Someone recently described Curb Your Enthusiasm to me as a comedy in which everything is massively contrived. That Larry David, in devising stories for his delightfully un-politically correct series, intentionally takes what in real life would be a fairly amusing, or perhaps just unusual situation, and heightens it for maximum comedy effect. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
‘A Disturbance in the Kitchen’ is one of those examples where its a mixed bag. Though stronger than season premiere ‘Foisted!’, the central gag of which felt forced, the third episode of Curb’s return takes a throwaway social dining more and pivots the entire episode around it. A more, in fact, we may not all have experienced.
Funnily enough, just at the weekend, I was at a restaurant where the dining service left plenty to be desired, where my party and I were kept waiting a very long time to be served, but Curb here explores the idea that a maitre’d could try and pass off the wait due to the titular ‘disturbance in the kitchen’, which Larry being Larry, cannot just accept as a reason and becomes deeply frustrated at the polite, clueless apathy of the host.
Honestly, while the situation is completely daft and unlikely to happen to most of us, this interaction with the maitre’d is the funniest element of the entire episode, thanks in no small part to the genuinely hilarious performance of Rich Fulcher as said waiter; his lugubrious, smiling delivery gets Larry’s goat wonderfully.
Also working in the comedy stakes is the mileage Larry continues getting out of the fatwa. It’s not just the silly, long wig & moustache and fantastic alias this week (hello, Buck Dancer), but in what almost seems like an inevitability for this plotline, Larry goes to Salman Rushdie for help. Rushdie, of course, has made a very lucrative and successful living in the West thanks to Iran wanting him dead for decades, and he’s clearly long past considering any of this a worry given how he lampoons his own persona here, suggesting Larry can make the most of the death threat by getting ‘fatwa sex’ from beautiful women. It’s a typically Curb idea—Larry milking his baser instincts off the back of serious issues—but it works well, especially given the payoff is Elizabeth Banks.
It has to be said, Banks fits the world of Curb very well, and one hopes she may become a recurring face here, playing a heightened reality version of herself who in many ways is the female Larry (or Lvid, as she calls him, after Larry gets annoyed Ted Danson has been given a cute nickname by his ex-wife & now girlfriend Cheryl). Banks has that lack of empathy and edgy delivery which allows her to amp up the blagging, loud comedy Larry employs, and while she forms part of a climactic beat and payoff which doesn’t completely work (involving Larry’s sunglasses), she’s a welcome edition. Given the fatwa story, and Larry’s ongoing jealousy at the pairing of Ted & Cheryl look like they’ll run through the season as narratives, her presence could make sense.
Let’s not forget this has the scene, which we saw in the trailer, where Larry “yoo-hoo’s” a judge. Wonderful – even if the whole car ‘beep’ element with the police is strained for comedy, with Larry’s impassioned court gabbling feeling a step too far. If anything, Curb Your Enthusiasm this week is juggling so many plot elements, it almost doesn’t do enough with great beats (such as he & Leon mumbling).
Not quite on a par with last week for laughs or situations, but stronger than the opener, and a continued sign that Larry may have his mojo back.
Curb Your Enthusiasm airs on Sky in the UK every Monday. Let us know what you think of the season.