There are very few weak episodes of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. They’re all great on some level. Each episode, even after they’ve done a whopping 90 so far over nine seasons of the show, brings new classic moments and relatable comic ideas and new terms for everyday situations and little gems from the improvised dialogue. But it’s like what they say about pizza. There is no bad pizza, only pizza that is better than other pizza. The same goes for Curb. So, with that in mind, here are the best episode from each of the nine seasons of HBO’s brilliant cinema verite sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm.
9. Season 9: Fatwa!
There was a lot of expectation riding on the ninth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry kept us waiting six years for it, so the anticipation was high. The season arc had to be a good one – and luckily, it was! Larry writing a musical about Salman Rushdie’s fatwa (the name for a death sentence from the Ayatollah) and then ticking off the Muslim community and ending up with a fatwa himself. The season finale brought all of that to a head as Larry got the fatwa cleared and got the go-ahead for the musical. Things seemed to be working out for Larry David for once, and that’s why it was so funny when it came inevitably crashing down. Larry annoyed the play’s director over a financial misunderstanding and also his two stars: F. Murray Abraham, who Larry chastised for tracking his outfits, and Lin Manuel Miranda (Lord knows how Larry managed to get him on the show at the height of his Hamilton fame), who Larry shot in the mouth with a paintball gun. Plus, the episode introduced us to the idea of a stand-in for real life situations and whether or not the thanks matches the favor. All in all, it’s a great episode, packed with hysterical comic ideas – just like all the best episodes of Curb.
8. Season 8: Larry vs. Michael J. Fox
There are plenty of fantastic episodes in the eighth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and it could be argued that Larry’s adventures in New York are his funniest ever, but the finest episode of the season has to be the season finale, “Larry vs. Michael J. Fox.” In this episode, Larry clashes with his new neighbour, Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. The episode finds humor in Fox’s disease, but what’s great about it is that it’s not in a way that’s disrespectful to Fox or indifferent to Parkinson’s, but actually raises awareness while it’s making you laugh. Fox doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him or see him as a victim – he just rises above it and portrays himself as he actually is. The jokes are about Larry’s insensitivity towards Fox. Fox is a surprisingly great improviser and is also surprisingly open to making fun of himself. The climactic scene is actually set at a benefit for Fox’s Parkinson’s charity, where Larry is caught doing ‘the violin scene’ in a big misunderstanding and ends up getting banished from New York by the Mayor himself. This was the perfect way to end the New York season of Curb, and the cherry on top of that is that it raises awareness of Parkinson’s and shows us how urgent it is that we find a cure.
7. Season 7: Denise Handicap
It is surprising that the best episode from the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where the season arc sees Larry staging a Seinfeld reunion episode with all the original cast members coming back, has nothing to do with the Seinfeld reunion at all. “Denise Handicap” is about Larry dating a woman in a wheelchair and seeing how it changes people’s opinions about him. Then it becomes a kind of fetish that ends up landing him in hot water (as usual) and blowing up in his face. The final moment of Larry’s disabled girlfriends chasing him around the house and his solution of running up the stairs to get away from them is the perfect and most utterly Curb way to end the episode. The best moment from “Denise Handicap” has nothing to do with the story at all and simply has Ted Danson buying Larry a slice of pie in a restaurant. Larry tries to politely refuse the pie, but they get into a huge, sweary, monumental argument over the pie. It has nothing to do with the plot of the episode, and really has nothing to do with much at all, but it is so hilarious to see how quickly it escalates.
6. Season 6: The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial
Boy, Curb fans love to watch Larry David do inappropriate things – especially if those things are completely unforgivable, and for completely the wrong motivations. In “The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial,” Marty Funkhouser’s mother Ida dies, leaving him all shaken up, and the family sets up a memorial at the side of the road where she died, at which well-wishers can leave bouquets of flowers to show their support. When Larry finds himself in need of flowers to apologize to a bunch of people, you can guess where he gets those flowers from. One of the painfully awkward moments in the history of Curb comes when Marty spots the missing flowers at Larry’s house (mentioning his strong sense of smell, which will come back later). And then when Larry brings the flowers back to Marty’s house, having been destroyed by Susie beating Larry over the head with them due to yet another pool of hot water he landed himself in, Larry spots a bottle of perfume that Cheryl wants at a separate memorial for Ida and steals that too! But why is he stealing all of these things? Well, he finds himself with a soiled $50 bill from Marty’s sweaty sock that he can’t get anyone to take. It’s also the $50 that he uses to distract everyone at Ida’s funeral while he flees with Cheryl when Marty smells the stolen perfume on her.
5. Season 5: The Seder
The fifth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm may be its weakest, as Larry investigates whether or not he’s adopted and Richard Lewis needs a kidney. The season arcs aren’t as strong as the other seasons. But there are some terrific standalone episodes in there that don’t have anything to do with the wider ongoing narratives. The best of these is arguably “The Seder.” In “The Seder,” Larry David befriends a sex offender, just because he is a fan of Seinfeld and helps him to improve his golf game. He even goes as far as inviting him to the house for the upcoming Seder dinner, which shocks Cheryl and then just about everybody else who shows up for the meal. Larry is also trying to determine whether or not his newspaper is being stolen by one of the guests. The way that the chaos is framed around Larry over the course of the dinner is perfect Curb. Curb distinguishes itself with a specific identity by focusing on Jewish culture. Larry, Jeff, Susie, Funkhouser, Nat, and a lot of smaller supporting characters are Jewish and we see them celebrate the Jewish holidays on the show. So, it was only natural that Larry would eventually create an episode set during the Passover Seder – and it’s one of the show’s best.
4. Season 4: The Car Pool Lane
There are a lot of great episodes in the fourth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, what with it being arguably the show’s greatest season. There’s the opening night of The Producers, the one with Ben Stiller’s birthday party – but if there is a best episode in this season, it’s “The Car Pool Lane,” in which we get to see Larry pretending to be racist to get out of jury duty, buying drugs, hanging out with a prostitute, and getting high with his father. You’d be mistaken for thinking that this is the description of an episode of The Wire, but the way that it’s handled here is unmistakably Curb-like. Larry buys some weed to help with his father’s glaucoma picks up a hooker just so he can get in the car pool lane to make it to a baseball game on time. This opens us up to some great scenes, like Larry talking to himself in the bathroom mirror while stoned and the hooker teaching Larry’s dad street slang and Cheryl finding out who Larry spent his day with and Funkhouser getting caught with a bag of pot at the airport when he tries on Larry’s jacket. It’s a classic episode.
3. Season 3: The Corpse Sniffing Dog
“The Corpse Sniffing Dog” is more or less the perfect episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s exactly what Curb is. It encapsulates what the show does best: its clever, interwoven storytelling, the hilarious reactions that can come from the improvised acting style, and Larry doing his best to help people and having it all blow up in his face and screw everyone over and make him look like a jerk. Basically, Jeff is allergic to his new dog, so he can’t live in the house, and his daughter would rather have the dog than him. Jeff moves out and Larry goes over to take to the girl, reasoning with her while inadvertently getting her drunk. He gets her to drunkenly change her mind, so he takes the dog away and tells Jeff he can move back in. Meanwhile, Larry has had a disagreement over finances with his friend’s wife who has been thinking about getting a dog for the kids. So, he brings the dog to her and apologizes and they patch things over and she takes the dog. But then he returns home to find and unimpressed Susie waiting for him, furious that he got her daughter drunk and stole her dog. So, he goes back to get the dog from the other family and uses the opportunity to take back his apology. He then takes the dog back to Susie’s, where he finds Jeff moving back in. The whole success of the episode is in its ingenious plotting. Bravo, Larry David.
2. Season 2: The Doll
Just like season 3’s “The Corpse Sniffing Dog,” season 2’s best episode “The Doll” is a hilarious back and forth in which Larry tries to make two parties happy and ends up making neither happy. A young girl asks Larry to cut her doll’s hair, so he does, but then she quickly changes her mind and he’s in trouble with the mother, whose husband he’s relying on to produce his new TV show. He promises to get her another one, so he and Jeff – who is separated from Susie – sneak into Sammy’s room and steal the head from hers. They bring the head over to replace the other girl’s doll’s head and head back home, where Susie is aware that they’ve decapitated her daughter’s doll and demands that they bring the head back. So, they go and get the one with the cut hair, but Susie can tell, so no one’s happy – except Larry’s TV deal is intact and the other girl is happy with her doll, who now has long hair. But things aren’t okay for long. The ending is a perfect Curb ending. The little girl hugs Larry, feels a water bottle in his pants, and runs out yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! That bald man’s in the bathroom and there’s something hard in his pants!” Cue the theme music as Larry flees and climbs out the bathroom window.
1. Season 1: Beloved Aunt
If there’s anything Larry David loves to find the humor in, it’s whatever is considered inappropriate. In “Beloved Aunt,” he riffs on suicide (it’s only polite to leave a note), funerals, and breaking up with someone after a family bereavement. And all of the funniest moments on Curb involve Larry getting into trouble with someone for some reason or another – and in this episode, he gets into trouble with just about everyone. Cheryl kicks him out of the house after the newspaper obituary he commissioned for her deceased aunt contains a very inappropriate typo and he helped her sister’s boyfriend break up with her, and then when he goes to stay at Jeff and Susie’s house, he runs into trouble with them after a misunderstanding with Jeff’s mom. There are so many laugh out loud moments in this episode. The scene in which Cheryl’s family are waiting for Larry with the newspaper and then they confront him as he comes in is the first ever classic scene from Curb. It was the first time that the improvised dialogue style was used to full comic effect to create a painfully awkward yet hilarious moment of cringe comedy. This was the first time that we saw the genius of Larry David at play.