[This story contains spoilers from the second episode of season 12 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, “The Lawn Jockey.”]
When Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David gave Auntie Rae (played by Ellia English) a glass of water while she was waiting in line to vote, the TV character (played by David) didn’t know there was a Georgia law against doing so. Which means he didn’t intend to be hailed as a local hero or become a “liberal darling” — or get praised by the likes of Stacey Abrams and Bruce Springsteen on national news.
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But that’s exactly what happened in the second episode of season 12 — Curb’s final season — which picked back up in Atlanta after the season premiere ended with Larry’s arrest (and a mugshot that bore similarities to former President Donald Trump’s 2023 Georgia arrest photo).
Episode two shows Larry being released from jail on his own recognizance (thanks to his lawyer, who looks an awful lot like season 10’s Mocha Joe) and returning to the Airbnb home he’s staying in with his manager, Jeff (played by Jeff Garlin), and his wife, Susie (played by Susie Essman), walking by the rental home’s racist Black lawn jockey in the front yard (more on that later) and hearing the co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on TV praising Larry for his “brave stand,” noting how the water bottle moment has gained momentum across the country.
“He saw an injustice and he did what he could to right it, and that’s what we need in this day and age,” says the real Stacey Abrams, former Georgia state representative and two-time Georgia gubernatorial candidate. “Involvement. That’s Larry David’s middle name: Larry ‘Involvement’ David,” adds the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, making the next cameo.
“We knew we wanted celebrities and politicians to sing Larry’s praises, and it was Georgia and Stacey Abrams was the perfect person,” Curb executive producer and David collaborator Jeff Schaffer tells The Hollywood Reporter of the news segment, which was anchored by Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist. “Stacey and Larry had met before at various causes [and events], so he reached out and she said if she’s in town, she would love to do it. She ended up coming to California for something and was in L.A., so we had her come into our offices to shoot.”
Schaffer adds, “It’s really cool to meet someone who is actually trying to make the world a better place, while we’re wondering if our waiter got our order right for lunch.”
Springsteen was at the top of their Larry celebrity endorser list, and they were pleasantly surprised when a call to his manager was quickly returned. For both Abrams and Springsteen, Schaffer says they came up with the scene, but asked each of them to put their own spin on it. “We always like people to say it their own way. If there’s something we really need, we’ll get it. But it just sounds better when they can talk like they talk,” he says of Curb’s improvisation. “You never see [Springsteen] on TV shows. And for Larry in the show to be like, ‘Bruce Springsteen, the Boss, is talking about me?’ It seemed like a really huge deal, because you never get to see that — and also, it’s Bruce fucking Springsteen.”
News of Larry’s heroism travels quickly through Atlanta’s Black community, where he, as “Larry Daniel,” is called an inspiration at a local church barbecue, after Auntie Rae, aunt to Leon (J.B. Smoove), implores Larry to plead not guilty and join the fight against the Election Integrity Act — which makes it illegal for anyone in the state of Georgia to provide food or water to voters in line in the polls — instead of taking his lawyer’s advice and pleading guilty to make the case go away. But when a replacement Black lawn jockey is uncovered in the backseat of Larry’s car, the entire congregation comes after him — turning the tide for the unlikely hero.
“It’s super fun to set him up as the liberal icon because, how long can he keep this going? It was all accidental anyway,” says Schaffer of Larry’s fall from grace. “Almost every season, there is a crowd of people with metaphorical pitchforks coming after Larry. We actually talked about making a big supercut of just angry villagers going after Larry as a promo for this season: ‘Everyone’s so happy he’s back!'” (Laughs.) (Last season’s pitchforking was over Larry leaving a too-long voter line and not casting his vote; the election result came down to one vote.)
To end the episode, Larry decides to plead not guilty to obstruction of the election process in the state of Georgia, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $10,000. Motivated by his guilt over the lawn jockey incident — and perhaps, some sort of good conscience? — Larry regains his exalted stature. His Atlanta trial is set to begin in 90 days. “He does Auntie Rae a solid. He is human adjacent,” says Schaffer after some prodding. “I’ll grant you that.”
During a recent visit to Today, Curb‘s creator and star acknowledged there was “some to-do” around the series finale of the other classic series he created, Seinfeld. And now, Curb‘s final season sees Larry facing possible prison time for being a good Samaritan, someone who offered a bottle of water to a voter in a hot Atlanta voting line. Seinfeld famously ended with the starring foursome going to prison for being terrible Samaritans, a finale that has been met with mixed reception.
So, is David speaking to the Seinfeld audience with this Curb setup? And does Schaffer see the comparisons?
“It’s the first time I’ve ever thought about that. We were thinking about just making the stories work and what was funniest,” he says. “That’s much more philosophical than we’ve ever gotten.”
He continues, “Larry has never once cared about what other people think. I can truly say that. Never when we were writing did he ever voice concern about what someone else might think about the show. And that’s the beauty of Larry. That’s why the show’s great. Alec Berg [who produced David’s Seinfeld along with Schaffer] used to say: ‘We make the show as if there’s no they. Whether it’s the network or audience or whoever; there’s no they. It’s just us.'”
Schaffer, meanwhile — who wasn’t with David during his now-infamous Today visit where the comedian attacked an innocent Elmo — says the viral meme (which has received some backlash) was “completely unplanned.”
“He was sitting on the other set and, it’s what he said on Seth Meyers live, he just couldn’t take it anymore,” says Schaffer. “It was two icons, just going at it. Larry, who does not have any interest or understanding of social media and going viral, created the perfect meme.”
After tackling the Trump comparison in the premiere, there’s another call back to the Trump world in this week’s episode with a reference to Rudy Giuliani.
When Larry and Jeff accidentally break the Black lawn jockey, they struggle to find a Black replacement and instead paint one with Jeff’s hair dye. When the dye melts down the jockey’s face in the Atlanta heat (another familiar real-life callback), the men are caught by Susie, who rented the home, and Larry has an epiphany: “It’s Giuliani! No wonder I thought he looked like an asshole!” he proclaims of the jockey.
“If you go out and look for a Giuliani-looking lawn jockey, you’re going to be disappointed. I want to tell everyone that right now,” says Schaffer, explaining, “We had to make a Giuliani-looking lawn jockey.”
Curb’s production design team had sketches made and molded the jockey, creating one that would melt when heated in order for the dye to run. “We were worried when we started putting the show together after we shot it that people were going to realize it looked like Giuliani in the earlier scenes. We screened it for a few people and no one realized it. Our biggest fear was completely unwarranted,” he says with a laugh. “I guess people aren’t walking into a television show thinking, ‘I wonder if they have a mold statue of Giuliani?’ Once you know, you know, but I guess if you’re not looking for it, you don’t.”
Schaffer says he and David don’t anticipate a response (“I don’t know if Giuliani knows how a television remote even works, so I don’t know if he’s going to see it,” Schaffer says), and — unlike when, after the season 10 premiere, then-President Trump tweeted in response to Larry wearing a MAGA hat — they don’t anticipate a response from Trump after the premiere: “There’s not as free-flowing communication between the Trump and Curb camps as you might think! But, don’t look for a Kellyanne Conway dig in the next one. We’re not going for the trifecta.”
Next week, for episode three, Curb returns to Los Angeles, but Larry’s trial looms. “Larry is in this very strange position where most people think he’s one of the best human beings in the world, and we’re going to have fun with that. Think of all the people he can now disappoint,” promises Schaffer of what’s to come. “He can’t sweep it under the rug, pay a fine and be done with it. Now he’s going to have to deal with it.”
And Curb being back, even if it’s for the last run, has Schaffer and David thrilled with the response to the final season so far.
“You worry about just how long it’s been,” Schaffer says, but when screening the first episode at the L.A. premiere, he realized “everyone was very happy it’s back, which is always heartwarming. I’m glad we can actually share the show with the world. We’ve been sitting on it for so long. It was just fun to hear people laugh out loud in a big group: at that Siri scene or the mugshot or whatever. That’s why you make it.”
The show’s return even prompted a response from Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state in Georgia, over the inclusion of the 2021 voting law. And while Shaffer says he’s glad Fuchs is watching and that he can say whatever he wants, Schaffer makes it clear that he thinks it’s a “terrible” law. “I think a lot of people didn’t know that was actually a law, because it seems like something that would not be in America,” says the Curb boss. “And calling it the Election Integrity Act is the height of cynicism. It’s like North Korea being called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
So, Larry the hero?
Curb Your Enthusiasm releases new episodes Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO and Max. Read THR’s premiere chat with Schaffer explaining the inspiration for including the Georgia voting law, mugshot and more in the first episode.
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