The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump promotes Larry David’s MAGA hat spoof. Did he get the joke?

President Trump's Feb. 10 attempt to tout his base appeared to backfire when he tweeted a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" clip that actually mocked MAGA hats. (Video: The Washington Post)

The grainy 28-second video that appeared on President Trump’s Twitter account Monday was immediately recognizable to fans of Larry David and HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

It was a recording of a scene from the Season 10 premiere in which David’s character de-escalates a confrontation with an angry biker by putting on a “Make America Great Again” hat. Thinking he’s in the presence of a fellow Trump supporter, the biker’s attitude completely changes, and he goes from screaming obscenities at David to giving him a gentle warning.

“TOUGH GUYS FOR TRUMP!” the president tweeted alongside the uncensored video, which he pinned to the top of his Twitter profile for increased visibility.

People, however, were quick to suggest that Trump may have picked the wrong pop culture reference to tout his base. Many noted that the road rage scene is part of a running gag within the episode intended to mock the distinctive pro-Trump accessory, which David’s character calls “a great people repellent.”

“Satire is dead,” one Twitter user wrote.

By early Tuesday, “Larry David” was trending on Twitter, and the short video had been watched more than 5 million times. Detractors roasted Trump for appearing to miss the joke, with at least one person describing it as “a spectacular self-own.” Meanwhile, others applauded the president’s sense of humor and called the clip “exquisite.”

In “Happy New Year,” which first aired Jan. 19, the subject of MAGA hats is brought up during a conversation between David, who plays a fictionalized version of himself, and his best friend, Jeff Greene (portrayed by Jeff Garlin). David gets the idea to sabotage an unwanted lunch date by donning a MAGA hat after Greene goes on a mini-rant about a Trump supporter they both know.

“See him around town with that hat, ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” Greene says. “I don’t need that crap. He makes me want to not be anywhere near him."

At lunch, the sight of David in a MAGA hat draws dirty looks from other diners and sends his companion hustling out of the trendy Los Angeles restaurant. David later uses the red hat to deter a couple from sitting next to him at a sushi bar.

But the hat interactions take a turn when David is faced with the irate biker he almost runs into while driving. Instead of using the accessory as a repellent, David puts it on in an attempt to calm the biker, who is screaming expletives — and it works.

“Oh,” the biker says in a much quieter voice after he sees David in the hat. “Just be more careful next time, okay?”

Then, in case the joke is lost on any viewers, David spells out his reasons for wearing the hat a few minutes later when Greene storms into his office demanding to know whether he’s pro-Trump.

“No, no,” David responds, explaining that he had been using the hat to avoid interacting with people.

“It’s really coming in handy,” David continues. Greene chimes in, “Yeah, ’cause no one’s going to want to be anywhere near you.”

In a January interview with the Hollywood Reporter, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” executive producer Jeff Schaffer addressed filming the MAGA hat scenes around Los Angeles.

“Larry in the hat is such a dissonant image,” said Schaffer, who also directed the episode. “You realized when he put it on that you just never see a person in a MAGA hat in Los Angeles. It’s like spotting a double rainbow of intolerance.”

The larger context of the biker scene appeared to not matter to Trump on Monday night, who shared the clip without bleeping out any of the swear words. Trump has repeatedly highlighted the toughness of his base, telling Breitbart News in 2019, “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

As Trump’s supporters praised his “grand sense of humor,” critics didn’t hesitate to call out the president for having “zero self awareness” and “cluelessly tweeting.”

“Nobody told the president that in the show, Larry David wears the hat as a people repellent,” one person tweeted.

Several people compared the Monday tweet to Trump’s past attempts to riff on pop culture that haven’t gone over well, pointing to a campaign video released in December that depicted the president as Marvel supervillain Thanos from “Avengers: Endgame.”

“This is worse than the Thanos tweet,” a Twitter user opined.

‘These are sad and strange times’: Thanos creator rips widely mocked campaign video portraying Trump as Avengers supervillain

At least one person quickly shut down any speculation that David could be considered part of “the MAGA crowd.”

“As the MAGA crowd begins to wonder why Larry David is trending, their confusion will be met with anger as they realize that he is not, in fact, a MAGA man,” the person wrote.

David has publicly criticized Trump and reportedly donated to the presidential campaign of former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic nomination.

And David has not shied away from letting his feelings about Trump supporters be known, as many learned Monday night when a short clip of the comedian discussing the episode started widely circulating. At a January event in New York, David was asked whether he was concerned that mocking MAGA hats would alienate some viewers.

“Alienate yourselves,” David shouted. “Go, go and alienate. You have my blessing.”