7.1 Funkhouser’s Crazy Sister
How do you break up with someone who has been diagnosed with cancer? That’s Larry David’s latest dilemma that opened up this seventh series of HBO’s funniest show and also signalled some of the darkest humour yet to beset the curmudgeonly comedic tour-de-force.
Curb has covered black comedy before – Richard Lewis’ kidney transplant, incest survivors’ groups, terrorist attacks – but this one was possibly the blackest yet. It’s also a tough one to sympathise with Larry on. Curb‘s plots are so successful because you can often see a little bit of yourself in Larry. This latest dilemma is one that’s hard to feel for him as it’s a situation utterly of his own doing. He drove Cheryl away in the last series and embraced The Blacks, the family that moved in with Larry following Hurricane Katrina.
And he was happy. By the end of series six he and Loretta Black were closer than ever and Leon and Auntie Rae were his close friends. How things change. Now Larry’s all hot and bothered about the central heating (68 degrees is how Larry likes it, The Blacks prefer a toasty 82) and Loretta’s constant whining. He’s missing Cheryl – the wonderful Cheryl Hines as brilliant as ever in this series opener – and he’s well and truly lost that loving feeling.
By the end of the episode Larry was informed that Loretta’s biopsy showed she did indeed have cancer, forcing a brilliant show of distress from Larry and placing him in something of a pickle. More so, now that a chance meeting with Cheryl in a restaurant (she’s still using his name to get into all the best places) showed that she was missing him, having realised that it was having him around all the time that was the problem. Should Larry get back to work that might all change.
This is going to be the series’ hook as Larry will have to go back to work to win back the woman he truly loves. What will this mean for The Blacks? Well, fortunately, I understand that Leon will be around for a while longer – one of the very best minor characters Curb has ever produced – although I will be sad to see Vivicia A Fox go as she is a fine actress and has brought a lot to the show since her introduction.
The main plot done with, the bulk of this episode’s truly outstanding comedic moments was left to Jeff Greene for whom a simple good gesture led to him having sex with Marty Funkhouser’s mentally unstable sister Bam Bam (“F*ck me, Fat Boy'”) and then having to hide this from wife Susie, the other long-suffering woman of the show.
This good gesture was one of the episode’s story arcs, Larry’s insistence that phrases like “If there’s anything I can do” don’t actually mean anything and are simply just something you say to make the other person feel better. That particular phrase led to the initial invitation to Marty’s house to look after Bam Bam, which in turn left to some nookie for Larry’s manager and some really rather inappropriate behaviour around Susie’s dinner table afterwards.
This has all the characteristics of a classic Curb set piece with a true beginning, middle and end, the end, in this case, being Bam Bam on her way to a mental institution. As is so often the way, Larry escapes relatively unharmed while all around him chaos ensues.
In between these main plotlines Larry found time to offend a couple of gay guys, chastise a doctor for stealing from his fridge (before then doing the same thing to Funkhouser’s sister) and offend Susie by leaving her dinner party early.
As a series opener, Larry would say that this was pretty, pretty good. In fact, it was better than that. For a show that’s been going for nearly ten years, it’s just a funny and fresh as it was back at the start of the new millennium and its success has inspired our very own British Curb (Jack Dee’s Lead Balloon).
Accept no imitations, though. Curb is back and if you’re not already doing so, you really should be tuning in.