A decade before he started putting Seinfeld together, Larry David was hired as a writer/performer for the ABC live sketch comedy series Fridays, the network’s attempt to make an SNL clone. Fridays ran for three seasons and, for a short period, surpassed SNL in terms of popularity and quality, and David was no small part of the show’s success. Although Larry David is solely responsible for preventing Fridays from being released on DVD, devoted fans have uploaded several sketches online so that we can remember what the show was like.
For somebody who, for the most part, avoided acting for the next two decades, Larry David proves to be a gifted performer with a greater range for characters than you’d think. His Bing Crosby impression in particular shows he’s capable of disappearing into a different character, and his curmudgeonly persona is also on display here, albeit in its embryonic form. David’s comic sensibilities aren’t quite as evolved on Fridays as they are by the end of the 80s with Seinfeld, but the show did provide him the chance to work with two collaborators who would become a big part of his career later on: writer Larry Charles, who served as a writer/producer on Seinfeld and a producer/director on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Michael Richards, who went on to play the best-known character Larry David ever created.
Fridays was Larry David’s first big chance to work out his comedy on the national stage, and he offers up some of Fridays’ most memorable sketches and collaborates nicely with the whole rest of the cast. Unlike the next job he took for network TV, a writing gig on SNL, David was able to be a major contributor to Fridays’ comic output, whereas on SNL, he only got one sketch on the air the entire season he was there.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s a collection of sketches that Larry David performed in on Fridays. David was only 32 when the show began, and looking back at his earliest TV work provides a neat window into how he got started.
Perhaps Larry David’s best-known Fridays sketch, this one features David as a plastic surgeon who is asked by a patient to make him look more like Howdy Doody. It launched a running joke on Fridays about Howdy Doody being a big star and is an early example of David playing around with and repeating an odd voice and phrase, something he still does on Curb.
“The Road to El Salvador”
Larry David plays Bing Crosby to castmember John Roarke’s Bob Hope in this parody of the duo’s Road to… movies that was critical of President Reagan’s policy in Central America. Fridays was known for its outspoken political humor, and this pop culture send-up was a clever way of sneaking a political message into the show. Look for Larry David’s fellow Fridays castmember Michael Richards as an El Salvadoran military officer at 2:21.
The video quality on this one’s pretty shoddy, but it’s another “Temp” sketch. This time around, David’s character is filling in for Gloria Steinem at a feminist speaking engagement.
“The Friday Edition”
Larry David stops by the desk of Fridays’ Weekend Update equivalent, “The Friday Edition,” to defend Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan leader and his childhood friend.
“The Friday Edition #2”
Another “Friday Edition” segment, this one opens with another special report from Larry David.
“This Apartment Includes an Audience”
Larry David, Melanie Chartoff, Michael Richards, and Maryedith Burrell star in this ahead-of-its-time meta sketch about a couple who keeps a live studio audience in their apartment.
“The Three Stooges Get Stoned”
Larry David and Fridays castmembers Bruce Mahler and John Roarke play The Three Stooges as lunatic drug addicts in the modern world. It’s a much funnier spin on the Stooges than that new Farrelly Brothers movie, in which Larry David will also appear. Fridays’ mockery of the Three Stooges greatly upset Moe Howard’s family, who threatened to sue the makers of the show.
“Founding Fathers on Gun Control”
Larry David, Michael Richards, and the rest of the Fridays cast play the founding fathers in this heavy-handed political sketch that tackles the issue of gun control. Fridays could occasionally get a little preachy, but at least the show’s writers weren’t afraid to take on the big issues of the day, something that can’t be said of a lot of sketch comedy shows.
Larry David, Maryedith Burrell, Michael Richards, and Brandis Kemp play two couples resorting to childhood tricks.
“Men Who Hug”
This horrifyingly outdated and homophobic talk show sketch stars Fridays guest Mark Hamill as the host of a talk show called Men Who Hug. Larry David, Michael Richards, and Bruce Mahler join him.
“Famous People Who Have Jewish Names But Aren’t Jewish”
Another talk show sketch, this one is hosted by Larry David and delivers just what the title would have you expect.
“The 11th Wonder of the World”
Larry David plays a “comedic genius” who’s been captured and shown off to crowds a la King Kong. It’s a little odd to see David labeled a “comedic genius” by the show’s writers, who weren’t aware that he’d become a prolific comedy writer soon after, unless they were clairvoyant or something.
For further reading on Fridays, check out this awesome piece Dennis Perrin wrote for Splitsider earlier this year.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.