Larry David's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Coffee Shop Looks Like Paradise
Watching TV in the age of self-quarantine has been an odd experience. Behavior that would usually seem normal -- going outside, shaking hands -- suddenly seems like speculative fiction. For instance, Cheers, which I'd been watching as comfort food, became an artifact about a time when people could do things like, you know, go to bars without fear of spreading disease. But another beloved comedy that looks positively utopian is Curb Your Enthusiasm, currently airing its 10th season on HBO. Suddenly, all of Larry David's bugaboos seem prophetic. Larry David is the savior we've needed all along.
All throughout Season 10, Larry's been building a strip-mall coffee shop called Latte Larry's as a "spite store" specifically intended to befuddle Mocha Joe, the owner of a neighboring coffee shop named Mocha Joe's, after he banned Larry for expressing concerns about the wobbly tables, muffin-like scones and lukewarm coffee at Mocha Joe's. But Larry's not merely content to outdo his enemy; he also wants Latte Larry's to be the embodiment of his ideal retail establishment.
What does this mean for Larry David? First, the beans have to be great, a requirement that leads Larry and Leon to steal beans from a resort in Mexico. Second: no defecating. You're not allowed to poop in Larry's store, but if you're a dude, peeing is a joy thanks to high-tech urinals he installed that he calls "pee cubes." Third: revolutionary mugs that keep your coffee hot, even if they're desinged by a man (played by Alan Tudyk) who might be a Nazi. Fourth: no wobbly tables ever. And finally, as we saw in the season's penultimate episode: a huge bottle of Purell on every table.
Last night's episode opens with a commercial for Latte Larry's in which Larry shows off all of his spite store's amenities. And frankly it looks like heaven. Not just because it is a place where people can publicly gather. It is a place where people could publicly gather and adhere to Larry David's strict codes of cleanliness. It is like Larry somehow knew the doom we are all now facing. He couldn't have, given that the season was filmed in 2019, but he also sort of did.
Larry David and his lightly fictionalized alter ego have been on the front lines of criticizing people's personal behaviors for decades now. In fact, the driving force behind Curb is Larry's warped idea of what's socially acceptable. Sometimes that means getting up in other people's business, but rarely does it mean shaking hands. A couple of weeks ago, when no one was taking coronavirus as seriously as they should have been, David appeared on Saturday Night Live alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. In a video the show posted to Twitter, Gyllenhaal introduces himself and extends his hand. "What are you nuts?" David replies. The anti-shaking stance of the real life David has been on display as far back as 2009 when a Los Angeles Times reporter documented David rushing to wash his hands following some hand-based greetings. This was in the midst of the swine flu outbreak, which now seems almost quaint. In the Times story, David asked, "How could a guy like me not be carrying Purell?" Well, if you visit Latte Larry's, the Purell flows as freely as the coffee does.
Larry is often rude, but he's also often right. When his nemesis Ted Danson visits Latte Larry's to check out the competition on behalf of Mocha Joe, he remarks on the hand sanitizer. "Is this for your benefit?" Ted asks. "In case there's any handshaking to be done, I know I'm safe," Larry says. "Have a little squirt."
Curb Your Enthusiasm has, quite frankly, been on a roll, a remarkable achievement for a show so late in its run and for one that has taken long hiatuses between seasons. Sunday night's penultimate episode hit a high point and not just because it gives us the mirage-like vision of Latte Larry's, an oasis of sterile joy in a universe of germs. Somehow it also introduces Abbi Jacobson as an oversharing waitress who sweats a bead of perspiration into Larry's soup, and documents a Richard Lewis-starring production of Flowers for Algernon. Multiple characters also battle explosive diarrhea caused by fancy licorice from a BMW dealership. It's a triumph.
It's only too bad that the season is coming to an end next week. Larry David could have very well become our patron saint of social distancing. For now we'll just dream of Latte Larry's from the comfort of our couches in homes nowhere near as nice as Larry's, and rewatch Curb knowing that we should have been following our favorite curmudgeon's teachings all along.
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