Sunday, April 27, 2014

Who is the "real" Larry David?

Larry David has been a stand-up comedian, a store clerk, a limousine driver, and a television repairman, but he is more famously know for his screenwriting and acting. He wrote both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Well-known Seinfeld character, George Costanza, was based on Larry David. Larry David, of course, plays Larry David in his television series Curb Your Enthusiasm. So, which of these are the "real" Larry David? (Do we even care?)

In her essay, "Imitation meets Simulation: Seinfeld's Geroge Costanza as The 'Original' Larry David," Naomi L. Fosher says, "The similitude and relation of both shows' characters and their proclaimed proximity to the real problematizes the existence of a real as real." She suggests that the real cannot be determined because of the number of copies, and at the same time she suggests that the real is always already a simulation. If the real is a simulation, then we must question, 'what is real?'

Fosher quotes Barry Brumett in saying, "Simulation is an experience in which the copy is just as good as reality..." So then, it doesn't really matter what is real, does it? And yet we place such a value on "originality." Brumett continues, "... [reality is] even preferable because it is reproducible and thus repeatable." He suggests that simulation transcends reality, that simulation is reality then.

"While David is technically the real George Costanza, it is George's position as a copy of David that works to make David a simulation and George the original or real," says Fosher. In other words, the copy preceded the original and thus making the copy the original. This is further complicated by the introduction of Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. If Larry David is a simulation, that would make the character Larry David a simulation of a simulation. In the show, Larry David is supposedly playing himself, but Fosher says, "David originally was just gong to play himself, but in doing so he ended up becoming a part of himself on screen." So, unlike Truman and The Truman Show, David Larry's Curb Your Enthusiasm is only televised for an hour out of the day meaning that only a part of David can be seen in that period of time; whereas Truman is televised twenty-four hours a day. The audience can only see parts of Larry David, but can see all of Truman.

So, in a search for a piece of the real, I'm still not sure what is real. In fact, I am questioning if there is a "real." If we are all always already a simulation, it makes it difficult to pinpoint.


  1. So, I actually caught the episode of Curb the other night that we were discussing in this article. I had seen it before and recognized the concept to be a mind fuck, but now looking at it through the lens of big "B" it becomes even more problematic... Where do the copies begin and the original end?
    For Larry, his problems begin when he willingly sends a "copy" of himself barreling into the homes of millions. He can see himself the way that we do--as George. Never was he Larry for us, and never will he be. So, when the man goes to imitate what he identifies as him, we see as a imitation of George--Larry is the copy, and George the original.

  2. "Where do the copies begin and the original end?"

    Surely something to think about-- it is difficult to say. The original does not exist without the copy and yet the copy does not exist without the original. Both the original and the copy have become one-- Baudrillaud's third order of simulacra.

  3. Robin is awesome and shared the link to you blog with me and it is an honor to read your commentary on my article.

    What I always found so interesting about Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm is the complex way that reality wound around itself reinforcing the simulation’s ability to stand as the perceived authentic real. Our experience with the outlandish caricature of George Constanza stands true as our point of reference for all things “Larry” and you really honed in on the key issue Annette when you said that Larry “can see himself the way that we do--as George. Never was he Larry for us, and never will he be.” Larry will always be seen by us (and arguably even himself) as post-George.

    There are a few other factors that help to exaggerate the entire George/Larry reality relationship as well and one of the important factors is the fact that Jerry Seinfeld is seen as “playing himself” or perhaps “being himself” on the show. Jerry = Jerry (arguable), but George = Larry and then throw in Cosmo Kramer who is loosely based on Larry’s former neighbor Kenny Kramer and you’ve got a complicated trifecta! So everyone else may be based on other people, but Jerry is himself. Fascinating! I always asked myself: why did Jerry choose to be Jerry and integrate his “real” stand-up into the show? His projected “realness” heightens the “based on a true story” nature of the relationship between the real characters on the show and their now simulated originals.

    Other key elements are the cultural impact and timing. Seinfeld was so successful when it aired and is culturally iconic. It ran for almost ten years until 1998 and then there was a 2 year gap and Curb Your Enthusiasm aired starting in 2000. With such a short amount of time between the two shows, Curb almost feels like a continuation of Seinfeld. And of course, Seinfeld acts as the history for the show and while watching Curb it almost feels as though you need to have some assumed understanding of the cultural history of “Larry.” It positions itself as the cultural extension of Seinfeld.

    I have always found author/character doubles to be really interesting and the Charles Bukowski and Henry Chinaski relationship is also one that is fascinating. I think with more exaggerated caricatures the complexity of the real/simulation relationship intensifies.

    Long live the dynasty of the "Real World!" course! It still continues to inspire my work and it is exciting for me to have had a chance to share my work and ideas with you all. Enjoy the final week of your semester!

  4. Interesting! If Jerry is being "himself," how does that effect the relationship between him and George or him and Kramer who are pretending to be another person? I wonder then, which character is the most "real?" If Jerry is acting himself, is he biased in his acting, whereas Kramer and George are acting as others, they can see the good and the bad of a character.


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