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no time to die

Ken Hoffman chats with the celebrity Larry David hysterically cursed

Ken Hoffman chats with the celebrity Larry David hysterically cursed

Richard Lewis Larry David Curb Your Enthusiasm
Richard Lewis is the subject of Larry David's vitriol in Curb's new season. Photo by John P. Johnson/HBO

Larry David went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last week to talk up Curb Your Enthusiasm returning for its 11th season Sunday night on HBO.

David brought one short clip from the entire 10-episode season. He is sitting with comedian Richard Lewis at an outdoor event when, here’s a shocker, they start arguing. This time it’s about which one is a worse dresser.

Finally, David tells Lewis, “I can’t even look at you, I get depressed. When are you going to die? Will you please die?”

What a morbid and frankly sick … and hilarious thing to say to someone who’s been your friend for half a century. When the clip ends, David and Kimmel are laughing uncontrollably.

David explained, “Richard is the only person in the world I could say that line to. Our friendship is so strong and it goes back so far that I could say anything I want to him and vice-versa.”

Kimmel added, “He is, to me, one of the all-time greats, Richard Lewis.”

Curb Your Enthusiasm is my favorite show ever, nothing else has made me laugh so hard so consistently for long. Problem is, I ride an emotional rollercoaster with Curb. I look forward to each season, count the days to Sunday night for 10 weeks, then sink into comedy despair waiting, hoping for another season.

I’m lucky. Not only is Curb Your Enthusiasm my favorite show, Richard Lewis is one of my favorite people. This may surprise you, but I don’t have a lot of celebrities as friends. Lewis tops my list. I’ll tell you a funny story about him further down.

After I watched Jimmy Kimmel Live! with Larry David asking Lewis when he’s going to die, I called Lewis and said, “Tell me everything about that scene.”

Lewis said, “The scene, as usual, has story points, then it’s improv. It’s a pretty lengthy scene with a lot of guest stars. That was just 26 seconds you saw on Kimmel. All I knew ahead of time was Larry and I would be talking. Larry said, ‘Just start talking to me.’ Before we started to roll, I said, ‘No, you just start talking to me.’ We were fighting already.

“I always mock his clothes and he mocks my clothes. I told him that I’m one of the best-dressed comics that ever lived and he went to town on me. That’s when he asked me when I was going to die and would I please die. I didn’t blink. I reacted the same way I would have in real life. It goes on from there. It’s one of the best moments I’ve had in all my years on the show.”

I had to ask: How do you keep from laughing when you don’t know what’s coming next from Larry David?

“I’ve taken acting classes and I consider myself a Method actor,” Lewis said. “I try to stay in the moment. Improv is different. You have to be a good listener and come back. I will look a little off-center. If I look at his eyes, I might lose it. Larry loses it more than anybody on the show.

“I have no problem not laughing. But when he says to me, ‘Why don’t you die?’ somewhere deep in my brain I’m thinking that if I laugh I’ll blow the whole scene. Some great things might be happening that could be hard to get back.”

Lewis has been dealing with health problems — three back and shoulder surgeries — and was able to appear in only one episode this Curb season.

“It was the most depressed I’ve ever been in my life basically,” Lewis said. “I was able to sneak in one episode. It’s been a really tough challenge to get back. I’ve been in physical therapy almost two years. I’m getting better. I’m getting stronger.

“Missing Curb was the real downer for me. Larry kept calling me. ‘Can you do it?’ He had one episode left and I said I think I can do it. It really bolstered my spirits to hear Larry talk about our friendship on Kimmel. Larry and I were born in the same hospital and we’ve been friends forever. And when Jimmy said that I was one of the all-time greats, I was so moved by it.”

Here’s a Richard Lewis story. Several years ago, I did a little AM radio show here. Lewis was performing in Houston and came on the show.

I told him, “I do a bit where I have the guest play a trivia contest against an oddball opponent. I’ll bring my kid in and you can play trivia against him and one of his friends. Lewis didn’t like the idea of working with a couple of eight-year-olds, though. I said give it a try.

If you’ve seen Lewis perform, he throws in a lot of literary references. He’s a smart guy, an Ohio State grad. He may be talking about his sex life and somehow Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman enters the conversation.

Lewis’ first trivia question was, “What was Mickey Mantle's batting average his rookie season?" Lewis answered .268. Close, but sorry, The Mick batted .267. 

Then I turned to the eight-year-olds. Their first question was  “In what play will you find a character named Stanley Kowalski?”

Without pausing a second, in their squeaky little kid voices, the boys said, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

That’s one of Lewis’ favorite plays, a poignant and tragic examination of the human condition. It’s a very complicated and adult drama.

Lewis looked at them incredulously: “How would you possibly know that?”

They said: “We starred in a kindergarten production of Streetcar. We played Marlon Brando and Karl Malden’s parts. We’re big fans of Tennessee Williams’ work. Duh, who isn’t?”

The boys beat Lewis, 4-0. I may have given the kids the answers. At least they didn’t mock his clothes and start a whole thing. 

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