The first-ever episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm aired in 2000, and it didn't take long for viewers to develop a mild-to-severe obsession with the potently hilarious show.
Instead of traditional scenes, Curb operates with expertly-written comedy sets performed by some of the finest comedians out and about in Los Angeles. As opposed to a narrative arc, the show comprises of loosely-related scenes exploring the big questions in life. This led many to wonder: is Curb Your Enthusiasm improvised? Or are the somewhat tied together scenes actually scripted?
So, is 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' improvised?
"I didn't get to see a story outline for the first two seasons. I'd just drive to whatever address they gave me, I didn't know what the show was about, I didn't know what the scene was about, and I would sit in the makeup chair and I would ask the hair and makeup people if they knew anything, anything about the show," joked Cheryl Hines during a panel discussion at 92nd Street Y.
"Sometimes we'll be rolling and nobody told us..." she added shortly after.
As the Emmy Award-nominated actress revealed, Larry David and fellow creators swear by a highly unconventional creative methodology, strongly encouraging the stars to engage in improvisation sessions and come up with their own take on the already-existing scenes. Their insistence on spontaneity knows no bounds — so much so that the actors are often required to come up with brand new material on the spot.
"None of the guest stars get the outlines," explained Susie Essman during the panel discussion at 92nd Street Y.
"We get the outlines but there's an outline, a 7-page-long outline and there's maybe a paragraph about what each scene is about. But there's no dialogue written. It will just say 'Larry and Jeff are eating at a Palestinian chicken restaurant talking about how great the chicken is.' The story is there, but there is no dialogue," Sussie added.
'Curb Your Enthusiasm' operated with semi-written scenes and quick thinking.
The unusual strategy is extremely beneficial for the comedians and actors appearing on the show. They have the freedom to come up with first-class material and invent some truly genius scenes. The editors, on the other hand, are in a much less fortunate position because they have to comb through every take and compile them into the funniest version.
"We’re trying to pluck together the best stuff into a coherent scene in the funniest way possible," explained Steven Corn in a previous interview with Variety.
The unique predicament gave way to some revolutionary solutions as well. The editors tend to use different takes to work out the most entertaining versions of scenes, cutting consonants like 's,' 't,' or 'p,' to create more seamless edits. Using footage from two, opposing cameras can help create the impression that the actor is in the scene, reveals Variety.
"The lack of b-roll is one of the challenges in this show [...] You wish you had something to cut to because it would be convenient editorially, but at the same time, we want to keep a docu feel," Steven added.