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A 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' appreciation, as the series comes to an end


This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli. HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," creator and star Larry David's follow-up to his mega-successful sitcom "Seinfeld," premiered at the end of the previous century in 1999. Now, 25 years and 12 seasons later, it comes to an end this weekend on HBO and Max. To salute one of TV's longest-running and smartest comedies, today we listen back to our interviews with the director of the first episode of "Curb," with several of its co-stars and with "Seinfeld" co-creator and "Curb" creator and star Larry David himself - but first, an appreciation of what "Curb" has been doing all these years and a guess at how it might end.


BIANCULLI: One of the more subtle yet noticeable running gags in this final season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" has been whenever Larry David points out to a character that he left "Seinfeld" before its last few seasons. The character always replies, but you returned for the finale, right? And Larry, with a painful expression on his face, says that he did.

That "Seinfeld" finale in 1998 still registers and not only with Larry David. Many people - millions of them - didn't like that last "Seinfeld" episode. I did, though. Its final scene was an echo of the very first scene from the first episode of what was then called "The Seinfeld Chronicles." Jerry and Jason Alexander's George Costanza were arguing about the proper placement of shirt collar buttons. After nine years on the air, the "Seinfeld" characters had learned nothing and hadn't matured one iota. The year after that last "Seinfeld," Larry David embarked on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" for HBO, coming out of the backstage shadows as the co-creator of "Seinfeld" to play an on-camera, exaggerated version of himself on "Curb." Now, all these years later, Larry is presenting what he's insisting is the final episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

HBO hasn't provided a preview, but based on Larry David's extensive, impressively lengthy body of TV work on "Curb," it's possible to make some educated guesses. One is that Sunday's episode will be really funny. "Curb" always is. Another is that it will be tightly plotted and end with a meaningful, punctuated final scene, for though Larry and company wrote the "Curb" scripts with lots of room for improvisation, the plot points between those freewheeling conversational spots were as important and as carefully planned as clues in an Agatha Christie mystery. Each episode could surprise you, and often did, by the way its subplots and punchlines all ended up leading to the same delightfully unexpected ending. Sometimes the grand design even carried over an entire season.

My favorite season ending, and one I'm almost ashamed I didn't see coming, was the year when Mel Brooks, playing himself, hired Larry to take over the lead of his long-running hit Broadway musical, "The Producers." Only at the end did we learn that Larry got the role because Mel was certain the show would be so awful with Larry in it that it finally would close, which Mel wanted because he had tired of its success. And in a perfect echo of the original "Producers" ending, Mel and his wife, Anne Bancroft, are in a bar down the street on the new company's opening night. They're celebrating the show's impending demise when a crowd rushes in. Twenty years later, Anne Bancroft's impersonation of Gene Wilder's lament still makes me laugh out loud.


MEL BROOKS: (As himself) Brooks) It's intermission. Quick - hide your faces. They'll tear us to pieces.

NANCY MCDONIEL: (As Bar Patron #4) I'll have a Manhattan.

RICHARD TOTH: (As Bar Patron #1) Two whiskey sours.

MCDONIEL: (As Bar Patron #4) So far, this is about the funniest thing I've seen on Broadway.

TOTH: (As Bar Patron #1) I've never laughed so hard in my life.

TEDDY COLUCA: (As Bar Patron #2) Absolutely hysterical.

SARAH KNOWLTON: (As Bar Patron #3) I thought I had split my sides (laughter).

BROOKS: (As himself) Honey, don't panic. There are a lot of shows on the street. They may not necessarily be talking about Larry David and "The Producers."

TOTH: (As Bar Patron #1) Who would have guessed Larry David would be so hysterical?

KNOWLTON: (As Bar Patron #3) Let's get back. If he's as brilliant in the second act as he is in the first, this show's going to run for another five years.


BROOKS: (As himself) Got to think, got to think.

ANNE BANCROFT: (As herself) No way out, no way out, no way out.

BIANCULLI: So what's the story arc for this final current season? It's one that, as with "Seinfeld," pulls from the show's earliest beginnings. In that first "Curb" in 1999, Larry was eating a snack while complaining to his wife, Cheryl, played by Cheryl Hines, about his relative popularity level.


LARRY DAVID: (As himself) I don't know. People used to like me. And all of a sudden - I don't know how it's evolved like this, but I used to have friends who really liked me - not women but friends.

CHERYL HINES: (As Cheryl David) Guys liked you?

DAVID: (As himself) Yeah, guys liked me.

HINES: (As Cheryl David) And now they don't?

DAVID: (As himself) I don't know. I'm beginning to sense a whole wave of antipathy, a big wave of antipathy.

BIANCULLI: And that's exactly what this last season of "Curb" has been all about - Larry's popularity. In the season premiere, Larry visited Atlanta, stopped to talk to a friend who was on line to vote in the hot sun, handed her some water and got arrested for it. The episode ended with a typically delightful "Curb" surprise - Larry getting a mug shot, scowling in just the same manner as former President Donald Trump did on his infamous mug shot.

But Larry's arrest made him unexpectedly wildly popular, so much so that in last week's episode, Bruce Springsteen came by just to meet him. But a reversal of fortune already is happening. Larry may have given Bruce COVID, angering Bruce's fans. And Larry's trial on the Atlanta charges is coming up, which suggests that "Curb," like "Seinfeld," may end with a courtroom episode, perhaps allowing for character witnesses to show up from a quarter-century of "Curb."

As it is, Larry David has been intensely loyal regarding his "Curb" collaborators on screen and off. Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman, playing Larry's manager Jeff and Jeff's foul-mouthed wife, still are cast members after all these episodes. So is Cheryl Hines, even though her TV character divorced the TV Larry David years ago. And she even showed up last week, barging in as Larry, trying on a new suit to wear to his trial, was being prepped for his testimony by his lawyer, played by Sanaa Lathan.


SANAA LATHAN: (As Sibby Sanders) So the trial is in a few weeks, and it's going to be more about you and how you're perceived than the facts. The facts are indisputable. You gave her the water. So it's going to come down to the jury saying, do we like Larry, or do we not like Larry?

DAVID: (As himself) Well, if it's coming down to that, it's no contest. OK?

LATHAN: (As Sibby Sanders) That's right - not in that suit.

DAVID: (As himself) Leon, will you get that?

J B SMOOVE: (As Leon Black) I got it.

DAVID: (As himself) And in terms of being likable, you know what my mother used to say? What's not to like?

HINES: (As Cheryl David) Larry, did you ask my masseuse for a hand job?

DAVID: (As himself) What?

SMOOVE: (As Leon Black) Oh, [expletive].

DAVID: (As himself) No.

HINES: (As Cheryl David) She's not a sex worker. She's a masseuse. She's a professional woman.

DAVID: (As himself) Never did that. No.

LATHAN: (As Sibby Sanders) Larry, is this true?

DAVID: (As himself) I didn't do that, OK?

HINES: (As Cheryl David) It's so disrespectful.

DAVID: (As himself) She misinterpreted. I didn't do that, Cheryl. She misinterpreted.

LATHAN: (As Sibby Sanders) Hey. Hey.

DAVID: (As himself) Bulls***. This is...

LATHAN: (As Sibby Sanders) Larry, don't talk to her like that. That's a woman right there.

DAVID: (As himself) No, that's not.

HINES: (As Cheryl David) Thank you.

DAVID: (As himself) That's my ex-wife. That's not a woman.

BIANCULLI: My guess is that, as with the end of "Seinfeld," we will witness no character growth. The episode's title, the only real clue we have to its contents, is "No Lessons Learned." I'm expecting that the TV Larry David, after spending most of this season as an unlikely pop culture hero, will end up very, very unliked and unappreciated. And my final prediction is that for the real Larry David, the exact reverse will be true. After all these seasons of "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," he deserves credit - and will get it - as one of the most significant comedy talents in TV history.


BIANCULLI: Now to the interviews. On "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Cheryl Hines appeared in the very first episode, playing Larry David's wife. She's still on the show, but now she plays his ex-wife. Hines started her career performing with the comedy improv group The Groundlings, whose alumni include Will Ferrell, Paul Reubens, Lisa Kudrow, Jon Lovitz, Julia Sweeney and Laraine Newman. Terry Gross spoke with Hines in 2004. They began with this scene.


HINES: (As Cheryl David) So this is what I have so far. May I always have the wisdom to look past your shortcomings and appreciate all of the goodness you possess. We promise to continue loving each other unconditionally not only throughout this lifetime but after death, through all eternity. We stand before you...

DAVID: (As himself) What was that?

HINES: (As Cheryl David) What?

DAVID: (As himself) What was that about eternity?

HINES: (As Cheryl David) We'll love each other throughout this lifetime but after death, through all eternity.

DAVID: (As himself) You mean this is continuing into the afterlife.

HINES: (As Cheryl David) Yeah, that's the idea. Do you have a problem with that?

DAVID: (As himself) Well, I thought this was over at death. I didn't know we went into eternity together. Isn't that what it said - until death do us part? I thought it was...

HINES: (As Cheryl David) Do you have a problem with eternity?

DAVID: (As himself) Well...

HINES: (As Cheryl David) We finally found each other, Larry, and we're celebrating this for all eternity.

DAVID: (As himself) I just - I guess I had a different plan for eternity. I thought I'd be single, I guess.

HINES: (As Cheryl David) I'm sorry. I'm interrupting your single life in eternity.

DAVID: (As himself) No, I just didn't realize that this relationship carried over after death.

HINES: (As Cheryl David) Well, it does. It carries over.

DAVID: (As himself) So I guess I just took that for granted.

HINES: (As Cheryl David) OK, do you not want to renew our vows? - because...

DAVID: (As himself) No, I want to renew our vows until, you know - can we take out the eternity part?

HINES: (As Cheryl David) No.

DAVID: (As himself) OK.

BIANCULLI: Terry asked Cheryl Hines what she was told about her character during her audition for Larry's wife on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."


HINES: They told me, you know, the part of Larry's wife doesn't put up with a lot of bull, that she's heard it all from him before. And she stands up to him, basically. So that's all they told me. And I went in, and at that point, they were thinking that we were going to have kids on the show, which - in the special, we did. You never saw them, but we talked about them. Anyway, so he told me that he wasn't going to eat chicken. That's all he told me.

And then he goes, OK, so let's - you know, we'll improvise a scene, and he asked me what we were having for dinner. You know, and I said that we were having potatoes and green beans and chicken. And he said, I just told you I'm not eating chicken. And I said, well, so the rest of your family doesn't get to eat chicken? You don't have to eat the chicken. Every time you say you're not going to do something, we don't do it. It'll be - you know, we can't live like that because you're neurotic. We're not going to have to live our lives like that. So don't eat the chicken. But he was like - he couldn't believe that I said that we were going to have chicken after he just told me that he wasn't eating chicken anymore. So we laughed a lot, actually, in that audition.

TERRY GROSS: So I guess you had the personality they were looking for.

HINES: Well, they said that they were kind of running into people that were either too pushy and too confrontational or, as soon as he got confrontational, they would back off, and their feelings would get hurt (laughter). So I guess I was a happy medium. I don't know.

GROSS: So how does improvisation and how does all the work that you did with The Groundlings figure in now to your work on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" with Larry David?

HINES: Well, I'm sure that I would not have this job if I didn't have my training at The Groundlings because before I came to The Groundlings, I had not had any improv training. Only in acting classes for, you know, an exercise, maybe they would say, do something. Improvise. But it was never meant to be funny, so The Groundlings really helped me to understand what improv is all about. Now, while I'm saying this, I can imagine Larry David listening to this interview, going, it's not so hard. But that's what he thinks about acting. He always thinks that people that have had training act like it's all so hard and it's not so hard. He always says, you know, if you're supposed to have a stomach ache, you act like you have a stomachache. It's not so hard. You grab your stomach and moan.

GROSS: Of course, he's playing himself, more or less.

HINES: Yeah, of course, exactly. So I'm sure if he heard me talking about improv and how, you know, it's good to be trained, he would be making fun of me.

GROSS: Have you ever been absolutely speechless by something that he said?

HINES: (Laughter) Well, I have been, and if you watch the show, you'll see several times where I don't even know what to say to him. Usually, it takes me a while to process what he just told me, so sometimes I'll just be like, you know, why would you tell someone that? Why would you congratulate them on his son having a big penis? You know what I mean? It's like, why would that come out of your mouth? So there were moments like that where I just have to process it before I can respond to it because I'm mostly just asking, why?

BIANCULLI: Cheryl Hines recorded in 2004. Coming up, one of "Curb's" original executive producers and the director of its first episode, Robert Weide. This is FRESH AIR.


BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Robert Weide was the first director of "Curb" and one of its original executive producers. He brought his knowledge of classic comedians to the show, having made documentaries about Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl and the Marx Brothers. When Terry Gross spoke with him in 2004, she asked him about finding ideas for the show.


ROBERT WEIDE: We've all tossed in stories which have wound up on the air. It was actually a few years ago, a friend of mine passed away and it was all very sad. But the friends got together that night of the funeral. And, you know, my friend lived alone and he wasn't married. And there was talk about if, you know, his family would eventually be going through his apartment and gathering things. And one of us said, gee, should we go in there first and sort of make a run and see if there's anything that, you know, maybe he wouldn't want his family to discover? So after a little bit of drinking, we all decided that we should sort of have an understanding that we do that with each other. And if anybody, you know, went prematurely, the others would go into, you know, their home or apartment and start to look to see if there was, you know, any magazines or anything lying about.

And so I brought that to Larry, and that wound up being a story in Season 1, I guess it was. The "Porno Gil" episode where Jeff is in the hospital. He's about to have some emergency bypass and asks Larry to go to his house, tells him where the secret stash of pornography is and asks Larry to gather it up so his wife doesn't find it if, God forbid, something happens on the operating table. But Larry's brilliance, again, was weaving that into a story that he already had about this ex-porno star. And when Larry goes into the house and finds the stash, he finds the tape that, you know, this friend that he just had dinner with appears in and puts it on. And then Jeff's parents walk in. So he can take these ideas and just find a way to fashion them into something way beyond anything you could imagine would ever be that funny.

GROSS: Well, let's hear a scene from the "Porno Gil" episode. And this is from "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the Larry David show.


JEFF GARLIN: (As Jeff) This key right here?

DAVID: (As Larry) Mysterious.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Very mysterious. This key right here? My front door. I need you to go into my house, OK? Go up to my bedroom, to the left of the TV, there's a cabinet by the bookcase there. Open it up, move the linens - there's linens in there. Move them to the side, push on the back door and it'll open up. Inside there I have, like, my porn collection. I have, like, seven, eight porn tapes, a couple of magazines, all right? I need you to get them out of there. You got to get it out of there because if something happens to me - all right?

DAVID: (As Larry) Oh, you're thinking, like, if the anesthesia or something goes wrong or anything?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) If anything goes wrong - she's not a big porn person.

DAVID: (As Larry) So in case you die, you don't want your wife to discover your porno stuff?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) She doesn't understand that. I'm not embarrassed in front of anybody.

DAVID: (As Larry, laughter) I don't really understand it either, but that's OK.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) OK, that's your own deal.

DAVID: (As Larry) Yeah, OK. But, you know...

GARLIN: (As Jeff) That's your own deal, Repression Jones.

DAVID: (As Larry) Well, what about - is there an alarm code or anything like that?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Easy, 9988.

DAVID: (As Larry) I better write that down.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) In there should be a pen and a piece of paper.

DAVID: (As Larry) Ninety-nine, 88. OK.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) I can't believe you have to write it down.

DAVID: (As Larry) What am I going to do with these things?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Keep it in your trunk.

DAVID: (As Larry) What if I get in an accident on the way home, what about that, and there's porn strewn...

GARLIN: (As Jeff) And porn goes flying everywhere?

DAVID: (As Larry) ...Strewn all over the car and all over my bleeding body?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) You'll be fine.

DAVID: (As Larry) This alarm code, I'm worried about this, too.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Nothing's going to happen.

DAVID: (As Larry) I'm no good with stuff like that. It's too technical for me.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Ninety-nine, 88. Ninety-nine, 88.

DAVID: (As Larry) The alarm's going to go off. There'll be a SWAT team descending on me. This whole thing just has disaster written all over it.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) I'll be fine, trust me.

DAVID: (As Larry) And your wife better not show up.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Yeah, I guarantee she's not going to be there. She'll be here. I appreciate you, you're a great pal.

DAVID: (As Larry) Good luck.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) You're a great pal, I appreciate you.

DAVID: (As Larry) Try not to die.

GARLIN: (As Jeff, laughter) Try not to die. Thank you.

GROSS: A scene from "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Now, the show is part-scripted, part-improvised. How does it work, the storyline is scripted but the actual dialogue is improvised?

WEIDE: We go in with - it's actually grown over the years. The first season, the average story outline was maybe five pages. Now they've expanded a bit, Larry writes a little more detail. They're up to seven, sometimes as many as eight pages. But we go in knowing absolutely what the story is going to be and basically what has to take place in each scene. But there is virtually no written dialogue for the actors. The actors are brought onto the set generally having no idea what they're going to do. And my standard joke has become that they're given information on a need-to-know basis. It's like working for the CIA. And when I'm directing, I will just give the actors what their - what information their character would know in this scene and give them a general sense of direction about what's going to take place in the scene. But they make it up as they go.

And we cast from a pool of talented improvisational actors, primarily here in LA, and we just let them go. So we know basically what has to happen in each scene, And we know what marks to hit. But we love the spontaneity of people making it up as they go. And we'll just shoot each scene as many times as we have to until we know we've got something to work with, and then we continue to hone it in the editing room. We wind up with a lot of footage, and we spend much more time in the editing room than we actually do on the set. The shows take on an average five to seven days to shoot, but we're in the editing room easily for three weeks on each episode.

BIANCULLI: Robert Weide speaking with Terry Gross in 2004. After a break, we continue our appreciation of Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which presents its series finale on Sunday. I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.


BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR, I'm David Bianculli, professor of television studies at Rowan University. Sunday night, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" presents its finale on HBO and streaming on Max after 25 years and 12 seasons. Now let's hear from some of the other actors who have been with the show since its inception. In 2007, Terry Gross spoke with Jeff Garlin, who's an executive producer on the show and who also played Larry's manager and best friend, Jeff Greene, and with Susie Essman, who played Jeff's wife and Larry's nemesis. They began with a scene in which Larry David, Jeff Garlin and Richard Lewis are in the locker room of the golf course discussing a friend's party.


DAVID: (As Larry) Did you go to Funkhouser's party last night?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) No. Did you?

DAVID: (As Larry) No. Uh-uh.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Why?

DAVID: (As Larry) Because I'm going to Danson's party tonight. It's two back to back. You know, I don't want to go to two parties back to back. It was a stupid night for him to have a party.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Yeah.

DAVID: (As Larry) Did you call him?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) No.

DAVID: (As Larry) Well, what are you going to say?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) I'll tell him Sammi was sick.

RICHARD LEWIS: (As Richard) You're going to use your child to get out of a party?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Why not? It's the best thing in the world.

DAVID: (As Larry) Perfect. It's the perfect excuse.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Are you crazy? It's the perfect excuse.

DAVID: (As Larry) No one can argue with that.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Who argues with that?

DAVID: (As Larry) I wish I had that. It's a great reason to have kids.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) It's a great reason to have kids.

DAVID: (As Larry) Yeah.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) It's one of the bonuses. Yep.

DAVID: (As Larry) Yeah. What am I going to do? What am I going to say?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) You got nothing.

DAVID: (As Larry) I know.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) Nothing.

DAVID: (As Larry) I should show up tonight and pretend I had the wrong night.

LEWIS: (As Richard) No, that's stupid.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) That's great.

LEWIS: (As Richard) Oh, please.

DAVID: (As Larry) Good. No, seriously, let's take that (ph).

GARLIN: (As Jeff) No, that's fantastic. I love that.

DAVID: (As Larry) Yeah. Ding dong - where's the party? Isn't that a good idea?

GARLIN: (As Jeff) That's a great idea.

DAVID: (As Larry) I know.

LEWIS: (As Richard) They're not going to buy that. It's such obvious bull****.

DAVID: (As Larry) No, it isn't.

LEWIS: (As Richard) No, it's not.

DAVID: (As Larry) No one's going to go out of their way that much to show up at somebody's house, pretend they had the wrong night.

LEWIS: (As Richard) He's got to be a mental case to believe it.

GARLIN: (As Jeff) No, I love that. That's fantastic.


GROSS: Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let me start by asking you to each describe your character on "Curb."

GARLIN: My character is best friends and - with Larry David's character, which is not really Larry David, and...

SUSIE ESSMAN: And also his manager.

GARLIN: And I'm his manager, and basically, my job is to - you know, really, what it comes down to with my character - a lot of exposition. I have no values. I'm not a good person. What else? Yeah, and, you know, anything that's kind that I bring to the character is because of myself, bringing whatever I bring of myself to it, but played in someone who doesn't have any kindness or likability.

ESSMAN: And you're a schemer also.

GARLIN: Oh, always a-scheming.

ESSMAN: Big-time schemer.

GARLIN: Huge schemer, yeah. But I think actually, here's one of the truisms for me personally of my character. I just don't want to be in trouble with my wife.

ESSMAN: Which he is all the time (laughter).

GARLIN: Yes, on and off camera. So, yeah, I try and avoid that the best I can, yeah. And, Susie, you do your thing.

ESSMAN: My character is Jeff's wife. I play Jeff's wife, and I think my role on the show is to catch Jeff and Larry in every one of their schemes and machinations and call them out on it. I'm their nemesis.

GARLIN: You are a nemesis. You're an awesome nemesis.

GROSS: Well, you have the mouth. I mean, you really have a mouth on the show.


GROSS: What's your favorite rant after, you know, Larry or your husband has screwed up?

ESSMAN: You know, I think my favorite thing at this point is kicking Larry out of my house. I've done that several times.

GARLIN: Do it again this season.

ESSMAN: I do it again this season, and just the phrase, get the f**k out of my house, is one of my favorite things to say.


GARLIN: Yeah, yeah, and it's great when you - this year, it's really great 'cause I get kicked out, so you kicked him out. That's right.

ESSMAN: But, you know, the thing that people have to realize is that, you know, Jeff and I are, like, really, really close friends. We're all really close, all four of us, Jeff and Cheryl and Larry and I, and that's how we can be so mean to each other.

GARLIN: Oh, yeah. People ask me all the time, well, how do you feel after she yells at you? I go, I feel like going to craft service. I don't even think twice about it. It means nothing to me. It's like - I said - they say, aren't you insulted? I said, the hum of the air conditioner insults me about as much.

ESSMAN: Yeah, it's - we're playing. We're just playing.

GARLIN: Yeah, not - yeah.

GROSS: Susie, you did characters in in your stand-up act that I think are slightly similar to the character you play on "Curb," would you say?

ESSMAN: Yeah. You know, the character I play on "Curb" is kind of a composite character that I've just - I don't know how I came up with her. I mean, Larry had written that scene in the first season where the Fresh Air Fund kid robs us.

GARLIN: Well, yeah, the Fresh Air Fund scene is where your character exploded on the scene...

ESSMAN: Right.

GARLIN: ...Because I remember everyone was checking with me to see if I was OK because you were just relentless, yeah.

ESSMAN: Well, actually, and what happened in that scene, what was interesting, is Larry basically said to me and his direction for that scene was - this was an episode called "The Wire," where Jeff allows a Fresh Air Fund kid into our house who robs us blind, and I go crazy on him.

GROSS: Can I just start by saying the Fresh Air Fund is run by The New York Times to send poor children to the country for a couple of weeks in the summer.

ESSMAN: Exactly.

GROSS: OK, so go ahead.

ESSMAN: And Larry's direction to me was basically, just don't hold back. Rip him a new one. And so I'm yelling and screaming, and Larry pulls me over a couple times, and he's like, it's not enough. Go further. Go further. And finally, he says to me, make fun of his fat. Make fun of how fat he is. I'm like, Larry, I can't do that. He's my friend. That's mean. I'm going to insult him. I'm going to hurt his feelings. He's like, nah, he doesn't care. Just do it. Just do it. And that's when I coined the phrase, you fat [bleep].


ESSMAN: And that, you know, became, like, my catchphrase for Jeff...

GARLIN: Yeah, oh, my God.

ESSMAN: ...Six seasons later.


GROSS: Well, Jeff, does it bother you to be called fat on the series?

GARLIN: No, I am. If I was thin, I'd go, why you calling me fat? But unfortunately, I am fat.

ESSMAN: And handsome.

GARLIN: I am fat, young and handsome. But no, I'm totally cool with it. I mean, that day - I mean, really, everybody was so concerned that day with me. It's very nice that they were. Larry - (impersonating Larry David) you're OK with that? It's not bothering you? I go, no, I'm good. But once I said I was good, every episode after that, we were off to the races, and nobody gave a damn.

ESSMAN: You know, the other thing is we're all comics, so, like, all we really care about is the funny of it.

GARLIN: Yeah, it's all we care about. That's it. Is this funny? Is this real? Is it funny? Good. Let's do it.

GROSS: Jeff, you were - were you one of the creators of the series? You're an executive producer. You're one of the stars. Did you co-create it, too?

GARLIN: I wouldn't say co-create. I would say the idea was mine, and I approached a brilliant genius, you know, and I told him my idea, and he ran with it. That would be what became the series.

ESSMAN: That was for the pilot, what became the series.

GARLIN: Yeah, the special.

ESSMAN: Yeah, it was originally a special.

GARLIN: Yeah, and I approached Larry about it. Actually, I didn't even approach him. I was writing in a suite of offices at Castle Rock, where Larry had his office, and I was in an office with Alan Zweibel. And one day, Larry said, who wants to go to lunch? And Zweibel couldn't go to lunch. I went to lunch with Larry. We were acquaintances. I wouldn't say we were friends at that point, but we were definitely acquaintances, and at lunch, he was talking about stand-up comedy, and I said, you know, if you ever want to do an HBO special, I have this great idea, and I told him the idea, which became "Curb Your Enthusiasm," 'cause I had been on the road developing Dennis Leary's "Lock 'N Load" HBO special, and Jon Stewart's, and while I was doing that, I thought, What a great idea for a special, to see behind the scenes of what goes into making a special. And I was just going to direct it, and then Larry said, you know, no, no, no, you're going to produce it with me, and you're going to play my manager. I go, I'm going to play your manager? Yeah, yeah, you're my manager. You'll see. It'll be great. So he already was thinking about it, you know, just from me giving him my thoughts on it.

ESSMAN: Whose idea was it to improvise the whole thing?

GARLIN: Oh, mine.

ESSMAN: That was yours?

GARLIN: Completely, yeah.

GROSS: It was your idea?

GARLIN: To improvise? Oh, 100%, yes. I'm always going to improvise. It had to be improvised.

GROSS: Why did you want it improvised?

GARLIN: Well, my background is in Second City, and I felt like if we had a little outline, nothing like what Larry writes today - I couldn't in my imagination think of these brilliant outlines that he writes - but I have always thought that it'd be much more naturalistic and so much more fun to do if you just had a scenario, and you did it. And if you have the right performers, you can pull it off. Where we are today with the show was not in my imagination.

ESSMAN: Well, I think it's important for people to realize, though, there's a lot of shows that try to copy "Curb."

GARLIN: Right.

ESSMAN: But they don't have Larry's story brain. Those outlines are so dense and so story...

GARLIN: Yeah, it's 7 pages of a story, a great story.

ESSMAN: Of a story, and everything we do is to service the story.

GARLIN: And so it's easy to improvise.

ESSMAN: Yeah, it is, for some people. For us.

GROSS: So the story's all there, but your lines aren't.

ESSMAN: Correct.

GARLIN: Exactly. We write our own lines, if you will, but the stories are so great that it's easy to write your own lines.

ESSMAN: Yeah, because we know who our characters are, and we know exactly what we're supposed to do in each scene.

GARLIN: Right.

ESSMAN: So the dialogue writes itself.

GROSS: Susie, how were you cast in "Curb?"

GARLIN: He walked up to me and said, hey, what about Susie for your wife?


GARLIN: I said, yeah, for sure. But you can tell what led him to that point.

ESSMAN: What happened was I had known Larry from many years ago. We all used to hang out at the comedy clubs in New York when Larry was a comic, and Jeff and I were both doing standup at the same time. But then I hadn't seen him for years and years. He moved to LA and was doing "Seinfeld." And then he saw me, on Comedy Central, do a Friars roast of Jerry Stiller. And I guess I popped back into his head, and I think he had that scene in mind.

GARLIN: And you also, on the roast, were, like, hammering Jerry Stiller.

ESSMAN: Oh, yeah, I was really brutal.

GARLIN: And that's when it was like a lightbulb went off in his head.

ESSMAN: Right. Larry says - he said, oh, this girl can handle that kind of language.

GROSS: Do you remember what you said at the Jerry Stiller roast?

ESSMAN: Oh, yeah, I remember a lot of it. I remember my opening line was to Alan King, where I said, Alan, did you ever think you'd live so long that your prostate would be as big as your ego?


ESSMAN: That was my opening. And then it got more and more brutal from there.

GARLIN: If that's your starting point, holy moly.


BIANCULLI: Susie Essman and Jeff Garlin, co-stars of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," recorded in 2007. Here's another clip from "Curb," in which Larry follows up on his scheme to get out of going to a party by showing up at the host's house on the night after the party. In this case, it was a party thrown by Ted Danson and his wife.

DAVID: (As Larry) Hey.

HINES: (As Cheryl) Hey.

TED DANSON: (As Ted) What you guys doing?

DAVID: (As Larry) What's going on?

DANSON: (As Ted) What do you mean?

DAVID: (As Larry) Where is everybody?

HINES: (As Cheryl) We thought there was a party.

DANSON: (As Ted) Oh, my God. You thought the party was tonight?

HINES: (As Cheryl) Yeah.

DANSON: (As Ted) Last night. (Laughter) The party was last night.

DAVID: (As Larry) Are you kidding me?

DANSON: (As Ted) No, man. I can't believe it.

DAVID: (As Larry) That's unbelievable. What? We got the wrong night?

DANSON: (As Ted) Yeah, you did.

HINES: (As Cheryl) Oh, shoot.

DAVID: (As Larry) Jesus Christ. Holy cow.

DANSON: (As Ted) I'm actually glad to hear this. I was a little pissed off that you didn't call.

HINES: (As Cheryl) Oh.

DAVID: (As Larry) Oh, well, now you know why we didn't call.

HINES: (As Cheryl) Yeah.

DANSON: (As Ted) Mary.

DAVID: (As Larry) Of course, we didn't call because we're coming tonight.

DANSON: (As Ted) Come on in.

HINES: (As Cheryl) Oh, no no, no, no.

DAVID: (As Larry) Oh, no, no, we're not going to come in.

DANSON: (As Ted) No, come in, seriously.

DAVID: (As Larry) No, no, no, no.

HINES: (As Cheryl) We got the wrong night. It's our fault.

DANSON: (As Ted) It doesn't matter.

HINES: (As Cheryl) Hey, Mary.

DAVID: (As Larry) We thought the party was tonight.

HINES: (As Cheryl) So stupid.

MARY STEENBURGEN: (As Mary) You're kidding.

DAVID: (As Larry) Can you believe how stupid we are?

HINES: (As Cheryl) All right. It's good to see you guys. We'll call you later.

STEENBURGEN: (As Mary) No way you're leaving. This is fantastic. We have so much leftover food.

DANSON: (As Ted) We missed you guys. We missed you.

STEENBURGEN: (As Mary) You're going to come in and help us eat it. Please.

DAVID: (As Larry) You know what? I'll call you tomorrow.

HINES: (As Cheryl) Yes.

DAVID: (As Larry) We'll get together. We'll do the whole thing.

STEENBURGEN: (As Mary) But why?

DAVID: (As Larry) I'll take you out to dinner. I'm paying. I'm paying.

DANSON: (As Ted) Hey, Larry. You don't have any plans. You're supposed to be here, and you're here.

BIANCULLI: Coming up, we hear from Timothy Olyphant, who had a guest appearance on "Curb." This is FRESH AIR.


BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Actor Timothy Olyphant is best known for playing tough, no-nonsense lawmen in the wonderful TV series "Deadwood" and "Justified." Last year, he told FRESH AIR's Dave Davies about making a guest appearance on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."


DAVE DAVIES, BYLINE: It is fun to hear you be funny after these intense roles where you play lawman, and I thought we'd listen to a clip from an appearance you made on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the Larry David vehicle. This episode is where Larry and some of the regulars in the show are flying to Cabo for a destination wedding. Your character, Mickey, is the groom. And everybody's staying in a really nice resort. And in this scene, Larry David shows up at your room kind of a little late at night. And he has spent the day noticing that everyone seems to have gotten a nicer room than he did. But he's coming to you because due to some classic Larry plot twist, he had to come without his luggage and so he doesn't have a toothbrush. And so he's knocking on your door to see if you can help. Let's listen.


TIMOTHY OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) Oh, que paso, Larry?

DAVID: (As Larry) What? Oh, my God. Are you kidding? Are you kidding me?

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) Yeah, not bad, huh?

DAVID: (As Larry) Not - this is unbelievable.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) How's your room?

DAVID: (As Larry) It stinks.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) No.

DAVID: (As Larry) Yes.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) It was supposed to be great.

DAVID: (As Larry) It's not great.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) I said to you guys, the rooms are great. You're going to love them.

DAVID: (As Larry) Yeah, I know. I know. But my room's not great at all. Everybody's got a better room.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) I'm going to talk to somebody.

DAVID: (As Larry) So what? You just think this is some kind of a accident that I have a bad room?

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) Oh, come on, Larry. Come on. Don't get like that.

KIMBERLY SHANNON MURPHY: (As Sasha) Mickey, what's going on?

DAVID: (As Larry) Oh, hey, Sasha. Congratulations.

MURPHY: (As Sasha) It's late.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) She's not wrong.

DAVID: (As Larry) Yeah, it is late. Do you happen to have an extra toothbrush, by any chance?

DAVID: have an extra toothbrush by any chance?

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) We do have an extra toothbrush.

DAVID: (As himself) You have an extra toothbrush? Fantastic. I can't believe it. That's so great.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) I'm sorry. I misspoke. It's for us.

DAVID: (As himself) What do you mean? I have an emergency. It's an emergency. I don't have a toothbrush.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) But that's your emergency. This is for in case we have an emergency.

DAVID: (As himself) You're not going to have an emergency. What makes you think you can have a toothbrush emergency?

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) Look at you. You're having an emergency right now.

DAVID: (As himself) Mine's a fluke. It's a fluke emergency.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) This whole thing makes me nervous, Larry.

DAVID: (As himself) It's a fluke emergency. It's one in a million.

OLYPHANT: (As Mickey) You're probably right. I won't have a toothbrush emergency. And you know why I know that? Because I have a extra toothbrush.

DAVIES: Our guest, Timothy Olyphant, on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Tell us a little about the experience. I mean, is it ad-libbed? Is it all blind? What's the experience working on a scene like that?

OLYPHANT: So there's an outline. It's the best. There's an outline. You show up on that particular day. You show up. We're in this beautiful hotel. And I'm on the beach. And we have a little quick huddle. Jeff Schaffer, who co-runs the show with Larry, was directing. And we huddled up. And he says, OK, read what the scene is. Larry shows up. He's upset because everybody's room is better than his room. And then he - and you say, why are you here? And he says he needs a toothbrush. You tell him you have one, but he can't have it. All right. Let's go. And then you start shooting. That's it. That's literally it. You - the next thing that happens is they pick up the cameras and they've already marked it. And you just start shooting. And it's - couldn't be more fun.

DAVIES: Did you do several takes?

OLYPHANT: You know, Jeff will say, look. This first take might be seven, eight minutes long. Don't worry. And it might not be funny at all. Don't worry about it. We're just, you know, kind of - we'll just do it again and just narrow it down and, you know, we'll just find it. And then usually, every take, you just find a little something, a little gem that they like, you know. Little accidents happen. You know, I like - you know, we like when you say, isn't it great? Your room's not great. The more you can say the word great, we like that, you know. So there's a lot of - isn't this great? That's great. Yours isn't great. No. They said they'd be great. And that's kind of the tone of the show, you know.

Somewhere, as I recall, somebody mentioned toothbrush emergency as if that was a thing. And then, you know, oh, we like that. You know, lean into the toothbrush emergency. Try to - and you just kind of discovered as you go. And Larry's a very generous laugher. So it was a very - and I am, too. So we spent a lot of time with two people laughing, totally unusable.

DAVIES: That's what I was going to ask, if you broke up a lot. Yeah.

OLYPHANT: Oh, my God. I'm terrible. I'm the worst. I laugh at my own jokes, and you know, it's not proper behavior.

BIANCULLI: Timothy Olyphant speaking with FRESH AIR's Dave Davies last year. Coming up, the man himself, Larry David. This is FRESH AIR.


BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Larry David spoke with FRESH AIR's Dave Davies in 2015. At the time, David was starring in the Broadway play "Fish In The Dark," which he also had written.


DAVIES: Let's talk a bit about "Curb Your Enthusiasm." And I want to begin with a clip. This actually is on the subject of death. In this case, you're walking down the street in Los Angeles, and spot your old friend Marty Funkhouser, who's played by Bob Einstein. And his mother has recently died. Let's listen.


DAVID: (As himself) Hey, Funkhouser. My God. I can't believe it. You're out. What are you doing?

BOB EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) This helps my emotions. Jogging is the best thing for me.

DAVID: (As himself) So mourners exercise. I didn't know that.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) I don't know if mourners exercise. It's just good for me.

DAVID: (As himself) Interesting. I'm going to remember that next time I lose a close member of my family.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Yeah. Jogging.

DAVID: (As himself) Yeah.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Helps everything.

DAVID: (As himself) By the way, I called your house. I left a condolence message. I never got a return call.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Well, I had a few things on my mind.

DAVID: (As himself) Yeah. Still, it's a little discourteous.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Let me explain something to you.

DAVID: (As himself) Sure.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) I lost my dad a year ago. My mother just died. I'm an orphan. OK?

DAVID: (As himself) You're a what?

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) I'm an orphan.

DAVID: (As himself) Orphan?

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Yeah, an orphan.

DAVID: (As himself) You're a little too old to be an orphan.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) No. If you don't have parents, you're an orphan.

DAVID: (As himself) Oh, you could be 70 and be an orphan?

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) You can be 100 and be an orphan.

DAVID: (As himself) You can't be 100 and be an orphan.

EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Yeah, you can.

DAVID: (As himself) OK. Little orphan Funkhouser.

DAVIES: That's our guest, Larry David, and Bob Einstein on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

DAVID: Yes. I'm upset because he didn't respond to my call. He never returned my call.

DAVIES: Little discourteous.

DAVID: I thought it was discourteous.

DAVIES: When I read about you, your friends say that you are actually a nice and generous person. Does it bother you that you've kind of created this image of yourself as this insensitive jerk?

DAVID: Oh, God. No, not at all. Why? No, because that's - doesn't bother me in the least. I'm quite happy about it. I'm way closer to being the guy on "Curb" than the guy who's talking to you right now.

DAVIES: Really?

DAVID: I know I'm often described as a nice guy, but - by the way, I think the guy on "Curb" is a nice guy. He's just very honest.

DAVIES: OK. OK. Well, the guy on "Curb" would probably think that the guy on "Curb" is a nice guy, but I don't know if that many other people would think that.

DAVID: But why? Why isn't he nice? He's not mean. I don't think he's mean. I think he does nice things.

DAVIES: He just kind of can't let some things go that he might.

DAVID: Yeah. Well, that doesn't mean he's not nice.

DAVIES: OK. You know...

DAVID: I think he's expressing a lot of the things that many people think about.

DAVIES: Right, but just are too inhibited to say.

DAVID: Exactly.

DAVIES: Right. So are you like that when you're out there? Are you completely uninhibited?

DAVID: No, I'm completely inhibited. I'm the opposite of him.

DAVIES: You know...

DAVID: That's why it's so much fun to do it.

DAVIES: Like a lot of your friends, Ted Danson has appeared on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." And in 2009, he was in an interview on this show with Terry Gross, and she asked if any scenes in the series came out of your actual friendship with one another. And he told a little story. Let's listen to this.


DANSON: Although when you go out to dinner with him, it's way scarier than acting with him because he's always pulling out his notebook or you don't know whether or not he's doing a scene in the restaurant and being a little louder than he should be because he's practicing something for next week or whether this is truly Larry. It's a very scary kind of proposition hanging out with Larry David.

GROSS: I can imagine it would be a little embarrassing when he's talking too loud or doing something inappropriate, and you don't know whether he's...


GROSS: ...Testing a performance...


GROSS: ...Or just being weird.

DANSON: We've sat in a restaurant, a very sweet, quiet inn, you know, New England inn with a lot of people with kind of blue-gray hair. And he came in late. And his back was to the entire restaurant. But we were looking at the entire restaurant over his shoulder. And he was whispering this story in a kind of stage whisper that had the F word in it a lot.

GROSS: (Laughter).

DANSON: And he basically cleared the restaurant. And then as he's walking out, he went, nice restaurant, little too quiet for a Jew, but it's a nice restaurant - and walked out. And it was like - and you kind of have to walk in his wake going, sorry, sorry, sorry. You know, it's Larry. Sorry.

DAVIES: And that's Ted Danson talking about our guest, Larry David. OK, Larry David, you don't sound so inhibited to me.

DAVID: I don't think that story is accurate. First of all, I'm not practicing anything at the table, as was alleged. Like, practicing for the show - that's - that never happened. But, yeah, I was particularly taken aback at how quiet that restaurant was that Ted Danson was referring to, and so I made a racket.

DAVIES: Just stirring the pot, yeah.

DAVID: Yes. It was disturbingly quiet in there.

DAVIES: So maybe not so inhibited.

DAVID: Well, not in that instance.

DAVIES: All right.

DAVID: By the way, the character has emboldened me to be much less inhibited and to take on a lot of the things that the TV Larry David does. If I'm at a dinner party and I want to go home, I can go, before dessert, OK, I'm - I've had enough. All right. I'm going to go. And nobody will be shocked to hear me say it, whereas I could never do that before "Curb." And now people are not surprised, and they kind of expect it. But yeah, so that's great when I'm able to sort of emulate the character.

BIANCULLI: Larry David speaking to Dave Davies in 2015. Let's close with one more clip from that classic 2004 season of "Curb." Ben Stiller and Larry David are on their way to a rehearsal for "The Producers," and they've just dropped off Stiller's wife at her yoga class. Larry David still is in the back seat. And we should note - this was before the days of Uber and Lyft, when it would be unusual for someone to have their only passenger sit in the back seat.


BEN STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) Why don't you come up front?

DAVID: (As himself) I'm OK.

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) Come on up front.

DAVID: (As himself) I'm good. I'm good.

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) Are you serious?

DAVID: (As himself) Yeah. Why? What's the difference?

STILLER: (As himself) Larry, I'm not going to drive you around like I'm your chauffeur. Get in the f***ing front seat, all right?

DAVID: (As himself) Ben, you're not driving me around like I'm a chauffeur. We're two minutes from the rehearsal hall.

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) You know, what kind of person asks another person to drive him around like this? This kind of mentality is what's...

DAVID: (As himself) Well, what kind of person is so insecure that they have to make somebody moving to the front seat so they don't think that they're driving somebody around?

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) No, The kind of person that's so insecure that needs to be driven around in the back seat. Subliminally, you're telling me...

DAVID: (As himself) That has nothing to do with me being driven around.

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) ...That maybe you need me to drive you around.

DAVID: (As himself) Why do I have to leave my seat, go into the front seat...

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) Because I asked you to sit in the front seat of my car, and it's my car. And - it's my car. I make the rules, OK?

DAVID: (As himself) Oh, you're making the rules? We would have already been there already. Oh, yeah. Very good. Very good.


STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) Yes. We would have already - very good.

DAVID: (As himself) Oh, you can't drive with somebody in the back seat.

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) Yeah. You're such a baby. You're a...

DAVID: (As himself) I'm not a...

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) You're a grown man baby.

DAVID: (As himself) Are you saying I'm a manchild?

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) I'm saying you're a little baby. And - you know what? Little baby wants to ride? We'll give little baby a ride, OK?

DAVID: (As himself) You know what? Little baby wants to walk.

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) No, no, no, little baby...

DAVID: (As himself) Little baby's going to walk.

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) No. Know what? I should have brought my little baby seat for my...

DAVID: (As himself) Little baby's going to walk.

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) Mr. David, where to now? Where to now, Mr. David?

DAVID: (As himself) Oh, I know, I didn't read the rules getting into the car...

STILLER: (As Ben Stiller) Here we go - driving Mr. Larry.

DAVID: (As himself) Hey. Take it easy, man.


BIANCULLI: On Monday's show, the hot priest. We talk with Andrew Scott, who got that nickname from his role in the comedy series "Fleabag." In the BBC series "Sherlock," he was Moriarty, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Now, Scott stars in a new series, "Ripley," adapted from the novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer today is Roberta Shorrock. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham, with additional engineering support by Joyce Lieberman, Julian Herzfeld and Diana Martinez. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Ann Marie Baldonado, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Therese Madden, Thea Chaloner, Susan Nyakundi and Joel Wolfram. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. For Terry Gross and Tonya Mosley, I'm David Bianculli. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Terry Gross
Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.
Dave Davies
Dave Davies is a guest host for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
David Bianculli
David Bianculli is a guest host and TV critic on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. A contributor to the show since its inception, he has been a TV critic since 1975.
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