The Hot Seat: Larry David
What's wrong with calling a woman a bigot?
Mon May 24 2010
Illustration: Daniel Zalkus
Would the world be a better place if we all acted like Larry David? Think about that the next time you use racial slurs to get out of jury duty, or pick up a prostitute to get into the carpool lane. Since 2000, David's been indulging our antisocial impulses on Curb Your Enthusiasm, which features an overly honest version of himself—zealously bullying the boundaries of good taste and using the c-word liberally. This week, the show moves to basic cable and adds a special feature: Each episode will be followed by a short panel discussion with comedians, celebrities and ethicists like The New York Times' Randy Cohen. Together, they'll determine who's in the wrong: the etiquette-flouting David or etiquette itself. Perhaps we'll find out when it's the right time to make an affirmative-action joke.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews
Do you mind if we call you Larry?
I prefer Larry, or Your Grace. Either one.
Your Grace, Curb is moving to basic cable. Do you have concerns about letting people who can't afford premium cable—the poor, huddled masses, like us—watch it?
[Laughs] No, I have no concerns about that. I'm just glad that you'll get to see it.
We'll miss the swearing.
You'll see; when you put the substitutes in, it still works pretty well.
Do you think Larry is a good role model?
I actually vacillate on this issue. We need social boundaries in order for us to get along—we can't be that honest. I think half of what I say and do could be incorporated into life and be helpful, but probably not the other half.
How will the panel help us determine what's acceptable Larry behavior and what's not?
We'll discuss some of the issues that are raised on the show. For example, in the scene when I thanked the husband who took me out for dinner, and the wife said, "Aren't you going to thank me, Larry?" And I said, "Well, you didn't pay for it, you don't work." [Laughs] Am I obligated to thank that woman? Or last year, when I found out the doctor was gay and said, "I didn't know you were gay." Why couldn't I say that? Maybe we'll have a gay panelist weigh in.
Would you consider asking the judges from American Idol to be panelists?
That's not a bad idea.
Simon Cowell is also known for his bluntness. We imagine he'd agree with Larry a lot.
Yeah, I have a feeling he's eye to eye with me on a lot of subjects.
Does that comparison to Cowell sting a little bit?
No, I like Simon Cowell. But I could never really do that in my own life or on the show, because I don't like to hurt people's feelings. That may sound odd coming from me, but it's true.
So will you be brushing up on your ethics before succumbing to the panelists' scrutiny?
No! I have zero interest in that. We all have our own code, don't we? I have my code, and to some degree, this is pretty much what the show is about, right?
Well, here's an ethical quandary from me, one of TONY's token Brits: Did you hear about "Bigotgate" during the British election, when then--Prime Minister Gordon Brown was caught calling a female voter a bigot after getting into his car?
Because that seemed like a very Larry David moment of honesty.
I don't understand what he did wrong! He said the woman was a bigot, it's not like he said something bigoted. To me, he came off well in that exchange.
He got crucified for it.
Of course he did. Because you saw him in a candid moment, and he used the word bigot. It would have been different if he had said something as an example of his own bigotry. But that's not what happened.
What would you have said if you were him?
I would have said, "What did I do wrong? She was bigoted, and I said so."
So it seems that you think Brits, at least, should adhere to the Larry David ethical code.
I think it's imperative.
Curb Your Enthusiasm premieres Wed 2 at 10pm on TV Guide Network, followed by Curb: The Discussion.