“Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns to HBO Sunday after more than six years off the air. A lot has changed in the world since we left Larry (and Leon) in Paris, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the new season of “Curb” will have plenty of awkwardness. In preparation, we put together a list of the cringe-worthy moments from past seasons that made us want to slink out of the room before the credits rolled. (Note: The videos embedded below contain strong language)
Beloved . . . something
In the first season episode “Beloved Aunt,” Larry agrees to submit an obituary for Cheryl’s aunt, who died by suicide. He dictates the obit to his manager and friend, Jeff Greene, who has a friend at a local newspaper. But when the obit runs, Cheryl’s family discovers that the aunt in “beloved aunt” was somehow transcribed as an incredibly offensive word that starts with the letter “c.”
Larry returns from a shopping trip to find his in-laws livid. “It’s a typo!” Larry insists as Cheryl’s mother sobs.
“The whole affirmative action thing.”
In another Season 1 episode, Larry meets Richard Lewis’s dermatologist, who happens to be black, and promptly insults him by jokingly questioning Lewis’s practitioner choice: “Really, even with the whole affirmative action thing?” Larry apologizes and later tells Cheryl — who is miserable due to an itchy skin rash — that he did “a schmucky thing.”
At dinner that night, Larry goes to the restroom at a nearby restaurant in an attempt to avoid seeing anyone he knows. Unfortunately, he runs into a black line producer he interviewed while working on his 1998 film “Sour Grapes.” The woman, who admits to having had a few margaritas, confronts him on not getting the job despite her qualifications and their good rapport. The woman also suggests this might be part of a pattern, considering there were very few black people on “Seinfeld,” which ran for nine seasons. “It’s not a black thing,” Larry protests, “It’s a nothing.”
Back at the restaurant, Cheryl complains that her rash is becoming unbearable. After discovering he lost the prescription for her medication, Larry gets Lewis to call his dermatologist, who graciously agrees to see Cheryl. Dr. Grambs is entertaining guests, who force a reluctant Larry to repeat his ill-advised affirmative action joke. It looks like all is forgiven until another guest returns to the living room — and turns out to be the producer who confronted him outside the bathroom earlier that night.
The doll (and the water bottle)
In Season 2, Larry and Cheryl attend a screening for a two-part ABC miniseries, where Larry is forced to throw away his water bottle before entering the theater despite his insistence that he needs it for a medication he’s taking. He’s later shocked to discover that it was another patron — and not a staffer — who made him throw out the water.
Later, Larry and Cheryl go to an ABC exec’s house for a party to celebrate the miniseries. The exec’s young daughter asks Larry to cut her doll’s hair. Larry happily obliges and gives the doll a chic bob, only to have the girl run crying to her mother when she realizes the hair won’t grow back. To appease the mother, Larry and Jeff steal the head off an identical doll, owned by Jeff’s daughter, Sammi.
Back at the theater for part two, Larry ends up in the woman’s bathroom after deeming the men’s room too disgusting for him to use. On his way out, he hides his water bottle in his pants to avoid getting into another argument with the self-designated “hall monitor.” The little girl walks in and hugs Larry, thanking him for fixing her doll’s hair. She backs away slowly, then runs out, yelling “Mommy, Mommy, that bald man’s in the bathroom and there’s something hard in his pants!”
Outside, the crowd roars in anger as Larry attempts to escape through the bathroom window.
Larry retrieves his golf club . . . from a coffin
At the viewing for Marty Funkhouser’s father, Larry discovers that the elder Funkhouser wanted to be buried with his golf club. The problem? It’s Larry’s beloved (and irreplaceable) 5-wood. Horrified, Larry concludes that the swap must be the handiwork of a country club staffer he offended, and convinces Jeff to offer up his more conventional club for the casket.
At the funeral, Larry’s swap is revealed when Funkhouser’s relatives discover a telltale cashew raisin — Larry’s favorite new snack (courtesy of David Schwimmer’s father) in the casket.
Larry’s bat mitzvah toast
The Season 6 finale has no shortage of cringe. Larry has an uncomfortable and embarrassing medical condition that he’d rather not discuss in public. Discretion is unfortunately lost on his assistant, who asks about said medical condition in front of Matt Tessler, a director Larry worked with a few times during his “Seinfeld” days.
Tessler, hoping Larry will recommend him for Richard Lewis’s latest project, helpfully recommends the doctor who employs his cousin-in-law. But Larry doesn’t love how the doctor’s office operates and takes particular issue when he’s asked to describe his condition to the nurse since he’ll have to tell the doctor anyway. To avoid telling the nurse, Larry says he has a gerbil stuck, um, in an unlikely place.
Back at the studio, Larry sees a real estate agent giving a tour of his shared office space, so he pretends to be mentally disabled in hopes of keeping to himself. This offends the approaching Tessler, whose son suffers from a genetic muscular disorder.
Through his cousin-in-law, Tessler finds out about Larry’s made-up gerbil issue, and spreads the word in retaliation for Larry’s insensitive actions. While giving a toast at Sammi Greene’s bat mitzvah, Larry skips the mazel tov and instead uses the opportunity to clear up the “vicious, nasty, scurrilous rumor about me and a gerbil.”
Larry’s most awkward first date
In “Denise Handicapped,” Larry goes on a date with a woman in a wheelchair. It’s awkward from the beginning — when he insists on carrying her into the ramp-less restaurant — to end, when he goes inside her apartment for the most cringe-inducing make-out session (and somehow, a subsequent sex scene) we’ve ever seen.
The bare midriff — and crying Jesus
Maureen, an assistant at the studio space shared by Larry and Jerry Seinfeld, makes her bosses uncomfortable by exclusively sporting shirts that expose her midsection. At Jerry’s suggestion, Larry not-so-gracefully confronts Maureen about her office attire and she quits. Julia Louis-Dreyfus tells Larry and Jerry that they have to hire her back because Maureen’s mother is depressed and her daughter’s job loss might send her over the edge.
When Larry goes to Maureen’s house to convince her to come back to work, he uses the bathroom and — thanks to medication that leads to increased urine flow — ends up leaving what looks like a tear on a Jesus painting the family keeps near the toilet. Back at work the next day, Maureen’s shirt has moved up even further and she’s in great spirits, declaring that her “whole life has changed” after the miracle of the spontaneously weeping Jesus.
A couple of days later, Maureen and her mother realize there was no miracle when they catch Larry frantically relieving himself on the side of a building. Maureen’s mother climbs onto the roof, where she teeters dangerously close to the edge. Larry rushes over to save her, falling off the edge in the process. He manages to grab Maureen’s exposed belly fat and hangs on for dear life. Cue that perfect theme music.
Larry is unsettled when he overhears a man use the n-word in a hospital bathroom and relays the racist comments to a new love interest . . . just as a black doctor is walking by. The doctor, a surgeon scheduled to operate on Jeff, is so angry he accidentally shaves Jeff’s head. Because this is “Curb,” a pattern ensues.
The woman Larry is seeing, also a doctor, has stereotypically terrible handwriting, so he takes a note she wrote to a pharmacist in hopes he can translate. The pharmacist, who also happens to be black, is troubled by the note’s reference to “all these brothers and sisters around” and the doctor’s assertion that Larry’s life would probably “be better without the Blacks.” (She’s referring, of course, to her own siblings and Larry’s houseguests, the Blacks, but Larry struggles to explain this to the pharmacist).
In Season 8, Larry and Jeff discover the deliciousness of Al-Abbas Chicken, a Palestinian-owned restaurant, which they later discover is opening a controversial second location next to a Jewish deli. The impending expansion divides their friend group, with Susie announcing that she (and Jeff) will be joining a protest at the grand opening. That doesn’t stop Larry and Jeff from eating there in the interim, or from insisting that a newly religious Funkhouser take off his yarmulke if he’s going to enter the restaurant.
Larry’s public spat with Funkhouser impresses an Al-Abbas regular named Shara, who ends up at Larry’s house for an incredibly awkward sex scene, punctuated by Shara’s anti-Semitic expressions of pleasure. Funkhouser walks into Larry’s house during the session and is horrified at what he overhears.