Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: “The Bi-Sexual”

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The nice thing about Larry David’s enormous ego is that it doesn't discriminate. As tonight’s episode, “The Bi-Sexual,” suggests, Larry is just as likely to get into a turf war with a lesbian as with another heterosexual male.

Larry’s unlikely sexual rivalry with the former "Queen of Nice" begins at an art gallery, where he meets a charming Jewess named Jane. Utterly smitten, he bumps into his old pal, Rosie O'Donnell, and tells her about his new love interest. She, too, has just met an amazing woman. Naturally, it turns out they’ve both fallen for the same gal, and like two silverback gorillas with their eyes on the same mate, Larry and Rosie turn on each other with remarkable speed and ferocity.

Larry is nearly driven mad by the competition. Initially, he thinks he has the edge, but he’s thrown into a state of panic after Rosie engages in some good, old-fashioned locker-room boasting. “I couldn’t move my neck on Tuesday morning,” she brags. To make matters worse for Larry, she’s also asked Jane, a huge Broadway fan (she’s seen Chess: The Musical AND knows all the words to the British version of Cats) to accompany her to the Tonys. How can he possibly compete?

At Leon’s suggestions, Larry decides his only choice is to “juice”—i.e., to pop some Viagra. It works like a charm, and Jane cancels her date to the Tonys in order to visit Cooperstown with Larry, but when one of the little blue pills falls out of his pocket, Jane gives him the heave-ho. “What about the Hall of Fame?” he asks. “You’re not getting in,” she replies.  Now, Larry David is hardly the first person to make extended sexual metaphors using baseball imagery, and Viagra jokes are about as fresh as a week-old diaper, but somehow, Larry makes it all work. Perhaps it’s because the person driving him to take “performance-enhancing drugs” isn’t Sammy Sosa but a pudgy lesbian who first charmed America by throwing koosh balls at her talk-show audience. In other words: not someone you'd think would be intimidating to a heterosexual dude like Larry. So it's surprising—and effective—that Rosie's sexual prowess sends Larry into a state of panic.

"The Hero" (which my esteemed colleague, Kenny Herzog, brilliantly recapped in my absence) brought Larry’s long-awaited arrival in New York. And while I didn’t enjoy the episode quite as much as Kenny (I’d have given it a B, I think), I was thrilled to see Curb transposed to a New York setting and not just because I live around the corner from Veniero’s, the bakery where Larry got his stale bread/billy club. I’m curious to see how the show will hold up in this new location. New York is Larry’s actual hometown, but even more so, it’s his comedic homeland. He might live in Los Angeles, but Larry is an archetypal New Yorker; he ought to be right at home in a city where cynicism and kvetching are more socially acceptable than in bright, sunny SoCal and where the petty annoyances that are Curb’s stock-in-trade lurk at every corner. Just think of all the possibilities: cabs, bike lanes, doormen, theater, those dudes in Times Square who ask “Do you like comedy?” It’s a veritable minefield of fraught social interaction.

Yet part of the humor of Curb has always been that Larry’s a bit of a fish out of water, like Woody Allen in Annie Hall. Can Larry be as funny if he’s thrown back into the water, so to speak? Similarly, living in New York will force Larry out of his privileged Brentwood (or wherever he lives) bubble. No, he’s not exactly slumming it at Renny Harlin’s palatial bachelor pad overlooking Central Park, but even in the super-sanitized New York of 2011, it’s hard to remain cloistered forever—or, you know, at least harder than it is in LA. This could make for some interesting circumstances. I mean, wasn’t it kind of a shock to see Larry on the subway, even if he was just there stalking Ricky Gervais?


Anyway, back to “The Bi-Sexual.” One thing that's already interesting to see is how certain Curb tropes are translated to New York: In LA, Larry stresses about where to go for lunch; in New York, he gets angry about takeout food. When his soup is inadequately secured in a to-go container, Larry confronts the maitre d’ who wrapped it, a (seemingly) deferential Japanese man who offers a bow as an apology. Everything seems fine until Larry, strolling through Central Park en route to his softball game, witnesses a Japanese tourist practically prostrating himself after accidentally ruining another man’s ice cream cone. Upset that the maitre d' didn't bow quite so far, Larry confronts the penitent tourist, who confirms his suspicion: The maitre d' gave him a “shit bow.” I’m not sure what was more absurdly funny: the idea that there is a Japanese phrase that translates to “shit bow,” or the idea that a group of Japanese tourists would happily oblige his patently offensive line of questioning. Either way, it was pretty great.

Happily, “The Bi-Sexual” also marks the return of Leon after a few weeks’ absence. And like his pal Larry, Leon seems revitalized by the move cross-country. Naturally, he turns up unannounced, having driven Larry's Prius from California—“I don’t fly, baby. You gotta have a photo ID for that.”—and nearly destroyed it along the way. In about 20 seconds of dialogue, Leon paints a hilariously incomplete scene of chaos: a car crammed with eight people, including a baby; an unnamed roommate back at Larry’s house in LA who’s driving him crazy. Larry, of course, is unfazed. One of the many fascinating things about Larry is that he doesn’t give a shit about big things—like, say, his house or his car. It’s the teeny, tiny things that get him worked up.


Anyway, it’s wonderful to see Larry and Leon reunited, especially for the pre-date pep talk/anatomy lesson. Larry’s feeling inadequate because of Rosie’s “lesbian advantage,” but Leon invokes yet another baseball metaphor to remind him of his unique physical assets. “Bats and balls run the world,” Leon says. Meanwhile, ladies have nothing but gloves which only exist to catch balls. It’s breathtakingly sexist (duh), but on some level you have to admire how completely the baseball equipment/sexual organ metaphor works. Larry responds with what’s easily the best line of the episode: “Too bad I don’t have a daughter; I would like to impart that knowledge to her.” It’s a sly acknowledgment of their desperate chauvinist posturing. The real Larry actually has two daughters, which makes the line even funnier (I think). And in its own crass, twisted way, "The Bi-Sexual" delivers a feminist message.

Stray observations:

  • “She’s a dyke. Deal with it.”
  • I wish we’d gotten to see a little more of Larry and Leon riffing on their lack of attraction to one another. “Do you think I’d go out with a guy wearing a green wifebeater?” was funny, but I wanted more.
  • As he so often does, Larry really opened my eyes yet again this week during his conversation with Duckstein. “We don’t really see each other in L.A.Why would we have lunch in the new city?” That’s an excellent question, Larry.
  • “There won’t be a snack, there won’t be coffee, there won’t be drinks, and hopefully, there won’t be another bump-into.”
  • “I wanna make that smaller. Shrink it, shrink it, put the hands together. That’s what I want.”
  • I love that Duckstein can’t even bother to stay angry at Larry. After Larry blows off his lunch invite and tells him he never wants to see him again, Duckstein just waves him off and says, somewhat cheerfully, “See you later, Larry.”
  • “You can’t go into a fuckfight with no goddamn weapon, jump rope hanging from your pants.”
  • “Yeah, sure. Research. Wikipedia.”
  • “You living large? I just had a croissant filled with motherfucking champagne.”