George’s shrinkage in “The Hamptons”) pops up as Larry’s ex, who makes a “brief appearance” during Larry’s masturbatory fantasy, much to Cheryl’s chagrin. Oh, and she’s an incest survivor who asks Larry to join her at a support group. Worst idea ever. Lucy realizes this once Larry improvises a recollection of being molested by his uncle from Great Neck so as to fit in. Touchy material, to be sure, and not the only occasion in which Curb litigates survivor-dom, but at least we get SNL original Laraine Newman in a dual role as support-group leader and regional Vagina Monologues director. A fine, if not unforgettable, first finale.
71. “Vehicular Fellatio” (Season 7, Episode 2)
There are plenty of sycophants in Larry’s life, but aside from bleeding his Seinfeld money by living under the same roof, Leon is not among them. (“I’ve never seen the damn show myself,” he tosses off casually in conversation.) Larry loves Leon, but Loretta is wearing on him. Whether or not you find his aversion to taking care of Lortetta amid a positive cancer diagnosis beyond reproach, he’s dead set on torpedoing their romance. The machinations of Larry persuading an oncologist (Sharon Lawrence) that he’s toxic for her are mostly a showcase for his boorishness, but “Vehicular Fellatio” is all about his preoccupation with everyone except for him apparently partaking in road head. Which doesn’t stop Loretta from thinking he did. Exit Loretta, but not before Auntie Rae gets the final, “Fuck you, Larry David.” Lawrence and Lolita Davidovich (as Richard Lewis’s girlfriend) are great foils in a story that mostly makes room for Vivica A. Fox’s departure so Larry can set his sights back on Cheryl.
70. “The Black Swan” (Season 7, Episode 7)
If nothing else, Larry David isn’t fearful of perpetuating stereotypes about his own people. When his well-meaning obituary for Cheryl’s aunt swapped the “a” for a fateful “c” back in season one, that was a typo. Unfortunately, Larry’s dad knowingly marred his mother’s tombstone with the misnomer “past away” on her dateline, figuring he could save a couple hundred bucks by sanding off superfluous letters. Although bucking conventional perceptions about “nice Jewish boys,” Larry also has the gumption to tell Turner — a friend of Norm (Paul Mazursky, back for the first time since season four), who dies of a heart attack after Larry berates him on the golf course — “I thought he was a prick.” Norm is actually the second old man Larry indirectly puts into cardiac arrest (see: season two’s “The Acupuncturist”), though the titular swan in this episode is his virgin exotic-fowl homicide. “Black Swan” is a bit heavy on golf-club theater, but the closing karma of poor Adele David’s tombstone being modified to acknowledge she’s mother of “Larry David, an Asshole and Swan Killer,” was a long time coming.
69. “Lewis Needs a Kidney” (Season 5, Episode 5)
The midway point is when season five finds its stride, all credit owed to a cockamamie subplot about Richard Lewis needing a kidney transplant. Neither Larry nor Jeff is eager to volunteer their organ, but as Susie makes plain, Jeff is too much of a “fat fuck” and “can’t survive the surgery.” (There’s that survival theme again.) The repercussions pick up steam over ensuing episodes, but “Lewis Needs a Kidney” is a must-revisit for a hysterical Mindy Kaling cameo. Extra mention merited for an exchange between Larry and Omar’s assistant that plays off a similar principle to Seinfeld’s famous telemarketer rebuke.
68. “Fatwa!” (Season 9, Episode 10)
“Fatwa!” is an anti-finale, totally removed from the groundwork Curb laid for nine preceding episodes. But it’s also big in scale and star power, and puts to bed the most pressing concern of whether Larry will escape the fanatical Muslim fringe unscathed. A Looney Tunes–worthy closing shot of an angry Iranian-American in hot pursuit suggests he’ll at least need to consider donning a hairpiece and fake mustache once more. Casey Wilson steps in as Larry’s social stand-in when Funkhouser’s late for dinner and, later, Larry is tardy for Sammi’s wedding because he shot Lin-Manuel Miranda in the throat with a paintball gun. (To his credit, Miranda gives 100 percent as a smug, self-righteous, but still insanely talented version of himself.) Nick Offerman appears understatedly as one of Larry’s latest adversaries, and an entire shtick involving an amply bosomed ASL interpreter puts a fine point on the season’s sexual preoccupations. As is generally the case with Curb, the greatest pleasures of “Fatwa!” are the little bits of improv between Larry and Susie, Larry and Marty, and so on. For every lapse in this comeback season’s comedic judgment, riffs like this denouement between L.D. and the Funk Man make you root for more.
67. “AAMCO” (Season 1, Episode 7)
How many innocent car bumpers have to suffer before AAMCO finally foregoes its radio ads’ signature double horn honk? The good news is that a fender bender caused by Larry’s misdirected outburst leads to numerous scenes with undervalued Everyman Mike Hagerty as a mechanic who’s increasingly put off by Larry’s air of superiority. On the upside, he has far better vehicular fortune when a bet with Cheryl entitles him to road head.
66. “The Hot Towel” (Season 7, Episode 4)
By season seven, you’d think we know all there is to know about Larry’s personal quirks, but then he picks a pointless nit with an airline passenger wearing shorts and it’s revealed Larry likes to imitate horses. Sherry Stringfield of ER fame (as Larry’s ex Mary Jane) joins Sharon Lawrence in the echelon of network-procedural vets with season-six guest appearances, and has the honor of being stung by one of Larry’s best asides. Turns out her pal Christian Slater is also going to Ted Danson’s party, so she says to pass along a hello. “Eh, no,” he shrugs. “But I’ll see him.” If she warned him that Slater is a caviar hog, maybe he wouldn’t have been caught off guard and launched into a lecture at Ted’s that came back to haunt him when Slater later pointed Mary Jane’s irate boyfriend in Larry’s direction. “The Hot Towel” is a tough watch at times, as Larry initiates one unnecessary dustup after another (why does he care how Ted and Mary spend his gift certificate?), but all is almost redeemed when Larry berates Sammi Greene — whose off-key singing makes him crazy — to shut the hell up. Poor Sammi.
65. “The Bracelet” (Season 1, Episode 4)
What’s are remarkable about Curb Larry is that, despite his obscene wealth, he’s utterly ill-equipped at cashing in on the perks of considerable fame. Not only does he fail to get Cheryl a fancy bracelet without it devolving into a tussle with Richard Lewis, but he’s initially rebuffed at the jewelry store for appearing so unkempt as to pass for homeless. (“You look like a Jewish Ratso Rizzo,” per Lewis.) In the course of the same afternoon, Larry and Lewis wind up debating the relative attractiveness of penises, shadowboxing with a demanding blind man, and besmirching a restaurant captain who felt entitled to his own gratuity. “The Bracelet” lacks any signature one-liners, but it is archetypal of Larry’s knack for forming intimate, volatile bonds with his adversaries in the space of time it takes to grab a coffee — and how his dustups are never quite finished, as Michael the blind man would bedevil him again in season four.
64. “The Smiley Face” (Season 8, Episode 4)
Pity Larry’s long-suffering assistant Antoinette (the unheralded Antoinette Spolar), who stays with Larry despite his absolute obliviousness to her occasional and valid personal needs. Of course her ailing dad would finally shuffle off the day Larry guilted her into returning to work. “The Smiley Face” depends, as with so many Curb episodes, on the strength of whatever taboo Larry is busting. In this case, becoming “the Edmund Hillary of shitting where you eat” with girlfriend Heidi (Hung’s Rebecca Creskoff) doesn’t exactly reach the bar set by carrying on an affair with anti-Semitic Palestinian, and largely facilitates the sight gag of his unfortunate suntan. A more minor story with Harry Hamlin exploring the politics of sharing office-sundry cabinets is more effectively granular, and Larry’s principled ranting about emojis (“They’re frequently used by idiots at the end of emails and text messages”) is awfully on the nose six years later.
63. “The Corpse-Sniffing Dog” (Season 3, Episode 7)
After once getting his comeuppance for snubbing Mindy Reiser, you’d think Larry would know to thank both Stu and Susan Braudy for covering the dinner check. À la Mindy, he never did make it quite right with Susan, and somewhere within the framework of their differences, Larry got Sammi Greene wasted, misread her permission to take the family dog that was making Jeff’s life miserable, and hired and then had to fire a chef for the restaurant whom he only liked due to their shared baldness. (Naturally, he’s very particular about whom he considers part of that particular tribe.) Another high-noon showdown with Susie and Sammi’s stumbling (“I thought she had a speech impediment,” Larry swears) saves a convoluted home stretch. Plus, there’s a brief cameo from The Office’s Kate Flannery.
62. “Interior Decorator” (Season 1, Episode 5)
“What are you listening to me for? I don’t know what I’m talking about.” If only everyone in Larry’s path were prepped with that advice. The nurse at his doctor’s office (played by Lisa Ann Walter) can only roll her eyes as Larry flails his injured index digit (“baaaad fingaaaa”) in disbelief that the office actually heeded his suggestion to take people based on appointment times and not order of the sign-in sheet. To think, he essentially Greco-Roman wrestled his latest female nemesis (the terrifically sneering Marissa Jaret Winokur) down the hallway to gain priority examination. If only he hadn’t re-aggravated his injury by getting into an eroticized brawl with Diane Keaton’s interior designer in the first place. It’s a busy episode, but one with standout physical comedy and callbacks to Seinfeld’s own beefs with high-maintenance medical professionals.
61. “Namaste” (Season 9, Episode 7)
For a yogi, Tina (Alison Becker) sure knows how to rile Larry up. She exiles him from her exercise space, has hot-yoga sex with Leon in his house, and sets off a whole mess of home-utility issues. But this is nothing compared to Larry’s escapades riding the L.A. city bus, where he is exposed to the horrors of daily commuting he left behind decades ago in New York, and in turn, forces a harried driver and her passengers to experience his singularly antisocial personality. All parties would prefer he remain on highways and within his estate, but his car is held up by a mechanic who was offended by Larry’s accidental bigotry, so what can one do? Daring to broach the matter of whether voices can sound distinctly racial or ethnic is what Curb does best, and all the crossed conversational wires (who says Seinfeld would have to be radically different post-texting?) gave us the gift of aggrieved motorist Justin sizing Larry up as “a complete garbage person.” Maybe, but he’s at least an Uber 3.
60. “The Korean Bookie” (Season 5, Episode 9)
“I don’t wanna spoil your fun, you’re having a good time. It’s just … it’s idiotic, what you’re doing.” If there’s ever a Larry David monument, etch that into its pedestal. “Korean Bookie” gives the yin and yang of Larry-ness: He’s not wrong for being weirded out that a friend went into his car to borrow a jacket without asking, but he’s absolutely barking up the wrong tree thinking his Korean bookie (Bobby Lee) kidnapped Oscar’s dog as an ethnic delicacy. (Nice touch having him scarf down a hero stuffed with unidentifiable meat during their inevitable staredown.) It’s another Curb story that might have sounded the social-media alarms today. Although who doesn’t love a climactic aerial shot of wedding attendees on the beach vomiting up bulgogi en masse?
59. “Vow of Silence” (Season 8, Episode 5)
All due respect to Seinfeld’s low talker, but Vance’s (Michael Hitchcock) spiritual resolve to mime all speech takes muted relations to new depths. “Vow of Silence” zeroes in on Larry’s lack of true conviction about these matters, as he calls out and then compliments a serial buffet-line chat-and-cutter. (“Thanks,” she humbly mutters.) But you have to hand it to him: When it comes to his commitment to a social out — like b.s.-ing that he’s spending three months in New York with Jeff and Susie to avoid participation in Tessler’s charity event — the man is strictly monogamous. The tragic irony? He leaves poor Lewis, the only friend whose repartee makes him laugh in earnest, stranded at lunch while he relocates across the country, wedded to his lie. Oh, and RIP Oscar.
58. “Officer Krupke” (Season 7, Episode 8)
Susie finds it fascinating that Larry knows all the lyrics to West Side Story, don’t you? No, not really. Nor is the Officer Krupke that bears this episode’s title amused when Larry points out he shares a name with one of the musical’s key characters. He is, however, sufficiently silenced when Larry takes off his pants and exposes the women’s panties he has on underneath, and that’s without explaining it’s all to abet his friend Jeff so Susie doesn’t think he’s cheating. There’s ample allusion to sexual hijinks throughout “Officer Krupke,” including Larry’s (incorrect) hunch that Virginia (Elisabeth Shue) hurt her neck going down on Cheryl during a threesome. But hey, now Cheryl has the part in Seinfeld! Besides, as Larry concedes when Cheryl asks rhetorically why she’d prefer to be in a ménage with him, “Well, you wouldn’t.”
57. “The Baptism” (Season 2, Episode 9)
It’s fairly rare that Jewish fiancés convert to their partner’s faith and not the other way around. Hence Larry’s shock that his sister-in-law’s (It’s Always Sunny/The Mick’s Kaitlin Olson) soon-to-be-spouse would not only switch faiths, but be blessed by an adult baptism. Ditto her accusation that, “You didn’t wanna lose a Jew and you know it,” after Larry mistakes the ceremony itself as a drowning incident. He actually couldn’t care less, and is equally unbothered when the fiancé defects back to Judaism and a minor religious clash ensues. He is an agent of chaos, even if “The Baptism” isn’t Curb’s most riotous half hour.
56. “The Larry David Sandwich” (Season 5, Episode 1)
By any standard, the titular meal bearing Larry’s name at his favorite L.A. deli is less than scintillating: whitefish, sable, capers, onions, and cream cheese. It’s less an assignment of his stature than designation of him being near death. He actually does almost drown at the episode’s outset, and as a result comes close to finding God. Temple goes down about as well as the Larry David Sandwich, but at least his stare down with dad and the initiation of Larry’s search to find his real parents is satisfying.
55. “Ben’s Birthday Party” (Season 4, Episode 2)
Here’s an episode where Larry can claim rightness in the face of righteousness. Michael the blind pianist? His girlfriend Rhonda (Jackie Hoffman, she of the recent Emmys non-controversy) isn’t quite the model she masquerades as. Susie’s bedazzled pro-sports sweater line? Hideous according to anyone’s taste. And thanks to Ben Stiller’s straight-man shtick, Larry’s indignation that his new castmate throws a belated birthday party, nevermind one with a phony “no gifts” mandate or where there’s no spot to rest a naked skewer, comes across as clear-headed. Maybe not so much when his breast fetish corrupts a kid’s game of telephone. “You really have a ways to go when it comes to dealing with other people,” Ben lectures the next day. Ah well, can’t win ’em all.
54. “The Thong” (Season 2, Episode 5)
Rob Reiner should have known better than to seek Larry’s participation in a charity celebrity auction, let alone one involving or benefiting children. Ditto for Cheryl insisting Larry spend a day with her at the beach. “I feel aggravated that I’m missing what other people are getting,” he whines while sitting on the sand in sweatshirt and baseball cap. That outfit turns out to be quite the antithesis to his and Richard Lewis’s therapist, who shows up oceanside in a DayGlo thong. Lewis is none too happy when his pal gets the jump and fires the guy first, but perhaps that’s quid pro quo for season one’s bracelet kerfuffle. “The Thong” might mark a slight ebb among a stellar run of surrounding episodes, but unlike Dr. Weiss’s barely there swimsuit, it’s hardly a capital offense.
53. “The Lefty Call” (Season 6, Episode 4)
This can’t be said for too many Curb casting choices, but no one could have pulled off the part of snooty, vengeful waiter in “The Lefty Call” quite like the late Taylor Negron, who passed away in 2015. It’s hard not to side with his Daviday (of course he’s named Daviday), who takes umbrage with Susie requesting a doggie bag for their fancy meal to bring home for her actual pet. Then again, what does he care? It’s not as if a liquor salesman needs to know what you’re doing with that bottle of Cristal, so long as you spend the $300. But Daviday cares, and Larry — who makes the less-than-persuasive claim that the leftovers would be for him — pays big time when Daviday calls his bluff and stuffs the grub with laxatives. This might be less of an issue were Larry not so averse to Cheryl’s coarse organic TP at home and freaked out by how Richard Lewis’s girlfriend Cha Cha (Tia Carrere), who works in his office, monitors his frequent bathroom visits. “The Lefty Call” is otherwise consumed by the gray area of telephone greetings, so it’s easy to overlook its greatest contribution to Curb: Leon’s advice that the next time Larry confronts a skinhead of the sort who called him “Jew boy” and “fucking faggot” at the doctor’s office, he “pull that asshole open, step into their asshole, close the door behind you, spray-paint ‘Larry was here,’ fuck his whole asshole up, leave Snicker wrappers … open that asshole again, step out his ass, and leave that motherfucker wide open so he know that you’ve been there.” Or just chasten a chemo patient you mistake for said skinhead and watch in horror as Leon pounds him like he stole a Joe Pepitone jersey. Whatever works.
52. “Ted and Mary” (Season 1, Episode 2)
We learn one very important lesson in this episode: Barneys’ salespeople are very good at their jobs, but not to be messed with. Apart from introducing two more regulars or foils to the cast — titular Hollywood couple Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen — the episode manages a neat misdirection. After being victimized by a bowling-alley-shoe thief, Larry ultimately retrieves his poached pair from the guilty party. The real fallout concerns his rivalry with a department-store employee who feels slighted as a “shoe whore” when Larry orders, and then no longer needs to fill, a replacement set of kicks. The numerous story lines don’t all deliver, but it won’t be the last time Larry rubs both peers and total strangers the wrong way.
51. “The Pickle Gambit” (Season 9, Episode 2)
“My name is Chappie Johnson, and I can’t open this damn pickle jar.” Curb’s ninth season hits its stride on the strength of Leon being let loose to aid and abet his septuagenarian friend. Not everything here lands (SWAT, we hardly knew ye, and Shara, we knew ye well enough), but Larry trying to Pretty Woman a prostitute and hiring her to pop young Kenny Funkhouser’s cherry is prime chicanery. The big revelation? Ted and Cheryl shacking up. Less surprising? That Marty rejects Larry’s efforts to ex-wife swap.
50. “The End” (Season 5, Episode 10)
Larry isn’t much of a believer in common-law relationships. (“I’ve known him 44 years, but we’re not close friends,” he says of Richard Lewis.) And as illustrated throughout season five, Larry is agnostic about virtually everything, excluding golf. That changes on a dime once he experiences a slice of alternate history as the son of Christian small-towners the Cones (Hansford Rowe and Oscar nominee June Squibb) — but he zags right back once Omar Jones realizes that he erred and Larry isn’t adopted. By then, he’d already donated his kidney to Richard Lewis, and due to complications, appeared to be shuffling off this mortal coil (not before using his last words to accuse Cheryl, Michael Corleone–style, of misplacing a Sopranos DVD). The ensuing Albert Brooks–reminiscent heaven’s-gate fantasy — co-starring Dustin Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Bea Arthur — split fans down the middle like the part in Larry’s amazing afterlife wig. This season finale was not the end of Curb, but its flirtation with Larry’s mortality and callback to ghosts of guest-stars past was a tidy complement to the definitive and divisive Seinfeld send-off. Season six, on many fronts, was a creative rebirth.
49. “The Divorce” (Season 8, Episode 1)
Larry should be thankful he’s divorcing from Cheryl and not Susie, who warns Jeff that she’ll do nothing less than thumbtack his balls to the wall if he tries to call it a marriage. Cheryl, in turn, is probably better off for having not conceived with Larry. To wit, when Dodgers owner Joe O’Donnell’s (Gary Cole) daughter (Kaitlyn Dever, who later shone as Loretta on Justified) asks Larry whether he likes Girl Scout Cookies, he replies, “I find them abhorrent.” He also proves to be far from ideal when walking her through the process of inserting a tampon. And then rescinds his cookie order when Joe’s offended. Amid all this, Larry takes his eye off the ball and gets “Sweded” by a divorce lawyer (Paul F. Tompkins) who’s Nordic and not Jewish. (“She’s gonna get everything!” he moans.) “The Divorce” deploys a similar structure to season seven’s “Vehicular Fellatio,” except the very future of everyone’s relationships, not the road head, is under scrutiny, and it’s Jeff and not Larry who feels left out.
48. “The Benadryl Brownie” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Larry can’t catch a break when it comes to his employment habits. In season one’s “Affirmative Action,” he was accused of only hiring white people, and in “Benadryl Brownie,” he insists to his cable guy that he doesn’t exclusively fire black workers. Good thing he’s still friends with Wanda Sykes, who witnesses him padding the cable guy’s diner tip. An A-story involving Larry and Richard Lewis positively poisoning Richard’s Christian Scientist girlfriend so an allergic reaction dissipates before the Emmys red carpet doesn’t quite carry the episode, but at least the late icon Joan Rivers gets its final words.
47. “The Car Salesman” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Cheryl isn’t exactly attracted to Larry’s lifestyle of lounging and watching Maury. Not that he’s conflicted in the least: Rather than hop back on the merry-go-round with Jason Alexander, Larry opts to sell cars. He is comically inept, but maybe it does beat getting the gang back together, since it means enduring Alexander dismiss his George Costanza alter ego (i.e., Larry’s id) as “the idiot” and “the schmuck.” Worth the down payment on “The Car Salesman” alone for one customer’s cruel, nasally aping of Larry’s spiel.
46. “The Anonymous Donor” (Season 6, Episode 2)
One season prior, Ted Danson’s namesake sandwich at the local deli outshone Larry’s. And now he upstages him at a museum benefit with an anonymous donor wing. What to do? Good thing J.B. Smoove’s Leon just got to town and saves the day. (If “rough up a dry-cleaner customer for the apparent theft of a Joe Pepitone jersey” counts as saving the day, that is.) “The Anonymous Donor” contributes plenty, like Jeff’s admission to masturbating in Larry’s house on Passover (hopefully Cheryl wasn’t in his fantasy this time), but it’s a touchstone episode for concretizing the dynamic duo of “Larry Jew” and Leon Black.
45. “The N Word” (Season 6, Episode 8)
As Leon puts it so concisely, “What the fuck? You hug my auntie, you stab her in the stomach?” Leon must understand: Larry has no control over his erection after a five-second embrace. (If only that had held true while wooing Dr. Flomm.) Leon, Loretta, Auntie Rae, and a hospital surgeon all have trouble wrapping their heads around Larry reiterating the “N Word” while relaying someone else’s racist screed. Of all Curb episodes, this season-six favorite would easily provoke the most hot-button debate, but it also has harmless fun putting Jeff through the paces of bald bias and fleshing out a Seinfeld-ian scenario in which a doctor’s date is treated a tad too indistinguishably from a patient. (Trivia: See if you can spot Laurel Coppock, a.k.a. Jan from the Toyota ads, as a patient of Dr. Flomm’s.)
44. “Mister Softee” (Season 8, Episode 9)
If Michael Richards could reap the spoils of Curb-as-public-reclamation-project, why can’t World Series goat Bill Buckner? A combination of omnipresent Mister Softee trucks — which trigger flashbacks to a nightmarish memory from Larry’s youth that discloses the origins of “prettay, prettay, prettay” — and a crazed Robert Smigel (basically doing Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in the guise of mechanic and softball coach Yari) give Larry some insight into Buckner’s struggles with an unforgivable error. Sports agnostics may get lost in the weeds of Buckner’s redemption, but letting him save that baby tossed from a burning building was a true act of cultural mercy. Whether Susie’s hysterical orgasm in Larry’s vibrating passenger seat (Yari!) qualifies as such is up to the individual.
43. “Never Wait for Seconds!” (Season 9, Episode 8)
One of three season-nine episode titles punctuated with an exclamation point, “Never Wait for Seconds!” is actually — to invoke one of Larry’s favorite phrases — just okay. Lauren Graham has made herself at home among the cast as Bridget, Larry’s girlfriend. She’s even eager to sleep with him, leading to a legitimately disturbing confrontation between Larry and her son, Eddie (whose Asperger syndrome Larry holds in doubt), where Larry declares, “You’re gonna go to sleep, and I’m gonna have sex with your mother.” There’s a lot of filler throughout, particularly concerning an overly presumptuous handyman and a cartoonish fatwa exoneration from benevolent muftis, but the episode is rescued by the return of Larry’s myriad nemeses, including Michael J. Fox, for a bit of wish-fulfillment revision of Seinfeld’s polarizing finale. Still, Larry’s insatiable bachelor lust makes you long for the days when it was him and Cheryl, contented.
42. Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm (1999)
It was never intended as the start of a two-decade project, but all the elements are there: infuriating network executives, offending Jeff’s parents, scratching the itch of a Hitler fetish, and finding solidarity with anyone who gets an upper hand in life by eschewing social norms. All that was missing was the fulfillment of a stand-up special he’d promised to HBO, itself a kind of rebuke to mass opinion that he should get back on the stage. The quality is a bit grainy, and pacing a bit less brisk than Curb in its episodic glory, but without this initially one-off endeavor, there may have been no Curb as we know it.
41. “The Wire” (Season 1, Episode 6)
There are no words Larry fears more than, “I’m finally in the house that Jerry Seinfeld built.” (With the notable exception of, “It’s always been a dream of mine to meet Julia Louis-Dreyfus.”) But if it means burying a neighbor’s unsightly wire underground — environmentally consciously, of course — he’ll oblige. Louis-Dreyfus makes the first of many Curb cameos, presaging her pugnaciousness as Veep’s Selina Meyer, and Wayne Federman is pitch-perfect as Larry’s presumptuous neighbor Dean, who’s less than thrilled with what he describes as more of “an encounter” than a meeting. Good thing they weren’t splitting hairs over whether soup constitutes a meal.
40. “The Safe House” (Season 8, Episode 2)
Funkhouser is really feeling his oats in season eight. In the premiere, he followed Larry’s lead and got a divorce. Here, he gossips with Larry and Jeff about Richard Lewis’s burlesque-dancer girlfriend’s fine bosom — and promptly sums up her personality this way, sending Jeff into a giggle fit: “She’s dumb.” Which brings to mind two words that encapsulated Larry on his mother’s tombstone in season seven: “An asshole.” This episode finds Larry triggering multiple women who all happen to be taking shelter in a neighboring safe house. When one of them, Sandra (Michaela Watkins), demands an apology to both herself and her dog, Larry argues, “It’s very hard to apologize to a dog, because they’re a stupid animal.” Regarding Dale, another resident of the safe house, Larry can’t help but test his theory that she’s big enough “to take care of [her]self” and, thus, faking her way in. In lieu of a significant overarching narrative, this season’s individual episodes get terribly crowded (the whole Lewis B-story is fairly forgettable), but “Safe House” benefits from Curtis Armstrong and Jerry Minor bringing home what would otherwise be the umpteenth racial-confusion conundrum. And Larry may be split from Cheryl, but he finally tells Leon, “I love you.”
39. “The Bowtie” (Season 5, Episode 2)
If you’re counting, “The Bowtie” represents Larry’s third hostile altercation with a disabled person, though not the last. This is a watershed Curb episode for sharing the basic David truism that lesbians love Larry. Except once the L.A. lesbian community gets wind that he approved of Jodi Funkhouser’s (Mayim Bialik) supposed defection, he’s on the outs. He rights that wrong with an assist from Rosie O’Donnell, but still manages to convince his new private investigator Omar Jones (Mekhi Phifer), a table full of diners, Wanda Sykes, and a petrified handyman (a very funny Larry Thigpen) that he and/or his newly adopted dog are irrevocably racist. Not a ton of broken ground, but a biting poke at our cultural comfort zones nonetheless.
38. “Thor” (Season 2, Episode 2)
How could Curb possibly skate by without casting a former American Gladiator as one of Larry’s oversize oppressors? Deron McBee, a.k.a. Gladiator Malibu, steps into some size who-knows-what boots as wrestler Thor Olson to stomp sense into Larry “Bald-Headed Turd” David after yet another relatively innocent traffic misunderstanding. Though that might be less intimidating than answering to Wanda Sykes after driving by and commenting on her ass. To think none of this would have happened if Jason Alexander could have just come to Larry’s office for once. (Good thing he didn’t.)
37. “Club Soda and Salt” (Season 3, Episode 3)
How could Cheryl not love a man who describes her emoting on the tennis court as akin to “pigs fucking”? At least now that she’s getting chummy with her tennis coach/actor buddy Brad, she gets to delight in Larry’s jealousy for a change. Of course, she probably didn’t count on Brad aggressively rubbing out wine stains from her breasts with — wait for it — club soda and salt. Larry could have intervened, were he not being manhandled by the irate husband of yet another retail nemesis (Laura Silverman). The first great episode of Curb’s third season, though the best would be yet to come.
36. “The Pants Tent” (Season 1, Episode 1)
Years before Girls and Insecure broke their own boundaries with careful placement of stage ejaculate, Curb laid down the gauntlet from week one that it trafficked heavily and profanely in the lane of senior genitalia. “There was something hard in there, and it was your fucking dick,” shouts Cheryl’s friend Nancy (Robin Ruzan), furious that Larry won’t take ownership over having been involuntarily aroused while they were at the movies. But even Cheryl knows, and as any man can attest, it really was just the material. Some Hitler-related high jinks involving Jeff’s parents and a war of withering insults between Larry and best frenemy Richard Lewis (“What, we’re doing the litany now?” David deadpans as Lewis rattles off his disorders) further set the tone for several years spent litigating hygiene, history, and histrionics with his weary family and friends.
35. “The Hero” (Season 8, Episode 6)
Given what Elaine went through 19 years earlier in Seinfeld’s “The Airport,” Larry should know the sting of being blocked from taking advantage of coach-class amenities. He still gets to play the hero here, accidentally tackling a boorish passenger and taking the credit for perceptions of valor, but why split hairs? Anyway, Larry could use a self-esteem boost. In a verbal joust with Ricky Gervais, Ricky condescends of Seinfeld, “I love broad comedy.” So what better way to exact revenge by rescuing Ricky and their mutual love interest Donna (Samantha Mathis) with an oversize prop? His handiwork with that stiff baguette doubled as an atonement for Jerry’s marble-rye mischief a decade and a half prior. Why it took Curb nearly that long until Larry professed, “I’m trying to elevate small talk to medium talk,” is anyone’s guess.
34. “The Bare Midriff” (Season 7, Episode 6)
What a treat “The Bare Midriff” is, despite making light of suicide and unquestionably mocking Catholics. Cheryl is back, auditioning to play herself in the Seinfeld reunion; Julia Louis-Dreyfus finds herself stuck as the lone feminist doomed to smack sense into Larry and Jerry (both of whom are equally appalled that their new assistant Maureen, whom Elaine referred, wears ill-fitting crop tops to work); and then there’s the art-imitating-life-imitating-art delight of watching Jerry and Larry collaborate, which boils down to taunts (“What, do you got Seabiscuit in there with you?” Jerry jests upon overhearing Larry’s considerable urinary flow) and the kinds of childish games that Jerry and George were known for. The primary story — Larry peeing on a Jesus painting that Maureen and her mother construe as a miracle, only for Mom to nearly end it all when Larry pees in Maureen’s eye — is among Curb’s cockamamiest, but Jillian Bell (later of Idiotsitter and Rough Night) is all in as the fashionably flabby catalyst, and Larry finally makes his strongest case that bias against bald people transcends all divides. He even throws in a “schmohawk” for good measure.
33. “Running With the Bulls” (Season 9, Episode 4)
Sad news for the Funkhousers, as yet another of their clan has passed, this time Marty’s young nephew Kenny. But when you travel around the world to demonstrate your passion for the escort Larry hooked you up with and wind up in Pamplona, these things happen. Curb is never too good for a few broad strokes, and Kenny’s passing is season nine’s most successful stab at randomly assigning cruel fate. Even post–Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston is optimal casting as a smarmy, ethically dubious therapist, the role a kind of nod to his regular appearances as pervy dentist Tim Whatley on Seinfeld. Ain’t no funeral like a Funkhouser funeral, though, and anytime Leon elucidates the “Tiddlywinks method” for extricating one’s penis from a fussy zipper, it’s worth standing at attention.
32. “Shaq” (Season 2, Episode 8)
Seinfeld had its share of hospital scenes, and Curb takes that legacy for a meta-spin when Larry makes peace with Shaquille O’Neal in one of the series’ most satisfying full circles: After injuring the NBA superstar by accidentally tripping him from a courtside seat, Larry wheels in every episode of Seinfeld to Shaq’s recovery room. It also creates a scenario where Larry is now a pariah not only outside of his usual inner circles but nationwide, as if it were his destiny. Bit parts from Mr. Show regulars Brett Paesel and Jay Johnston, plus Aisha Tyler, only sweeten the pot.
31. “The Acupuncturist” (Season 2, Episode 6)
With Larry, simple aches and pains tend to facilitate wounding interpersonal dilemmas. On the flip side, his attempts at generosity wind up inspiring animus. Maybe that’s because, as Cheryl puts it, he has trouble saying no to people — like an old SNL writer colleague on hard times — because he’s “a pussy” rather than a thoughtful guy. “The Acupuncturist,” in which Larry manages to sully the honor of both a Chinese healer and Japanese waiter, not to mention indirectly inducing an elderly Lothario’s (Ed Asner!) fatal heart attack, overreaches a tad. It does, however, notably conclude with the first in a long line of Larry’s adversarial staredowns.
30. “Affirmative Action” (Season 1, Episode 9)
“I see it in a historical sense, but not in a nice-day sense.” That’s the best poor Richard Lewis can muster in defense of Larry, who upon meeting Lewis’s dermatologist, who happens to be black, inexplicably quips to Lewis, “Even with the whole affirmative-action thing?” As tends to happen in Curb, worlds collide and Larry soon has to make amends with Dr. Grambs so he’ll prescribe something for Cheryl’s rash, culminating in a full-circle encounter with Lewis’s girlfriend, who calls him out for only hiring his “white wife’s white friends.” At the end of the nice day, Larry hits it on the nose when he deduces, “I tend to say stupid things to black people.” This is as cringey and timely as the show gets.
29. “The Nanny From Hell” (Season 3, Episode 4)
To Larry David and the writers’ credit, they waited roughly two and a half seasons after the show’s premiere to obsess over dicks again. In “Pants Tent,” it was the false perception of Larry’s phallus. Here, it happens to be the gang left agape by the true enormity of a restaurant investor’s son’s member. Or as Larry beams to the not-quite-proud dad, “Kid’s got some penis on him.” As for his troubles getting rid of Looney Tunes nanny Martine (an episode-stealing Cheri Oteri), it all goes back to his strange penchant for using the privileged bathroom at friends’ house parties. “Nanny From Hell” has all the ingredients for a quotable Curb, even if the sponge cakes so crucial in its final moments could have been a bit more moist.
28. “The Doll” (Season 2, Episode 7)
Larry is childless, so he doesn’t realize that children often don’t know what they really want. Like when the daughter of an ABC exec — who just greenlit Larry and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s new show — wants him to snip her favorite doll’s long locks with a Swiss Army knife, she’d instantly back that ask up if she knew the hair wouldn’t grow back (a concept Larry of all people should empathize with). The highlight of “The Doll” is dumb-and-dumber Larry and Jeff conspiring to snag a doll from Jeff’s daughter Sammi, decapitate it, and swap out Judy’s manicured head with a fully coiffed one. Everyone wins except Susie, who steals one of countless Curb scenes by dressing down Larry as a “four-eyed fuck” and her husband as a “fat piece of shit.” Their loss of manhood is our gain.
27. “The Special Section” (Season 3, Episode 6)
“Terrorist Attack” was more direct, but much of season three is in the throes of morbid humor. In “Special Section,” Larry finds out belatedly of his mother’s passing, and chooses to honor her in his own special fashion, by leveraging her death for get-out-of-obligations-free cards, for sex, and for what Richard Lewis deems a case of “East Indian giving” over a meditative mantra. “You know how people do,” his dad (the recently passed Shelley Berman) says when Larry asks after her upon returning from a Martin Scorsese movie shoot. Imagine his surprise that not only is the David matriarch no longer living, but buried with Gentiles and criminals due to an ass-cheek tattoo. That his aptly Goodfellas-esque plot to move her body goes bust when he pays off an undertaker with fake Scorsese-set money is, even by Curb standards, rich irony.
26. “Mary, Joseph, and Larry” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Kudos for casting David Koechner against type as a pious church volunteer/manger peformer, but especially for getting multiple episodes of material out of the infamous esophageal pubic hair. (“It kind of wrapped itself around there,” Larry’s doctor notes with a cyclonic flash of his finger.) In “Mary, Joseph, and Larry,” David winds up more of a stooge than one-third of a holy trinity, a Scrooge who comes around to the Christmas spirit only to have his good deeds haunt him. Jew and Gentile alike unite in appreciation of this episode’s equal-opportunity skewering of holiday tradition.
25. “The Terrorist Attack” (Season 3, Episode 5)
The seeds for Cheryl and Larry’s separation were first sown when Larry hedged around their weekend plans despite Wanda’s warnings of an impending terrorist attack. (This was the season’s only explicit, if a bit roundabout, reaction to the events of 9/11 a year earlier.) Cheryl was none too thrilled, but the upside is Larry used the inside scoop to repair his relationship with Paul Reiser’s wife, Mindy. (Alanis Morissette also figures in a guest spot that ties loose ends and lets her send up secrecy around her greatest hit.) “It would be nice if there was a small explosion, something where nobody got hurt,” he tells Mindy by way of apology when the threat doesn’t come to fruition. Gallows humor or not, “Terrorist Attack” is, in its own way, a bit of wish fulfillment from David, a native New Yorker.
24. “The Shucker” (Season 9, Episode 9)
If a tenth season occurs, what happened between Larry and Cheryl in Tahoe — or at least whatever it was Cheryl shared with Ted that gave him the giggles — ought to be resolved. Their run-in with Ted Danson, with whom Larry hilariously pleads to stop acting already, is one of a few standout set pieces in the lobby of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s agency building. “Speakin’ of crazy, I mean, what the fuck?” Larry deadpans when Jeff arrives in full cowboy attire. It’s a long story, but Susie is turned on by the getup, and now Jeff’s life is a miserable procession of passionate sex romps with his wife. It’s all the shucker’s fault. Tim Daly is a season-best guest as an oyster maestro for hire who threatens Larry’s relationship with Lin-Manuel (who’s being courted to star in Fatwa! the musical), slinging seafood puns like so many clams and eventually satisfying Susie’s country-western fetish. It’s all part of “the shucker’s way,” after all. All in all, Miranda engaging in psychological warfare and sloppy catfighting with Larry over creative control of Fatwa! helps compensate for watching Jeff mount Susie.
23. “Funkhouser’s Crazy Sister” (Season 7, Episode 1)
When Loretta’s doctor asks Larry how kvetching about fish could take priority over his sick girlfriend, the answer may as well be, “Yeah, you’ve clearly never met L.D.” Also thrust into Larry’s orbit is Bam Bam (Catherine O’Hara), newly orphaned Marty Funkhouser’s mentally unstable sister. And if Jeff couldn’t resist masturbating at Larry’s Seder, there’s no way he’d resist an impromptu invite from Bam Bam to have sex, hence the unforgettable dirty talk, “Fuck me, fat boy!” O’Hara flashes through the episode like a comedic comet, capped off with her flirtatiously pantomiming what appears to be a rim job for Jeff’s benefit and/or to his mortification. Oh, and Loretta’s been diagnosed with cancer, so Larry’s looking at four years of caretaking with no golf. This does not end well.
22. “Opening Night” (Season 4, Episode 10)
An hourlong episode is unusually indulgent between Larry’s quest to bed his George W. Bush–voting co-star Cady, his big debut on Broadway, and a continuation of the theme established in season three’s “Mary, Joseph, and Larry” that our culture of tipping has gone completely haywire. And then there’s the twist: Mel Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft, toasting to The Producers’ demise on account of Larry’s foibles … until he truly dooms them by winning the crowd over. Stephen Colbert and a young, pre-Chuck Zachary Levi pop up as David’s requisite agitators, while Jerry Seinfeld finally finds his way to Curb as a wincing audience member. Jeff, however, deserves the heartiest applause for admonishing Larry that, “I’d fuck her with a Bush mask on!”
21. “The Shrimp Incident” (Season 2, Episode 4)
It isn’t hard to imagine the actual Larry David getting into it with an HBO executive over Chinese food shrimp counts, so it’s a minor miracle we’re getting a ninth season at all. Though it’s doubtful real Larry would declare, “You cunt! What a cunt!” when a fellow poker player folds on a great hand, as if he were Caesar outing Brutus. And definitely not if Julia’s last shot at selling her series was impressing said poker player. Yeah, definitely not. As for Julia’s wish that, “I would like to be able to say that, fuck,” we all know it would be granted by HBO soon enough. “The Shrimp Incident” finds Curb on its meatiest roll to that point.
20. “The Blind Date” (Season 4, Episode 3)
Is “yo,” as in yogurt, a prefix? It’s the kind of question, à la George Costanza’s musings on “ma” and “nure,” that gnaws at Larry but rankles those in his orbit even more. Watching him and Ben Stiller go tit for tat brings to mind the childish meltdown between him and Laura Silverman in season three’s “Club Soda and Salt,” like drawn-out articulations of his eyeballing staredowns. This being Larry, his most vexing clash in “The Blind Date” occurs opposite a preteen magician (Anton Yelchin), though he hits it off with a group of mentally challenged car-wash attendants and a burqa-clad Muslim stranger named Haboos (Moon Zappa!) who lets him use her bathroom. That Michael the blind pianist seems oblivious to the golden rule of love being just that — echoing Costanza’s reticence toward dating a bald woman — merely means he’s in perfect company with pitiless Larry, who probably deserves to have Susie stalk his erotic dreams as a kind of Oedipal dominatrix.
19. “Beloved Aunt” (Season 1, Episode 8)
The typo heard ’round the world. Larry pens a newspaper obit for Cheryl’s “beloved aunt,” but a misprint swaps the a for a c, one of many instances in which that particular euphemism gets Larry in hot water. (And just as he was charming his in-laws by doing his best post-funeral Brando impression!) Bonus points for guest appearances by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Mick’s Kaitlin Olson as the victim of Larry’s questionable coffin-side relationship advice and the great Paul Dooley in his debut as Cheryl’s father.
18. “Denise Handicap” (Season 7, Episode 5)
Nothing good ever comes of Larry lollygagging around town with a vanilla ice-cream cone. Ask “Little Orphan” Marty Funkhouser. This time, he bumps into friends John and Jamie Fowler — who are hosting a private recital by one of Larry’s favorite musicians — and, apropos of nothing, inquires whether their adopted Chinese daughter has an innate predilection toward chopsticks. “Denise Handicap” is high-level Curb for checking off a few boxes: his wheelchair-bound love interest Denise viewing Larry as being the disadvantaged one because of his baldness; the still-topical satire of cavalier cell-phone-contact shorthands; and the mindless banter between Larry and Leon about the word “brother” that evokes a classic back-and-forth from fellow neurotic Jew Howard Stern. Still, the episode belongs to Anita Barone and Amy Pietz as Larry’s dueling disabled dates (neither actress is actually disabled in real life, though Curb has historically cast disabled actors to play disabled characters), and Rosie O’Donnell as the latest foe to emasculate him.
17. “Meet the Blacks” (Season 6, Episode 1)
The terrific subplot of this season-six premiere is an analog to one of Seinfeld’s best scripts, wherein George gets fired from his job but keeps showing up like nothing happened. Here, Larry gets out of a party at Marty Funkhouser’s place by purposely showing up on the wrong night and claiming he got his dates mixed up. Jeff piggybacking on his idea and both the Greenes and Davids getting stuck in an intimate evening at the Funkhousers — and then actually missing a Ted and Mary gathering and having to double down on their calendar mishap — is pretty exquisite comeuppance for a misanthrope. But the gold mine is our introduction to Vivica A. Fox and the Blacks, hurricane refugees whom the Davids take in. (“That’s like if my last name was Jew, like Larry Jew,” he feels compelled to quip.) Inadvertently serving an erotic-cake rendering of a black phallus at their welcome party? That’s just icing.
16. “The Reunion” (Season 7, Episode 3)
If there’s one string Larry has left to pull with Cheryl, it’s enticing her back into acting. To win back his lady, he will betray every cranky principle he’s ever endorsed by approving a Seinfeld reunion, with a role for Cheryl as George’s ex-wife. It’s actually sort of romantic. Larry’s justification to Jerry — people want it, so let’s not withhold — may have been disingenuous, but the arc was a benevolent gesture by real-life Larry that gave millions goose bumps, even if its fictional benefactor was left positive that, “I’m gonna hate myself more than normally.”
15. “Porno Gil” (Season 1, Episode 3)
Some premises just come out of the writers room fully formed, and when casting snags Bob Odenkirk to play the episode’s namesake, a retired XXX star, little direction is needed. Still, “Porno Gil” stretches its concept to feature a lost-in-America misadventure, as Larry and Cheryl get turned around en route to Gil’s dinner party and fail to find anyone who can bear Larry’s anti-charm long enough to help. (The conundrum also prompts one of his first and most effortless “prettay, prettay, prettay, prettay good” laments.) In a social circumstance where their host is sharing anecdotes about getting hard by putting Tabasco sauce up his ass, Larry somehow ultimately offends by refusing to take off his shoes. And that’s all before Jeff’s parents catch Larry ogling an old VHS featuring a vintage Gil performance. Gil may have fouled many a bed, but in this classic Curb, Larry made his.
14. “The TiVo Guy” (Season 6, Episode 7)
Not many pre-finale Curb episodes prove as consequential as “TiVo Guy.” Cheryl is on a violently turbulent flight and calls Larry to say a potentially final “I love you,” but she can’t get a word in edgewise without him prattling on about the malfunctioning cable system. This, along with surviving the bumpy ride next to hunky no-fly underwear magnate Glenn (Tim Conlon), strikes her like lightning that their marriage is kaput. (Could you withstand a union with someone who harps on people who can’t distinguish fake crab during intercourse?) Perhaps as karma for disingenuously using grief over his mother’s death as a social out, a restaurant hostess calls what she thinks is Larry’s bluff when he cancels a reservation for himself and Cheryl. That all their friends “choose Cheryl” is far more inevitable. It’s not all bad, though: He’s still got his true family, the Blacks, who are all for his first date with Lucy Lawless. If only his balls weren’t “a bit more distended than the average testicles,” things might have gotten far less twisted at the end.
13. “The Table Read” (Season 7, Episode 9)
Larry may pull off the whole Seinfeld reunion/Cheryl reconciliation strategy, assuming he can stop running afoul of the law. The penultimate season-seven episode ends with one of the series’ most twistedly funny denouements, as Larry explains to his horrified doctor (Randall Park, now of Fresh Off the Boat), “I’ve been seeing this 9-year-old girl, and she has a rash on her pussy.” Meanwhile, “Table Read” allows Michael Richards a chance at redemption for the things he said during an unhinged real-life stand-up set earlier that year. At minimum, the Richards bit — which, admittedly, some liked more than others — rolls out a red carpet for Leon to steal the show as a Jewish-doctor impostor trying to snap Richards into it after his Groats diagnosis. (That condition really gets around in Curb.) Honorable mention to Jason Alexander for fellating a pen he borrows from Larry, and to the actual Larry David for a script that further satisfies those hopeful for a Seinfeld revival while illustrating exactly why it wouldn’t work.
12. “The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial” (Season 6, Episode 3)
Most people, when craving something sweet in a cone or cup, will sample a flavor or two and then make their selection. Any unnecessary rumination is akin to idling behind a deliberative post-office customer. Stuck behind a woman (the always-good Robin Bartlett) fussing before the gelato counter, Larry flips his wig: In a stunning Curb sequence, he’s arguably in the right about her holding up the line. Doubly so in correcting Marty Funkhouser that senior citizens like himself can’t self-designate as orphans. “Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial” catches Larry in the act of tainting yet another deceased Funkhouser’s funeral proceedings, exploiting the most ancient of Jewish stereotypes and sabotaging both the Black children and Sammi Greene’s shot at an elite school, all while adding to the running gag of his and other men’s differing estimations of their friendship. It’s a top-15 candidate alone for the following David maxim, while rehashing the ice-cream debacle for Cheryl and Loretta: “She’s always told the customer is always right, and usually, the customer is a moron and an asshole.” Question is: Which one does that make Larry?
11. “Trick or Treat” (Season 2, Episode 3)
Come to see Larry get harassed by toilet paper–toting teen girls, but stay for what might be Curb’s finest dry exchange, and yet another case for the growing file that confirms Larry’s penchant for speaking stupidly around black people. “Sir, I’m bald, I’m not offended,” says a black policeman as he observes the “Bald Asshole” graffiti tagged on the David home. “With all due respect, you have chosen to shave your hair. That’s a look you are cultivating to be fashionable and we don’t really consider you part of the bald community.” To top it all off, Larry manages to pick a nit with a wheelchair-bound man over who invented the Cobb salad. “Trick or Treat,” fittingly, has all the ingredients of a Curb keeper.
10. “Seinfeld” (Season 7, Episode 10)
You’d think this particular finale would stand alone on the strength of Larry’s reunions with both the Seinfeld gang and Cheryl. But more important, it sparked a conversation about whether one does and should respect wood. (Jerry is totally right that relative wood quality is paramount.) That’s Curb and Larry David distilled: Zoom out as wide on a subject or story line and magnify as much microscopic detail as possible. He’s so close to having it all, but risks it by (yet again) running afoul of apparent tipping protocol and wasting valuable time running errands on behalf of someone who should otherwise be working in his service. (“Mocha Joe!” is the new “Newman!”) Predictably, he also alienates Jason Alexander to the point where he quits. (Jerry’s line, “There’s no John, Paul, George, and Larry” is a nice echo of season three’s “Mary, Joseph and Larry.”) George winds up relenting, the show goes on, and Cheryl even pops up at Larry’s door with some Mocha Joe’s to kiss and make up … until Larry David: Wood Detective fingers his ex as the culprit who stained Julia’s furniture. Good thing, as Cady from season four can attest, she isn’t a conservative.
9. “The Car Pool Lane” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Evidence in the ongoing “Could this show possibly withstand the firewall of political correctness?” debate mounted in season four, most notably when Larry gets out of jury selection by bluntly remarking, “I don’t know if I could be impartial, given that the defendant is a Negro.” The fact that he immediately leaves and picks up a black prostitute (the never-not-funny Kym Whitley, recently of Master of None) as his date for a Dodgers game so he can take the HOV lane possibly contradicts his courtroom confession. Maybe. (Monena, however, is not sure she and Larry are “cool de la.”) That he and Monena wind up getting high with his father — and Larry viciously cross-examines himself in the mirror as a “fucking faggot” who needs to “read a fucking book” — suggests he might have been better off at someone else’s trial after all. A brilliant, ballsy half-hour of comedy that might have been far more heavily prosecuted today, for better or worse.
8. “The Grand Opening” (Season 3, Episode 10)
What’s terrific about Larry firing the restaurant’s bald chef after catching him with a toupee (which qualifies as “false pretenses” in his moral code) is that Jeff unequivocally supports his logic. Now these two putzes have a matter of days to replace poor Phil, a situation exacerbated when Larry breaks a merciless food critic’s thumbs during a game of dodgeball. Cheryl panicking in a stymied car, an idiosyncratic new chef whom Larry mistakenly thinks is a Holocaust survivor but definitely knows has a serious issue with expletive-streaked Tourette’s, and an escalating series of improvised profanity storms punctuated by a stunned Susie kissing off Cheryl with, “Fuck you, you car-wash cunt” cap the season with something straight out of what Caligula might sound like in Larry’s imagining. Shockingly or not, “Grand Opening” wasn’t even the series’ most riotous riff on Holocaust humor, though it may be its high-finale watermark.
7. “Krazee-Eyez Killa” (Season 3, Episode 8)
All roads paved by Larry’s awkward run-ins with black people led us to “Krazee-Eyez Killa,” rewarding our loyalty with comedy gold. (There would be an even greater payoff on this pattern when the Blacks arrived in season six.) After befriending Wanda’s benevolent but terrifying fiancé Krazee-Eyez (Chris Williams), he gets chewed out by the only person more intimidating in his life, Susie, after declining a tour of her new house. Hence, he can’t say no to Krazee’s similar overture later that evening, even though he’s scared witless that his new gangster-rap BFF will find out he slipped to Cheryl about his philandering ways. This rightful fan favorite birthed “Cool de la,” “You my Caucasian?” and wrapped with the infamous pube caught in Larry’s throat, and is worthy of “The Contest”–level status in Curb’s canon.
6. “The Seder” (Season 5, Episode 7)
If you’re going to cast a likable sex offender, who better than Rob Corddry? (No offense, Rob.) Intent on one-upping the rabbi who thought a Survivor contestant would make good dinner company alongside an actual Holocaust survivor, Larry befriends Corddry’s Rick and saves him a seat at the Davids’ Passover Seder. (“It just seems like a lot of trouble you people go through for this,” Cheryl says, though Larry prefers “you Jews.”) Stephen Tobolowsky makes his legally mandated appearance on an HBO comedy, and Rob Huebel drops by as another holiday guest whom Larry stares down as a possible newspaper burglarizer. “The Seder,” one of Curb’s most expertly crafted episodes, could have ended at Rick meekly raising his hand as the only CPR-trained attendee who can aide young Sammi Greene, but then that might have left a bad taste in people’s mouths.
5. “Larry vs. Michael J. Fox” (Season 8, Episode 10)
The best thing about Larry being back in New York, besides PTSD-trigger ice-cream trucks, is having neighbors. The running gag throughout “Larry vs. Michael J.” is that Larry can’t tell whether Michael J. Fox is slyly exploiting his own condition to mess with him — with disapproving head shakes, exploding sodas, booming footsteps, etc. — or if he’s merely confusing a “Larry shake” with a “Parkinson’s shake.” Doesn’t help that he seeks counsel from sagely Leon. Mixed signals abound in the last Curb episode to air for six years, and what most figured would be its true finale. Larry’s girlfriend Jennifer (Ana Gasteyer, reprising her role from “Mister Softee”) is in denial about her wildly effeminate son Greg (Eddie Schweighardt, who steals the episode with his shrieking joy over Project Runway), and when Greg sees Larry doodling a swastika, he underestimates what a charged symbol it is and sews one on a pillow sham for Susie. (In fairness, it might be more tasteful than Susie’s bedazzled NFL sweaters from season four.) In the end, then–New York mayor Mike Bloomberg is crystal clear about booting Larry from his hometown for perceiving a slight against the unassailable Mr. Fox. If the last we ever saw of Larry was he and Leon wandering the streets of Paris, the latter devouring Taco Bell, it would have been a gift. That it was just the beginning of a new end is, in hindsight, worth joyfully shrieking over.
4. “The Bat Mitzvah” (Season 6, Episode 10)
In the season-five finale, we glimpsed what Larry’s life would have been like as son to Christian folks Mr. and Mrs. Cone. “The Bat Mitzvah” serves up the absolute antithesis, specifically Larry as doting soccer dad and madcap minivan maven to Loretta’s kids. And in doing so, it grants a moment even the ovation-averse David would stand up and cheer: Loretta cutting Susie off midstream and snapping off, “You better get your ass out of my house, you fuckin’ bitch” before slamming the door. Along the way, Larry lashes out at Antoinette for sharing the news of his anal tickle, which evolves into Richard Gere–worthy gossip; imitates a disability to deter a possible new office tenant (a definite no-no in the post-Trump era); and chooses Sammi’s bat mitzvah as the platform for clearing up the aforementioned scatological scuttlebutt. Michael McKean, Nadia Dajani, Mindy Sterling, and John Legend all squeeze in some screen time too. However, the biggest thrill of all is Larry cozying up with his new clan and flashing some of that David holiday cheer.
3. “The Ski Lift” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Five words: “What are you, fucking nuts?” That’s when the jig is up. Larry feigned Orthodox Judaism as long as he could to help Richard Lewis skip the line for a donated kidney, but once Iris Bahr’s devout Rachel insisted they leap off a stranded ski lift so they’re not seated together after dark, he mouths that telltale, somewhat rhetorical question while gnashing on a pair of edible underwear. (Yeah, it’s a long story.) “The Ski Lift” is true bang for your buck, delivering scene after scene of Larry bumping up against the limits of his Jewishness — no one does a better bastardized gibberish Yiddish — in addition to Larry, Richard, and Jeff forming conspiracy theories about Mo Collins’s huge vagina. What, did you think it was as simple as Jeff having a small penis?
2. “The Survivor” (Season 4, Episode 9)
It’s one thing to wonder aloud what would happen if you pitted a Survivor contestant against an actual Holocaust survivor to find out who’s suffered worse. Creating a 30-minute episode that supports that premise and keeps it from collapsing is a feat all its own. “The Survivor” sees Curb circling back to 9/11 for the first time since its immediate aftermath around the time of season two, and goes all in by satirizing our perverse attraction to tragedies and hardship. The subsequent, chaotic dinner party is still, naturally, Larry’s fault. (How do you trust that rabbi’s definition of survivor-dom when you already know he lumps in his late brother-in-law, run down by a bike messenger on September 11, 2001, with those who actually perished downtown?) Survivor’s Colby Donaldson gets a thumbs-up for the leap of faith, and his sparring with septuagenarian Solly (Alan Rich) is for the ages. Neither Larry’s vow renewals with Cheryl nor his attempt at a reverential fling with Hassidic dry cleaner Anna (Gina Gershon) go swimmingly, but as Colby — who’s coincidentally stuck outside the same hotel during a fire-alarm evacuation extols: “We survived!”
1. “Palestinian Chicken” (Season 8, Episode 3)
Alongside everything else, “Palestinian Chicken” gives Jeff a chance to flex his “solid, single ball” and finally snap back at Susie. “I’m just sayin’,” she adds after advising he watch what he eats. “You’re just annoying” is his rejoinder, and the most assertive one Susie has heard since Loretta told her off in season six. But the real meat of this all-time episode, which dissuaded any naysayers who worried Curb lost its edge, is Larry inadvertently becoming a hero to staff and onlookers at Al-Abbas after he swipes Marty’s yarmulke off his head. “What’s not to like?” Larry asks a beautiful Palestinian woman named Shara (Anne Bedian) as she skeptically eyes him up and down. “Eh, you’re a Jew,” is her matter-of-fact retort. Not that this stops Larry from sleeping with her, or Shara from hate-speechifying while riding him. (“Fuck me you fucking Jew!” “Zionist pig!” “Occupying fuck!” “I’m going to fuck the Jew out of you!” “Fuck me like Israel fucked my people!” “You circumcised fuck!”) Larry’s deed, and his unwillingness to take sides in the great Al-Abbas vs. Goldblatt’s turf war, doesn’t win him any points with Marty, but it’s the apex of Curb’s years-long quest to make a fine mess of political correctness. It’s prettay, prettay, prettay perfect.