If you've ever felt that the awkward confrontations in which Larry David invariably finds himself during the average episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm sometimes seem like the product of profound mental illness rather than improvisational comedic invention, the work of a clinical psychology student noted in this week's New Yorker might finally convince you that David's TV character might have deeper problems than merely being an impatient, fussy jerk. When the student showed episodes of Curb to his schizophrenic patients, they quickly recognized Larry's socially dysfunctional behavior:
So Roberts began showing TV clips during therapy sessions. Soon he had narrowed his selections down to one show: television's purest expression of social dysfunction, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Roberts considers Larry David to be the perfect proxy for a schizophrenic person. "On his way into his dentist's office, he holds the door open for a woman, and, as a result, she's seen first," he said. "He stews, he fumes, he explodes. He's breaking the social rules that folks with schizophrenia often break."
He went on, "Or the one where Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen invite Larry and his wife to a concert: the night arrives, they don't call, Larry assumes they don't like him, then it turns out he got the date wrong. It's a classic example of a major social cognitive error—jumping to conclusions—that schizophrenic patients are prone to." As the patients watched David flub situation after situation, they laughed, and they willingly discussed with Roberts how they might behave in the same circumstances. "That bald man made a mountain out of a molehill!" one woman called out during a session. [...]
Larry David, reached on the telephone in California, said that he hadn't realized how deeply the awkwardness on his show would affect people. "It just deals with how you're supposed to behave," he said. "A lot of the time, it's just me expressing myself freely. I knew that my own mental health was problematic, but should I be worried? I mean, I blow up, too! Is this something undiagnosed? Do I need to see a clinical psychologist?"
We hope that David's realization about the possible source of his inspiration doesn't enter into a therapeutic program that robs him of his creative drive; without the show's possibly schizophrenia-tinged moments of genius, it would just be the story of any other Prius-driving Hollywood asshole who likes to pick fights with his best friend's bitchy wife, obnoxious waiters, and the occasional annoying child, a character we could all meet simply by taking a place in line at any westside Coffee Bean location.