Dierdre Dolan is the author of "Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Book," a coffee table book for the socially disinclined. This big, beautiful text offers a sort of oral history of the show, including interviews with everyone from the set designers to Larry David himself. I talked with her about the book, and I'm giving two away, as well -- look for the contest below the interview.
Why does the world need a book about Curb Your Enthusiasm? There's a TV show already.
The book is for fans of the show who want to know more -- how it's made (what does the editor, director, producer do); what are the real relationships between the cast like; what does the process of an entirely improvised show entail exactly. It's a non-fictional account of a fictional TV show.
Who did you talk to (besides LD) who gave you the most insight? What was the insight?
Director Bob Weide, director Larry Charles, actor/executive producer Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines and Susie Essman were all full of insight, and they all said the same thing: Larry David listens to himself more than anyone else, and that's why the show works. It's not that David won't ask for everyone's opinion, it's just that ultimately he trusts his own inner compass about what's funny more than he trusts anyone else's. This is one of the keys to the show's success. HBO leaves him alone where most network shows would be offering tons of suggestions and notes (expected to be followed). With Seinfeld, Larry David earned the right to ignore the network suits. And of course, since so much of the comedy comes from his own life, it only makes sense for him to be the last word on a line read or an edit. The more personal comedy stays, the funnier it usually is. Comedy writing by committee doesn't work as well.
David is notoriously unwilling to analyze his work, and you are one of the few folks who's spoken with him formally about Curb. What did he say that surprised you?
I know one thing that surprised David was that, after years of working behind the scenes on Seinfeld, he found it so enjoyable to be in front of the camera acting (he says it's much easier than writing). He never anticipated how much he would enjoy acting. I've been on the sets of a number of different TV shows, and "Curb" was hands down the happiest. When asked about their jobs, actors often say that they spend all day laughing at work, but on "Curb" everyone really does spend all day laughing because every take is different and funny in a new way.
In terms of analyzing his own work, David said he thinks the secret to the success of "Curb" and Seinfeld is that he writes about the ordinary things -- the small slights and annoyances of daily life (not enough shrimp in our chinese order, the annoying girlfriend of a good friend, etc.).
"When we were doing Seinfeld I realized that there was this whole world available that nobody was writing about," says David. "And I didn't understand it. I mean it puzzled me. What's the big deal? It just wasn't being done. And I'm not immodest when I say that. I just didn't see anythign being done like Seinfeld. And that's why people took to it."
What horrible thing that Larry's done on the show did you most identify with?
I relate to the smaller things because I live on a smaller scale than his character -- like the fight he gets into with Jason Alexander because he won't meet him halfway for a meeting, or when he complains about the waiting policy at the doctor's office. I'm also a grudge holder, so I identify with that too.
Is there something you've done in your life that's as awful as the things Larry does serially on the show? A particular incident you can share with our readers in all its gruesome detail?
I asked a woman when she was due once, and then she told me she wasn't pregnant. I couldn't figure out if the right move was to apologize and come up with some convoluted explanation, or just let it go. Instead I spent the next twenty minutes talking a mile a minute praying she would just forget that I ever asked the question.
Curb Your Enthusiasm the book is in stores now, but if you want to save the copy you're buying for the misanthrope on your Christmas list... why not try to win one for yourself?
Here's the contest: share with us, in the comments, the single most awful, Larry-David-esque thing you've ever done. If you want to do it anonymously, email it to me at email@example.com, and I'll post it for you. On Monday, I'll decide my two favorites, and each will get a copy of the book.
Ready, steady... go!
Previously on The Sound of Young America:
Interview with Curb producer Robert Weide (MP3)
I was rooting around the McDonald's website, looking for a sound clip of their "I'm Lovin' It" theme to play after Dan Levitin mentioned that jingle being stuck in his head at the end of our interview last week. I couldn't find the song, but while I was there, I saw this...
When slavery was toppled... McDonald's was by Frederick Douglass' side.
When children were fighting for equal access to education... Clarence Thomas had the McGriddle.
When Dr. King was shot... the Rev. Jackson was there. With a Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.
Is it real? Yes. All too real. (And apparently, both Tom Joyner and The Tavis Smiley Foundation are involved.)
The Kidz in the Hall (not to be confused with The Kids in the Hall) are the first act on the new Rawkus Records, and they sound pretty good. Check out the flip of the 93 Till Infinity sample on "Wheels Fall Off"
This dude is a classic New Sincericist. This is some wild, wild s**t.
One time we had a lady on The Sound from a group called "Jay's Kids," which was 57 people whose father was Screamin' Jay.
Paul Noth is co-creator of the cartoon series "Pale Force," which stars Conan O'Brien and Jim Gaffigan. Initially a one-off joke on O'Brien's "Late Night," "Pale Force " has been transformed into a series of "webisodes" at nbc.com. When he's not working on "Pale Force," Noth is a graphic novelist and a regular cartoonist for The New Yorker. I sat down with Paul at a local cafe, where I was typing emails back and forth with him wherever it was that he was.
How did you get involved with the series?
Watching Jim on "Late Night" got me thinking about how both he and Conan had a lot of self-deprecating pale jokes. I came up with the idea for "Pale Force," wrote a script, and emailed it to Jim. He and I had collaborated on several other writing projects, one of which included my first attempt at animation. Jim liked the idea and brought me along the next time he did "Late Night" to pitch it to the head writer, Mike Sweeney. Mike liked it too, but it was almost a year before it got the greenlight. They don't usually use guest writers.
This series sort of started as a gag for Gaffigan on Conan... how did it become a proper series?
After they taped Jim's first Pale Force appearance, one of the producers came up to us and said, "Get to work on the next one." Before that moment I didn't think it would be more than a one-time thing. Jim and I wrote the origin story, "Pale Force Begins." After it taped the executive producer Jeff Ross approached us about doing a series of twenty. We were thrilled. We had had a lot of fun with "Pale Force Begins." It had set up this world where an anthropomorphic State of Utah can hang out with Santa and Larry Bird. These are stories that need to be told.
Did you go to NBC to make this an on-demand web 2.0 interweb mobisode, or did you pitch it as such?
No, I never thought this would become anything like... whatever it is it's become. I still can't believe they're letting us do twenty. My favorite part is working with my brother Patrick on the songs. Unlike me, he has musical talent. I'll sing him something terrible, stupid and off-key, and he'll turn it into an actual song. I never thought I'd get to do musical numbers.
How do you make 20 episodes of this, and how does it work without the setup of Gaffigan springing it on Conan? Did you have to expand your idea of what it was and could be?
At first the idea of doing twenty was kind of daunting. But we were encouraged by the first two episodes, "Sidekicks 1 and 2," which don't contain any pale jokes at all. I think we were trying to prove to ourselves that these can be about anything, as long as the small group of people who work on them all think that they're funny.
Hopefully people will watch the episodes from the show first. But even if they just stumble upon a later one out of context, I don't think it's very difficult to infer the set up (that these cartoons are Jim's delusional fantasies, which humiliate Conan) perhaps from the opening sequence alone. That's not to say that any of the online episodes wouldn't benefit enormously from having the real life Jim and Conan there to react to them. But there are other things that we're willing to do online that we wouldn't risk during a show, for fear that the studio audience wouldn't laugh.
The Sound of Young America is proud to present comedian Todd Barry at The Hemlock Tavern's Club Chuckles in San Francisco Saturday night.
Performing with Todd will be our old college pal Mary Van Note, who's been making big noise in the SF standup scene the past year or so.
There are two shows, one at 9 and one at 11:30, and tickets are only $10 in advance, or $12 at the door. It's your chance to see some great comedy in a rock club setting.
But let's say you're cheap... or poor. You don't have ANY money to spend on tickets. DON'T WORRY!
We're giving away two pairs of tickets for each show! All you have to do is email contest @maximumfun dot org, and include your full name and phone number. I will announce the winners on Friday morning, so you have until the end of the day Thursday to enter.
Ready, steady... GO!
Here's a new feature for you... but can you think of a better name for it? I'm so happy with Blast Processing, I thought I'd throw it out to you again.
King Davey D breaks down the Slick Rick situation with The Ruler:
powered by ODEO
"Pickup trucks / beer & meat / pussy from Vegas / boots on my feet"
The great Brent Weinbach is coming to Portland and Seattle today and tommorow, so if you live in either of those cities, now is your time to strike. Brent is one of our all-time favorite comics, and these are his first headlining shows in both cities, so we're proud to present them both!
Portland, OR / Monday October 23rd
714 SW 20th Place
Show at 8PM, $6
Seattle, WA / Tuesday October 24th
2322 2nd Ave.
Show at 8PM, $7
And if you do go, make sure to loudly proclaim to no one in particular things like, "Boy, these Sound of Young America presents shows are GREAT," and "I'm here because The Sound of Young America reccomended I be here." Every little bit helps.
To help celebrate this occaision, I have invited some great New Yorkers to the show:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Hillary Clinton
Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer
Anyone have any other great ideas for who I should invite? Spill 'em!