Is there any current TV show more Jewish than "Curb Your Enthusiasm"?
Like a Yiddish kite that soars with a broken tail, HBO''s "Curb Your Enthusiasm" mangles and minces the language with feisty flair. Larry David''s delirious dream of a series offers a tasty tam of Jewish language and living that is at once sweet and sour.
And, oh, so delicious!
And now, as season five goes finis this Sunday, offering its final episode in the final month of the year, with David on a quest to Sonoma, Calif., to relieve Richard Lewis'' anxiety – as if anything could ever relieve Richard Lewis'' anxiety – here''s to a series that wears its kipah slightly akimbo.
David, co-creator of "Seinfeld" and raison d''être for that series'' "out there" humor, made little use of that cast of characters'' Jewish sensibilities; sure, George''s parents'' house smelled of kasha, but Frank, we discovered, was more Sicilian than Sephardic. And, yes, there was the occasional reference to keeping kosher – serving lobster on a silver treif – and Jerry''s Jewish roots.
But there was nothing to prepare a viewer for David''s dei-dei-yenu of Yiddish wit and portrayals of the rites and wrongs of Jewish life on a weekly basis that make "Curb" so street smart.
Not that it''s in good taste; indeed, here''s where the sour note comes in.
Not that there''s anything wrong with that.
It''s the most unorthodox of comedy when David – who portrays a variation of himself – asks Susie (Susie Essman), his manager''s wife, to play his own wife as … Orthodox – even asking her to cover her head as he covers his ass in a ruse that is religiously consistent with David''s manic mania. In trying to appeal to an observant Jew, who just happens to head up a kidney-transplant program that would benefit long-suffering Richard Lewis, David would tie his tallis in a knot if it meant winning.
Gesture from the heart? That''s not what keeps him pumped; David''s only doing it so he won''t have to honor a bet that would mean him donating his own kidney to Lewis.
It gives a sordid twist to the conceit of tzedakah – like good intentions gone a rye bread. Indeed, it''s as if David pillaged the pushka box for change – and then replaced what he took with Chanukah chocolate coins.
But then, is Larry David the TV persona really Jewish after all?
His adoption of an insensitive inner soul may not come from his Jewish genes; after all, he discovers, he may have been adopted. And who knows how many kids Ghengis Kahn gave up for adoption?
Which might explain a lot – how could such a kvetch have such a nice gentle man for a dad (Shelley Berman, not phoning it in)?
How could he be more meeskeit than mensch?
Would you trust such a philistine with your phalactories? Is it any wonder that David''s seder said more about his paranoia than any four questions could pose? This is a man who would have sent Pharaoh hitting the bricks – reporting him not to the ADL, but to the Securities and Exchange Commission for his perverse pyramid scheme.
Give David an afikomen to hide and he turns it into a game of "Survivor." (Not of the Holocaust kind – that was last season.) His tribe has spoken – and David''s accused the winning youngster of cheating.
Viewers are cheating themselves if they pass up this Sunday-night ritual of mankind at its most menacingly funny. Settle down, make your own Larry David Deli Special – with corned beef, not, God forbid! whitefish – and feast on the frenzy in which the goyim are the Goliaths and David''s slingshot is stone funny.
Is it good for the Jews? Larry David may not be good for anyone!
Unless, of course, you share a sense of Schadenfraude.
And that this genius-with-Jewish-genes makes good on in a landmark series that marks a Jewish ark of triumph.