Do you know who this Red Sox first baseman is? Does this still image bring back unimaginable pain from the long lost 80s? Does Bill Buckner encapsulate for you the pre-21st century course for the Olde Towne Team?
What if you could laugh it off, courtesy of a brilliant crew of comedic writers and actors who combine this tragic tale with subplots of sexual performance anxiety, racial stereotypes and a (well-deserved) poke in the eye of psychiatry?
Well, that’s what’s happened in the most side-splitting 30 minutes of television ever produced. What deserves this Alex-is-now-a-TV-critic kudos? The “Mister Softee” episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that first aired on Sunday, September 4, 2011 on HBO. (Here’s a series description and episode list.)
While CYE has made me laugh hard before, “The Bare Midriff” (season 7) attack on religious icons being one of my favorites, nothing compares to this new episode. I always suspected that the show was missing something.
Now I know what was missing: NYC, my birth-town until my adoption by Boston. Until this season, CYE was set in LA. But David and his regulars (especially the volume-goes-to-11 harpie Susie Greene) are funnier when roaming their ancestral home. These guys — and their humor — come from being New York Jews.
I’m sorry, but the LA lifestyle of fun and sun was always a mismatch, IMO, for the comedy. Even Leon, David’s fast-talking, foul-mouthed sidekick (“My johnson gets a little willie knowin’ you gonna git some tonight,” he says to David in “Mister Softee”) connects better in NYC than he did in LA episodes.
Somehow, bringing the cast to NYC has brought them home, reunited them with their tribal essence and sharpened their wit to its ultimate point.
If you can watch “Mister Softee” and not need an oxygen mask to replenish what you just lost laughing, there’s no help for you. Yup, as the girl in the ice cream truck tells a pre-pubescent Larry David, “Mister Softee” was “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” I’ve given it the ultimate mark of respect — I set the DVR to not delete “Mister Softee” until I say so.