One of my favorite shows is Curb Your Enthusiasm. I love the improvisational feel, the show's fearless approach to tackling taboo subject matter and how various story lines seem to weave together effortlessly. I recently had the chance to discuss Curb with executive producer, Tim Gibbons. Mr. Gibbons, who also runs Betty White's Off Their Rockers, is easily one of the kindest people I've encountered in Hollywood, and his IMDB page is beyond impressive. I truly appreciate him allowing me into his office to bother him for a bit. Anyway, in honor of the eight seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm, here are eight things you may or may not know about the show:
1. One of the biggest problems on set is actors cracking up and blowing takes. Whether it's Larry David collecting himself after a J.B. Smoove one-liner or Ted Danson having to hold back giggles after a Richard Lewis facial expression, it's not uncommon for the crew to have to wait several minutes until the hilarity subsides.
2. Curb shoots off of tight 7-8 page outlines rather than traditional scripts. Scenes are written paragraph-style, and all of the story beats are fleshed out prior to shooting. If a specific bit of dialogue needs to be expressed, it will be in the outline in quotes. Otherwise, the actors create the dialogue on the spot. The actors will then be directed down the path of the beats, though they'll frequently wander off and discover improv hilarity. Currently, story ideas are broken by Larry and a select few other writers who also serve as executive producers. There was a point where Larry handled nearly all of the writing himself, and he still is the one to write outlines on yellow legal pads, which are then handed off to his assistant to be typed.
3. The show can be a crapshoot from a production standpoint. Due to the improvisational nature of Curb, it can be tough to plan the right amount of time to spend in a particular location or on a given scene. Essentially, great creative freedom translates to constantly having to watch the clock.
4. Hard work but a relaxed process: It takes about six months to write ten episodes in a given season. Pre-production through final delivery of season eight lasted 54 weeks. Pre-production lasts six weeks, then two shows are shot in a row, which takes 14 days. A week-long working hiatus follows, which includes scouting, production meetings, casting, editing or anything else necessary for the show to function. In total, there are five shooting cycles and four hiatuses to get through all ten episodes. (Got all that?) Most half-hour comedies shoot each episode in five days. Curb shoots each episode in seven, allowing for extra time to find the funny. (Essentially, the handcrafted style of Curb would be undoable on a network.)
5. Working with Larry is GREAT. People always seem to wonder if he is essentially playing himself, but in truth, his character is an overly-neurotic, pumped-up steroid version of the Larry underneath. In real life, Larry David is incredibly kind and beloved by actors, whom he allows tons of freedom. He's also a brilliant producer who is never shy about dealing with any issue that may arise.
6. While Larry is the writer, creator and stars in nearly every scene, he relies heavily on directors to be his eyes while he's on camera. All of the directors are long-time friends of his, and while Larry lets them do their work, he has a very clear idea of what he wants and how to get it. It all comes down to the finished product and whether or not it's funny.
7. Post-production is where the show really becomes Larry's. The editing process on Curb starts on day one, with hard drives being shipped back at lunch so that editors can start immediately. Editors work for about three weeks on their own cut, incorporating notes from the script supervisors on set. Then, Larry takes over, fine-tuning each episode for weeks with input from directors and other producers. There's no dispute over who gets final cut.
8. It's hard to say how many more seasons of Curb there will be, but unlike with any other show, HBO has an open door policy for whenever Larry wants to do additional seasons. My fingers are crossed for a season 9...