Larry David Makes Sure There's No Way To Prepare For A Curb Your Enthusiasm Audition

Watching an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is kind of like meeting someone new for the first time: It's awkward as hell. Larry David, the show's creator (of "Seinfeld" fame) and main character, is a master of the neurotic. On the show, he plays an embellished version of himself who is constantly getting into petty tiffs with the show's rotating cast of characters, guest stars (including Ted Danson as perhaps one of the best frenemies TV has ever seen) who often play souped-up versions of themselves, as well. But what makes "Curb" and its actors so impressive is that the script for each episode is sparse — usually consisting of nothing more than a general plot outline without actual lines — leaving it up to the actors to decide exactly what their characters are going to say and do.

When you have a show that's almost entirely improvised, it's important to find actors who are capable of being funny on the fly. Much of the show's main cast is made up of very talented comedians who are naturals at this kind of work, but when it comes time to cast guest roles, actors must go through the show's audition process. So how does one audition for a show that's famous for being ad-libbed? One thing is for sure: David's approach to the auditions is a lot like the show itself.

It's not about being funny

In an article for The Ringer, actors who have starred on David's neurotic masterpiece talk about their audition process. Susie Essman, who plays Susie Greene (the often-bedazzled, extremely opinionated, leopard-clad wife of Larry's best friend, Jeff) explains, "Larry never lets anyone read the outline, because he doesn't want anybody preparing, you know, bad sitcom lines, lying in bed the night before." Instead, potential cast mates are given a basic scenario to act out on the spot, and the rest is up to them. It's a task that could easily go wrong if you try too hard. 

The show's comedy comes from its bizarre relatability, so the actors who book the parts are usually those who don't try to be clever. Instead, in order to achieve humor in a scene, it's better to just act natural. One of the show's guest stars, Rob Corddry, told The Ringer about a piece of advice Jeff Garlin (who plays Larry's best friend and manager) gave him before his audition:

"[Garlin] said, 'Hey, listen, man, I know this is easy for me to say, but don't try and be funny. I know you're gonna think ahh, he's full of s***, but I'm telling ya, that's the way to win this part. I'm gunning for ya, but you can't try to be funny.'" 

Garlin's advice worked, and Corddry went on to play a sex offender whom Larry eventually befriends.

It's about having fun

Many of those who have gone on to land parts on "Curb" talk about how this non-traditional audition approach actually ends up being a lot of fun. Laraine Newman, one of the show's guest stars, said, "It is absolutely the most fun, because you are writing your part as you go. And you can write to your strengths." Paul F. Tompkins, who plays one of Larry's many lawyers on the show, explained, "I remember walking away from [the audition] thinking, 'Wow, that was a really fun audition, I'm glad I got to do that.' I never imagined I would get the part."

But David's refusal to allow potential cast mates an opportunity to know what they are getting into beforehand isn't always easy. Ben Shenkman, another guest star, said of his audition, "I was never an improv comedy performer. The nerves were about the improv partly, but I also had to improv as a lawyer." He explains how he had to come up with lawyer lingo on the spot, but whatever he did worked out because he eventually got the role. 

Sometimes, though, actors aren't as lucky. Jon Daly, who eventually got cast in role of Larry's mailman, didn't quite nail the humor on his first try. "I see Larry make the motion of like, 'cut it off.' Like cutting his neck. He didn't mean for me to see it, but I saw it and I was crestfallen," he explained about his first time auditioning. But just because an actor doesn't hit the humor on the first go-around doesn't mean they won't get another chance. Daly was eventually brought back in for another audition and ended up booking the part. "I went in again the next year and then I got the role," he said. "It was a dream."