Curb Your Enthusiasm Formulas and Themes

curb1It’s not uncommon for successful writers to stick to story formulas and return to recurring themes, and no one does it better than Larry David on Seinfeld and HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Sometimes he goes off the deep end, coming up with a scenario so extreme that it could only happen to him, but other times he plays it safe and gives us a situation that we all (often) encounter. Either case is called the ‘Larry David Moment.’

Each episode revolves around Larry making inappropriate comments and/or getting angry over certain policies or when others fail to adhere to his standards of behavior. The episodes also center around the snowball effect of a lie, from its root usually as an excuse not to do a favor, to its climatic and hilarious ending when the truth is revealed. If he doesn’t lie, goes along with the favor, accepts an invitation, or attempts a good deed (like feeding a limo driver or helping the blind), it can only come back to haunt him in hilarious ways. Every episode follows these formulas.

Here are some of the most commonly-used themes and gags in Curb, and also Seinfeld, with examples.

Articles of Clothing

  • Obsessing over a dead man’s shirt
  • Mixing up smoking jackets with Hef
  • Losing sneakers at bowling alley
  • Needing to find the same jacket he used in a movie role
  • Unwanted sleeve loosening
  • Missing dry cleaning


  • No lock on the bathroom door
  • Being interrupted with stop-and-chat on the way to the bathroom
  • Knocking on strangers’ doors, asking to go
  • Overhearing a racist in the men’s room
  • Using the handicapped stall
  • Men using the women’s bathroom

Doctor’s Offices

  • Bad magazine selection
  • Using the doctor’s phone while waiting to be examined
  • Not disclosing the ailment to an assistant
  • Protesting the non-confidential sign-in sheet
  • First-come, first-serve policy
  • Speeding heart rate due to attractive nurse
  • Getting doctor’s personal phone number

Private Parts

  • Pants that make him look like he is pitching a tent
  • Getting bitten by a dog… there
  • No-fly zone drawers
  • The ‘tickle’
  • A long hug is a bit too… long
  • Water bottle in the pocket

Recurring Awkward Moments Involving…

  • Jeff’s parents
  • Funkhouser’s relatives, dead or alive
  • Handicapped people
  • Black people
  • All women
  • Orthodox Jews
  • Christians/Catholics
  • Everyone else


  • Interrupting a Baptism
  • Inviting a sex offender to Passover
  • Buying scalped high holiday tickets
  • Accidentally making Jesus shed a tear
  • The Passion of the Christ nail
  • The Jesus cookie and manger scene


  • Waiter’s tip AND captain’s tip
  • 18% tip included PLUS space for extra
  • Coordinating tips with dining companions
  • Believing he tipped someone more than once and confronting that person
  • Accidentally gives money to a restaurant guy who he normally tips at the restaurant, not on the street

Possible Curb Episodes Based on My Father

  • My father tells people that he had the choice between his best friend and Larry David as college roommates, and picked his best friend (both my father and David attended University of Maryland around the same time).
  • My father and his cousin got caught in the rain on the way back from a baseball game, had to remove their shirts, shoes and socks, and were greeted at the front door by his cousin’s wife (imagine that with Jeff, Larry and Susie).
  • On an elevator with a man who was pushing a woman in a wheelchair, my father makes small talk by saying “Is this your mother?” The man replies “No, it’s my wife.”

Curb Outtakes