No one does cranky like Larry David.
He’s the King of Cranky, the shamelessly thin-skinned Hollywood joker who spends nearly every insensitively outspoken waking moment at war with the laws of propriety, taking umbrage at every perceived personal slight.
Of course, Larry’s persnickety perceptions are often mistaken.
People aren’t really out to persecute him, offend his sensibilities or tick him off.
And therein likes the comic genius of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which returns at 10 p.m. EDT Sunday on HBO for a sixth season of incorrigible, incredibly funny Larry David crankiness. You see that David’s foot-in-mouth foolishness on his misanthropic odyssey is just TV Larry rather than Real Larry. Honest.
“I really love the guy who’s on that show,” David explained to TV critics in Los Angeles this summer. “I love that guy because he says everything that I’m thinking and feeling and he doesn’t have to behave in a way that society really wants everybody to behave.
“And I decided I love being that honest. I wish I could be that way in my life.”
Easy now, Real Larry. Let’s leave TV Larry where he belongs, at the sarcastic heart and dyspeptic soul of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
David, famed as the co creator of “Seinfeld” and the inspiration for the character of George Costanza, really is just playing an exaggerated version of himself on “Curb.”
It’s sort of like the late, great Jack Benny on his own classic, self-lampooning comedy series, “The Jack Benny Show,” in the 1950s and early `60s. Benny was famously stingy on his series, much less so in real life. Besides, nobody could be as big a real-life jackass as TV Larry, could they? Perish the chucklehead thought.
Meanwhile, Real Larry has concocted some merrily absurd fun for TV Larry’s latest adventures in semi-improvised comic whoopee.
Larry and his loving, long-suffering wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) are about to welcome into their home a family displaced by a hurricane. Larry’s not exactly wild about the idea. But then he’s rarely wild about anything that involves putting himself out.
The African-American hurricane family - with guest star Vivica A. Fox as the family’s no-nonsense mother - happens to be named Black. Uh-oh. Notes rudely bemused Larry: “So your last name is Black? That’s like if my last name was Jew.” Oy.
As usual, real-life celebrities such as Richard Lewis, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen wander in and out of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” inhabiting playful, self-satirizing variations on their celebrity selves, sometimes getting involved in squabbles brought on by Larry’s behavior.
And then there’s always Larry’s chummy agent, Jeff (Jeff Garlin), to goad him on or join in his schemes, like Larry’s misbegotten concoction of a perfect excuse for missing a pair of Hollywood house parties. Don’t ask. Just watch. And laugh.
So “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is back at last. And that’s a good thing, as well as a very, very funny thing. Take it away, TV Larry. You go ahead ... play the mouthy, outlandish fool so we can all be grandly entertained and smartly amused.