March 5, 2015
Guest: Larry David
TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Our guest, Larry David, co-created "Seinfeld" and created the HBO comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," in which he starred as a selfish, self-absorbed, misanthropic character named Larry David. The real Larry David is very popular in New York right now. He wrote and stars in a new play which opens tonight, and it's broken Broadway's all-time record for advanced ticket sales, more than $14 million. The play is called "Fish In The Dark," and it's a comedy about the rivalries and dysfunction of a family as its patriarch passes away.
FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies saw a preview performance of "Fish In The Dark" and on Monday, he recorded an interview with Larry David. They started with a theme from a preview performance set at a family gathering after the father has died. His widow, played by Jane Houdyshell, is startled by something she's seen. We also hear her two sons, played by Ben Shenkman and Larry David.
(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "FISH IN THE DARK")
NORMAN DREXEL: (As David) Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Calm down. Calm down. What is it?
GLORIA DREXEL: (As Houdyshell) The bird out there. You didn't see it? It was right there.
DREXEL: (As David) So what?
DREXEL: (As Houdyshell) It was an oriole, that he was from Baltimore. He was Oriole fan. That was a sign from Sydney. He said he would give me a sign that was it.
DREXEL: (As David) Mom, are you crazy?
DREXEL: (As David) They'll put you in the nuthouse. It's just a bird.
DREXEL: (As Houdyshell) It wasn't just a bird. It was Sydney.
DREXEL: (As David) So I don't understand. What was that? Was that a good thing, that it's a bird?
DREXEL: (As David) That's a bird. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Sydney. What a freak show.
DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
Well, Larry David, welcome to FRESH AIR. Tell us where the idea for this play came from.
LARRY DAVID: Well, Dave, I have a friend. His name is Lloyd Braun, and his father died. And he started telling me about it, and to the twisted mind, it actually seemed like it was a funny - the whole incident seemed very funny to him, how it was unfolding. And I thought that this could be a play. And two weeks later, I actually started - I sat down and started writing.
DAVIES: You play the lead in the play. And I gather that was not your intent originally, right?
DAVID: Don't remind me.
DAVIES: (Laughter). So how did you - you thought of someone else. Anybody in particular?
DAVID: Anyone. Anyone in particular. Anyone except me. I got rubbed in. The producer, Scott Rudin, said this sounds like you. You have to do this. And, of course, it did sound like me, the main character. So I don't know. I thought, well, I wonder what that will be like to do something like this. And now I know.
DAVIES: (Laughter) Yeah. Yeah, I know.
DAVID: It's not so easy, Dave. It's not so easy.
DAVIES: (Laughter) No, well, it certainly doesn't look easy to me.
DAVIES: And you had not been on stage since you were a kid, right?
DAVID: Yeah. So...
DAVIES: So what was hard about it?
DAVID: First of all, it's a lot of pressure. And you've got to make a thousand people laugh every night with a script. It's not like doing standup. It's just something was - it was something new for me. I never did it before. And it's definitely a challenge.
DAVIES: You know, people talk about taking themselves out of their comfort zone for a new challenge.
DAVIES: Was it that kind of thing for you? Because it sounds like you sure did.
DAVID: Yeah. If you even have a comfort zone.
DAVID: Whatever comfort zone I had was pretty narrow. But this was definitely out of it for sure. Yeah.
DAVIES: You know, in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," as I understand it, most of the dialogue was pretty much improvised. You would give all the actors an outline and then you'd improvise it. This must be very different, working from a script. Was that hard?
DAVID: Yeah, it is different. It's completely different. I have total freedom on "Curb" to kind of say and do anything I want every - I can follow every impulse that I have. And I don't - I'm allowed to interject when other people are talking. I'm kind of writing the scene as we're doing it. But this play is a different animal. You have lines. There are cues that are very important. The whole - if you just screw up one line the whole - you're off track. And, you know, it's hard to get back on. Yeah, you have to abide by the script. And the other actors don't like it if you get off of it either.
DAVIES: Right. They're counting on the cues and your timing.
DAVID: Yeah. And, by the way, so am I. I'll be completely thrown.
DAVIES: You know, when you were doing "Curb Your Enthusiasm," so much of the comedy came from the facial expressions, which you got in close-ups. I mean, this is a completely different kind of animal. You know, just talk a little bit about that. Is it a matter of giving the same kind of expression in a broader more physical way?
DAVID: Are you saying I'm too broad, Dave?
DAVIES: (Laughter). No.
DAVID: Is that what I'm getting here?
DAVIES: I'm asking you to talk about your art. (Laughter).
DAVID: You know what? I haven't really changed a lot of my so-called technique even though there - as you said, there are no close-ups or anything like that. I'm making the same stupid faces that I would normally make.
DAVID: Probably and, you know, I can tell when I get reactions from a glance or, you know, just some kind of reaction that I'm making. I know when the audience is amused by it.
DAVIES: Do you do any vocal exercises before you start the play?
DAVID: No. No, I probably should. I saw a bunch of the other actors on stage the other night and they were warming up. And it just seemed like a silly exercise to me.
DAVID: You know, they do things with their lips. You know, they do that. And they stretch their mouths and do scales. But I don't know - no.
DAVIES: There are a lot of really veteran theater actors in the cast. I mean, some really great performers. And...
DAVID: Yes, it's a great cast.
DAVIES: It is. And I wonder if there are things about - just theater culture that you've noticed and been surprised or intimidated or what - anything by?
DAVID: Well, there's some superstitions they have. Like, you're not allowed to whistle in the theater. And of course I've - (laughter) I've whistled a number of times because I'm an enfettered whistler. And I just always seem to forget and boy, oh, boy do I get some bad looks when I do that. They...
DAVIES: They mean it.
DAVID: From some of the vets. They don't like that one bit.
DAVIES: We're speaking with Larry David. He wrote and stars in the new Broadway play "Fish In The Dark."
When I told my wife I was going to be interviewing you, she says I want to know how that guy got the way he is. And of course she's assuming that guy's the guy she's seen on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
DAVID: That doesn't sound so good to me.
DAVIES: (Laughter). Well...
DAVID: Like, how am I? I'd like to ask your wife, and yes. And how am I? What is this that you're seeing?
DAVIES: Well, it's the guy on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," I suppose, you know? And we'll talk about whether that's how close that is to the real Larry David. But I do want you to tell us about, like, where you grew up. You grew up in Brooklyn. Tell us about the neighborhood.
DAVID: I grew up in Brooklyn in a - it was in Sheepshead Bay. I lived right under the Belt Parkway. And there were four buildings, which was my little universe - my friends, my five, six, seven, eight friends. We all lived in this building. And it was very happy childhood, as far as I remember. We played sports all the time, walked to school, came home from school, played ball. In the winter we'd play basketball in freezing temperatures and - every possible - we would invent games. And not too many girls in my life, I must say, though.
DAVIES: (Laughter). And what did your parents do?
DAVID: My father was in the clothing business. He was a salesman. And my mother worked for the Bureau of Child Guidance.
DAVIES: As a social worker?
DAVID: No. I think she did secretarial work.
DAVIES: And did you have extended family in the neighborhood or in the building?
DAVID: I did. I had aunts. And my aunt and uncle and my cousins were right next door. My grandmother, my uncle and my cousin were on the third floor. So there was no privacy. People were running in and out of the house all the time. Everybody knew your business. And then we also had relatives on Long Island where we'd go and see what the - how rich people lived. Now we - at the time I thought they were rich because they didn't live in Brooklyn. I mean, they really weren't rich, they just lived in a house. To me, anybody who lived in a house was rich.
DAVIES: And there was all this, as you said, family interaction and chaos around you. Did you see humor in it at the time? Did you make friends laugh?
DAVID: No. I wasn't funny at all. I didn't even suspect that I had a sense of humor until I went to college. And then something kind of changed. I don't know what happened. Perhaps it was meeting new friends and being in a different environment that unleashed something in me. I don't know.
DAVIES: Did you have any sense of your future back then? Do you remember?
DAVID: Just whatever it was in my head. It was bleak. I don't remember having any ambitions, any goals, any dreams. It was always, how am I going to get by? What am I going to do? But I didn't really - to be honest - I didn't really give it much thought. Even in college, I didn't give it much thought. I was having fun in college. And basically when people asked me what I was going to do I just said, oh, something will turn up. What that was, I had no idea.
DAVIES: And did your parents have any particular expectation?
DAVID: (Laughter). Zero.
DAVID: Zero expectations. My mother - I've said this before - she wanted me to work in the post office. She wanted me to be a mailman because she thought, you know, I'd get a pension and I'd be taken care of. I would have security. And that was her dream. That was the best-case scenario, that I would be a mailman.
DAVIES: You were going to be Newman.
DAVID: I was going to be Newman, exactly. Newman was very happy.
DAVIES: Steady work, you got a health plan.
DAVID: Newman's one of the happiest guys on television. Come on.
DAVIES: He knows who he likes and who he doesn't. Yeah.
DAVID: Yeah, and the hours were good, right? You know, they just drop some mail off. It seemed like a decent job.
DAVIES: How did your parents react to your success?
DAVID: They were quite stunned by it. (Laughter). When "Seinfeld" was the number-one show in the country, my mother would call me up and go, Larry, do they like you? Do they think you're doing a good job? Are they going to keep you? What do they say to you? Do they tell you you're good? She was very insecure.
DAVIES: I read about, you know, your early life. One of the things that occurred to me is that, you know - I mean, I grew up in a family that my parents didn't go to college. None of the people in my neighborhood went to college. And, you know, I kind of managed to make a career and get on the radio. And I've been lucky enough to, you know, do this show from time to time and talk to people like you. But there's still a part of me that kind of doesn't believe it. And people that I know that grew up in families where they were wealthy or their parents were public figures or university professors, they're just more comfortable out in the world and accepting that they are somebody. And I wonder even after all you've accomplished, do you feel like you belong on the red carpet and, you know, in magazines?
DAVID: Not really, but I completely understand what you're saying. It is a little odd. I'm somewhat detached from it. Like, I'll see my name on the marquee, and it doesn't really kind of register in any way. So I'm not - I'm disassociated from it. But occasionally I do feel like a jerk. What am I doing here walking on the red carpet? These people obviously don't know me.
DAVIES: We're speaking with Larry David. He wrote and stars in the Broadway play "Fish In The Dark." We'll continue our conversation in a moment. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, we're speaking with Larry David. He has written and stars in the new Broadway play "Fish In The Dark." How did you get into comedy? You said you were in college having fun, no thought of a particular future.
DAVID: Yeah, then I got out of college. And, you know, I was funny with my friends and my friend's wife said to me you should be a comedian. And I thought really? I just hadn't - that hadn't occurred to me. And then I went to the Improv - the Improvisation - to watch a show. And as I'm watching the show, I'm starting to think that, hey, maybe Jane's right. Maybe I could do this. In fact, not only am I starting to think I could do it, I think I could be really funny up there. Not only that, I'm going to go up there right now.
DAVID: I go up to the owner of the club, Budd Friedman, and I say I'd like to go on. Now, I'm just sitting in the audience on a Saturday night. I leave my seat and I go talk to the owner. And I say to the owner of the club that I want to go on. And this is the most - probably the most - insane thing I've ever done in my life. And he said to me who are you? I said I'm just sitting in the audience. He said no, you can't go on. Are you a comedian? I said no. He said no, no, you have to audition and then if you pass the audition then you could start going on. So thank God he said no because had he said yes and I had gone up, it would have been a disaster. I may never walked up on a stage again for the rest of my life. But I started to put an act together. And then I went down to the Village to a place called Gerde's Folk City. And I did - I got on stage for the first time. A week later I went to Gil Hodges bowling alley in Brooklyn and got on stage for the second time. And then for the third time, I went to Catch A Rising Star and I passed the audition and then I started working out of Catch A Rising Star.
DAVIES: Well, you know, we have a little piece of tape. And this is from Susie Essman, your friend, who, of course, appeared on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." And she was at an appearance and she was recalling her early days with you in stand-up. Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SUSIE ESSMAN: Larry was a comic. Larry started as a stand-up comic. And I knew him from Catch A Rising Star. We probably met in 1985-1986. And he was a legendary - he's what we call a comedian's comedian, meaning that he would get on stage and the comedians would stand in the back of the room. Larry's on - we'd all come running into the room to watch him 'cause you knew something brilliant and original was going to happen. But the audience half the time stared at him like they had no idea what the hell he was talking about. And he was very, very touchy. You know, sometimes if, like, the whole audience is laughing and you had a stomach ache and had a bad look on your face - that would be it. He'd storm off the stage, you know? Or one time I remember I introduced him and - you know, ladies and gentlemen, Larry David. And he came on the stage and he just looked at the audience and he just went never mind. And he just walked off.
ESSMAN: Just walked off - but his material was brilliant. He just never figured out that other thing of how to connect to an audience. That wasn't his thing.
DAVIES: And that's Susie Essman talking about our guest Larry David in his early days in stand-up. So does she have it right?
DAVID: She's - yeah (laughter) that was pretty accurate, yeah.
DAVIES: Do you remember the time you came in, looked at the audience and walked off?
DAVID: Yes, I do. I didn't say never mind. I think I said I don't think so.
DAVIES: (Laughter) And why? I mean, what - what was it about the audience?
DAVID: I didn't like the looks of them.
DAVID: I didn't like how they responded to the comic who was on before me. And I just - I just didn't see that it was going to be a successful outing. So I decided - I decided to do a preemptive attack.
DAVIES: (Laughter) You're not going to let them reject you. You're going to reject them.
DAVID: Exactly, exactly.
DAVIES: You know, when heard this story and when I read about, I mean, how you struggled with stand-up and how all the comedians loved you, but audiences didn't always connect. And, you know, when you talk to people in show business, so many of them say, well, you know, I really want to follow my artistic voice and do interesting work, not just do what any schlock that's commercially successful. And when I look at your career, I mean, it strikes me that you actually did do that. I mean, you really did stick to what you believed in. And you found these vehicles. And it's an incredible success now because, I mean, it's a particular Larry David way of looking at the world and finding humor in it. And you did stick to your own vision and it really worked. Is that how you see it?
DAVID: Well, it didn't seem like I had much of a choice. I don't think that - you know, I don't think that my hand would've cooperated with my brain if my brain was telling my hand to write something it didn't really want to write. But I remember when there was some interference from NBC with "Seinfeld" when we first started doing it. And, fortunately, I didn't have a family at the time. So it was very easy for me to say to them no, I'm quitting. I'm not going to do that. I don't want to do that, and I can't do it. And for me, it wasn't a big deal to just pack up and go home. Like I said, I hadn't - I didn't have a family. It's much harder. That's the first piece of advice I'll give anybody, you know, who wants to get into this. Don't have a family for a while until you're successful because it'll just make it very hard to ever get out of things and you'll always - you'll always have to compromise. But I didn't have to compromise because I didn't have a family.
DAVIES: And what was it NBC wanted you to do?
DAVID: You know, they just didn't like the direction of the show. For example, the Chinese restaurant episode.
DAVIES: Right, the whole thing...
DAVID: They hated...
DAVID: They hated that show. They didn't even want to air it. And, you know, there was a big meeting about the kind of shows they liked and the kind of shows they didn't like. And, you know, I just said, well, I'm not going to be able to do that. So I just thought that I would quit. But then I learned another lesson. That when you say no, you invariably get your way. And it's a - it's a wonderful feeling.
DAVID: I can't believe I never did it before.
DAVIES: (Laughter) No, just not going to do it (laughter).
DAVID: Yeah, you just say no. And then they go OK, OK, well, you don't have to.
GROSS: We're listening to the interview that FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies recorded with Larry David, the co-creator of "Seinfeld" and the creator and star of the HBO comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm." His new play, which he wrote and stars in, opens tonight on Broadway. After a break, they'll talk about how playing the misanthropic version of himself on "Curb" has affected Larry David's real personality. Also Maureen Corrigan will review a new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro., who wrote "Remains Of The Day." And Kevin Whitehead will review a new album by trumpeter Eddie Henderson, which we're listening to now. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF TRUMPET)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to the interview FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies recorded with Larry David, the co-creator of "Seinfeld" and the creator and star of the HBO comedy series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He wrote and stars in a new play called "Fish In The Dark," which opens tonight on Broadway.
DAVIES: You became friends with Jerry Seinfeld doing stand-up together. And the two of you conceived of the - you know, this incredible hit TV show, "Seinfeld." And, of course, everybody knows the four characters and that George Costanza is, I guess, somewhat based on you. Did you ever consider playing that role yourself?
DAVID: No. No, it was never mentioned. I never thought of it. Jerry never thought of it... Furthest thing from my mind. And by the way, I couldn't have done it anyway. There's no way that I could have. First of all, they wouldn't have let me do it. But even had they let me do it, there's no way that I could have done that and also been the executive producer of the show. It would have been way too hard. I mean, my - I had a 24/7 job just on the writing end of it and the producing end. So there's no way I could have been in it.
DAVIES: I wonder if you could share a little bit of how you talked to Jason Alexander about the character and the role and how you felt about what he did with it.
DAVID: First of all, I never even spoke to him about it. We auditioned a number of people to play George, hadn't really found anyone. And then - then this tape was sent in from New York. And Jerry and I watched the tape. And it was Jason auditioning in New York with a casting director, reading with a casting director, just sitting on a stool. I heard 10 seconds, and I went, oh, boy. There - there he is. This guy, this is the guy. And I never had to say one word to him about the character or anything like that. He just had it right from - right from the beginning. He was great. What a fantastic actor. It gave me so many laughs, watching him do that.
DAVIES: We're going to play a clip from "Seinfeld." And there's a million we could choose. But I thought we would do one of Big Stein - George Steinbrenner.
DAVID: (Laughter) OK.
DAVIES: And, of course, people who know the show will know that there were many episodes where George Costanza worked for the New York Yankees. And he would be occasionally summoned to the office of the famous owner, George Steinbrenner. And you would do the voice. It would be shot from behind another actor. So you didn't actually see him. And this is an episode, I think, in which Steinbrenner has summoned George because he's heard rumors about George's political views.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEINFELD")
JASON ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) You wanted to see me, Mr. Steinbrenner?
DAVID: (As George Steinbrenner) Yes, George, I did. Come in; come in. George, the word around the office is that you're a Communist.
ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) A Communist? I am a Yankee, Sir, first and foremost.
DAVID: (As George Steinbrenner) You know, George, it struck me today that a Communist pipeline into the vast reservoir of Cuban baseball talent could be the greatest thing ever to happen to this organization.
ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) Sir?
DAVID: (As George Steinbrenner) You could be invaluable to this franchise. George, there's a southpaw down there nobody's been able to get a look at - something about Rodriguez. I don't really know his name. You get yourself down to Havana right away.
ALEXANDER: (As George Costanza) Yes, Sir. Yes, Sir. I'll do my best.
DAVID: (As George Steinbrenner) Good. Merry Christmas, George. And bring me back some of those cigars in the cedar boxes. You know, the ones with the fancy rings? I love those fancy rings. They kind of distract you while you're smoking. The red and yellow are nice. It looks good against the brown of the cigar. The Maduro - I like the Maduro wrapper. The darker the better; that's what I say. Of course, the Claro's good too. That's more of a pale brown, almost like a milky coffee. I find the ring size very confusing. They have it in centimeters...
DAVIES: And George Costanza has wandered out of the room. That's our guest, Larry David, as the voice of George Steinbrenner. It's funny. As we listen - it's not quite your speaking voice. You did some stuff there with it.
DAVID: Well, hey (laughter). You know, Dave, I was - I was doing an impression.
DAVIES: (Laughter). You're an actor.
DAVID: Oh, sure. No, we brought in some people to read for Mr. Steinbrenner. And nobody really got it. And Jerry said, well, what are you - what are you looking for? How does it - how does it go? And all of a sudden, I started talking like this. (Imitating George Steinbrenner) You know, he's a big, blustery guy. He kind of talks like that. And Jerry said, yeah, you should do it; that's funny. So that's how that happened.
DAVIES: Did you ever hear how Steinbrenner himself reacted to the bit?
DAVID: I think he liked it. Steinbrenner was unfamiliar with the show. His grandchildren watched it. And his grandchildren talked him into letting us use his name. The last episode, I think, of the '96 season, we came up with the idea to actually fly him in and put him on the show because up to that point, we had only been seeing the back of his head. And I was doing his voice. And then we thought it would be fun if he was - if he actually made a real appearance. So we called him up. And he said, yeah, he would do it. So he flew out to do it. He did the show. We started editing the show. And as I watched it, I'm going, oh, my God. This is - this is not good. And we thought, it's so much better to just see the back of his head with me doing the voice than to actually see the real Steinbrenner - 'cause his acting was wanting, to say the least. So I had to call him up and tell him the news that it was being cut from the show. So I called Yankee Stadium, and I asked to talk to him. And then he got on the phone. I said, Mr. Steinbrenner, this is Larry David calling from the "Seinfeld" show. And he said, (imitating George Steinbrenner) yes- yes, Larry. What's - what's going on?
DAVID: I said, well, Mr. Steinbrenner, you know, I watched the - I watched the show. And he said, (imitating George Steinbrenner) yeah, you can tell me. I'm a big boy. I'm a big boy. I said, well, it's not working. We have to cut you from the show. And he was - he was actually OK with it.
DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, we're speaking with Larry David. He wrote and stars in the new play on Broadway "Fish In The Dark."
Let's talk a bit about "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and I want to begin with a clip. This actually is on the subject of death, which the play is about. Now, in this case, you're walking down the street in Los Angeles, and spot your old friend Marty Funkhouser, who's played by Bob Einstein, and his mother has recently died. Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM")
DAVID: (As Larry David) Hey, Funkhouser. My God, I can't believe it. You're out. What are you doing?
BOB EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Well, this helps my emotions. Jogging is the best thing for me.
DAVID: (As Larry David) So mourners exercise. I didn't know that.
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) I don't know if mourners exercise. It's just good for me.
DAVID: (As Larry David) Interesting. I'm going to remember that next time I lose a close member of my family.
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Yeah, jogging.
DAVID: (As Larry David) Yeah.
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Helps everything.
DAVID: (As Larry David) Hey, I called your house. I left a condolence message. I never got a return call.
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Well, I had a few things on my mind.
DAVID: (As Larry David) Still, it's a little discourteous.
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Let me explain something to you.
DAVID: (As Larry David) Sure.
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) I lost my dad a year ago. My mother just died. I'm an orphan, OK?
DAVID: (As Larry David) You're a what?
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) I'm an orphan.
DAVID: (As Larry David) Orphan?
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Yeah, an orphan.
DAVID: (As Larry David) You're a little too old to be an orphan.
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) No, if you don't have parents, you're an orphan.
DAVID: (As Larry David) Oh, you can be 70 and be an orphan?
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) You can be 100 and be an orphan.
DAVID: (As Larry David) Oh, you can't be 100 and be an orphan.
EINSTEIN: (As Marty Funkhouser) Yeah, you can.
DAVID: (As Larry David) (Laughter) OK, little orphan Funkhouser.
DAVIES: (Laughter). Our guest, Larry David, and Bob Einstein on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
DAVID: Yes, I'm upset because he didn't - he didn't respond to my call. He never returned my call.
DAVIES: A little discourteous (laughter).
DAVID: I thought it was discourteous.
DAVIES: When I read about you, your friends say that you are actually a nice and generous person. Does it bother you that you've kind of created this image of yourself as this insensitive jerk?
DAVID: Oh, God, no, not at all. Why - no because that's - doesn't bother me in the least. I'm quite happy about it. I'm way closer to being the guy on "Curb" than the guy who's talking to you right now.
DAVIES: Really? (Laughter).
DAVID: I know I'm often described as a nice guy, but - by the way, I think the guy on "Curb" is a nice guy. He's just very honest.
DAVIES: OK, OK. Well, the guy on "Curb" would probably think that the guy on "Curb" is a nice guy, but I don't know if that many other people would think that (laughter).
DAVID: But why? Why isn't he nice? He's not mean. I don't think he's mean. I think he does nice things.
DAVIES: He just kind of can't let some things go that he might (laughter).
DAVID: Yeah, well, that doesn't mean he's not nice.
DAVIES: (Laughter) OK. Well, you know...
DAVID: I think he's expressing a lot of the things that many people think about.
DAVIES: Right, but just are too inhibited to say.
DAVIES: Right. So are you like that when you're out there? Are you completely uninhibited?
DAVID: No, I'm completely inhibited. I'm the opposite of him.
DAVIES: You know...
DAVID: That's why it's so much fun to do it.
DAVIES: Like a lot of your friends, Ted Danson has appeared on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and in 2009, he was on an interview on this show with Terry Gross. And she asked if any scenes in the series came out of your actual friendship with one another, and he told a little story. Let's listen to this.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
TED DANSON: Although when you go out to dinner with him, it's way scarier than acting with him because he's always pulling out his notebook. Or you don't know whether or not he's doing a scene in a restaurant and being a little louder than he should be because he's practicing something for next week or whether this is truly Larry. It's a very scary kind of proposition hanging out with Larry David.
GROSS: I can imagine it would be a little embarrassing when he's talking too loud or doing something inappropriate, and you don't know whether he's testing a performance...
GROSS: ...Or just being weird.
DANSON: We've sat in a restaurant, a very sweet, quiet inn, you know, New England inn with a lot of people with kind of blue-gray hair. And he came in late, and his back was to the entire restaurant. But we were looking at the entire restaurant over his shoulder, and he was whispering this story in a kind of stage whisper that had the F word in it a lot.
DANSON: And he basically cleared the restaurant. And then as he's walking out he went, nice restaurant - little too quiet for a Jew, but it's a nice restaurant...
DANSON: ...And walked out. And it was like - you kind of have to walk in his wake going, sorry, sorry, sorry. You know it's Larry, sorry.
DAVIES: And that's Ted Danson talking about our guest, Larry David. OK, Larry David, you don't sound so inhibited to me (laughter).
DAVID: I don't think that story is accurate. First of all, I'm not practicing anything at the table as was alleged, like practicing for the show. That's - that never happened. But, yeah, I was particularly taken aback at how quiet that restaurant was that Ted Danson was referring to, and so I made a racket.
DAVIES: (Laughter) Just stirring the pot?
DAVID: Yes, it was disturbingly quiet in there.
DAVIES: So maybe not so inhibited.
DAVID: Well, not in that instance.
DAVIES: All right.
DAVID: By the way, the character has emboldened me to be much less inhibited and to take on a lot of the things that the TV Larry David does. If I'm at a dinner party and I want to go home, I can go. Before dessert - OK, I've had enough. All right, I'm going to go. And nobody will be shocked to hear me say it whereas I could never do that before "Curb." And now people are not surprised, and they kind of expect it. But - yeah, so that's - so that's great when I'm able to sort of emulate the character.
DAVIES: Larry David, thanks so much for spending some time with us.
DAVID: Thank you, Dave.
GROSS: Larry David spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies. Larry David's new play "Fish In The Dark" opens on Broadway tonight.
TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Jazz trumpet and flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson was in his 30s when he debuted on record with Herbie Hancock. Before that, he'd become a medical doctor who went on to specialize in psychiatry because it left his nights free to play the horn. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says that decision is still paying off for him.
(SOUNDBITE OF EDDIE HENDERSON SONG, "FIRST LIGHT")
KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Eddie Henderson on "First Light," a Freddie Hubbard tune from the 1970s. Henderson is a contemporary of trumpet aces Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw, but he bloomed later and is still here to represent those colleagues who've all passed on. On Henderson's album "Collective Portrait," he plays tunes by Hubbard and Shaw, and one associated with Miles Davis, along with two of his own. Henderson has their kinds of virtues - effortless swing, an offhand blues feeling, a fat, juicy tone and a lovely, warm lower register and a gift for spinning an improvised tale.
(SOUNDBITE OF EDDIE HENDERSON SONG, "SPRING")
WHITEHEAD: Eddie Henderson using a Harmon mute without mimicking Miles Davis. One blessing of a long career is your voice gets more personal over time despite lingering influences like Miles. Henderson's part-time front line partner is another contemporary-schooled bebop phraseology and Coltrane's giant-stepping harmonies, alto saxophonist Gary Bartz. Woody Shaw's steeplechase "Zoltan" keeps Bartz on his toes - the tune and drummer, Carl Allen.
(SOUNDBITE OF EDDIE HENDERSON SONG, "ZOLTAN")
WHITEHEAD: This quintet isn't a regular band, but Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson and pianist George Cables have been recording together since the '70s. Their easy rapport helps make this date a winner. Carl Allen and bassist Doug Weiss came to the fold later, but they can track the pianist beat for beat.
(SOUNDBITE OF EDDIE HENDERSON SONG, "BEYOND FOREVER")
WHITEHEAD: George Cables on his tune "Beyond Forever," another relic from the '70s. Back then, Eddie Henderson made a bunch of funky electric records, including a few of his own. Some jazz survivors have quietly put that chapter behind them, but Henderson's refreshingly up-front about it. He puts Cables back on that period icon, electric piano, for a couple tunes, including Eddie's '70s standby, "Sunburst." Carl Allen again stands out on drums.
(SOUNDBITE OF EDDIE HENDERSON SONG, "SUNBURST")
WHITEHEAD: Eddie Henderson may never have quite gotten his due, but there's still time to correct that. His album "Collective Portrait" can only help. He showed up ready to play, and if he fluffs a note every once in a great while, it's a sign he's still taking risks at 74. Musicians and doctors and folks who are both will all tell you, playing jazz helps keep you young.
(SOUNDBITE OF EDDIE HENDERSON SONG, "GINGER BREAD BOY")
GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "Collective Portrait," the new album by Eddie Henderson on the Smoke Sessions label.
TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. It's been 10 years since celebrated novelist Kazuo Ishiguro brought out his last novel. But our book critic Maureen Corrigan says Ishiguro's latest, called "The Buried Giant," was worth the wait. Here's her review.
MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BYLINE: We know, but we don't know. We know that we'll lose those we love, that we're going to die, that the whole solar system will disappear one day. It's that shadowy state of knowing, but mostly living as though we don't know about all these looming terrors that Kazuo Ishiguro captures in his latest novel, "The Buried Giant."
No novelist around today beats Ishiguro when it comes to writing about loss. And almost every time he tackles his signature subject, he does so through the medium of a different genre. His breakthrough book, "The Remains Of The Day," is a straight literary novel in diary form. "When We Were Orphans" is a detective tale also presented through diary entries, and "Never Let Me Go" is a sci-fi story. This time round, Ishiguro serves up a masterful blend of fantasy, Arthurian romance, myth, legend and postmodern absurdity. In "The Buried Giant," an exhausted group of medieval travelers cross a blasted landscape straight out of the plays and novels of Samuel Beckett. They can't go on, but they go on, and so, too, do Ishiguro's readers, through scenes infused with menace and magical beauty and, yes, unendurable loss.
The two main characters here are an elderly couple named Axl and Beatrice. They live in an underground warren of dark rooms dug into a hillside. The candle that they would use to light their sleeping quarters has been taken away from them by their neighbors, maybe because of a fire, maybe just because of their age. It's hard to know for sure because, as our unnamed first-person narrator tells us, in this community, the past was rarely discussed. It had somehow faded into a mist as dense as that which hung over the marshes. It simply did not occur to these villagers to think about the past, even the recent one. Axl and Beatrice, though, like the other characters in this dim world, experience flashes of memory. Strange as it may sound, one day Beatrice recalls that she and Axl have a grown son now living in a village only a few days' walk eastward. Old and infirm as they are, Beatrice and Axl set out. Here's our narrator again, describing the perils of such a journey.
(Reading) A traveler of that time would, often as not, find himself in a featureless landscape, the view almost identical whichever way he turned. A row of standing stones on the far horizon, a turn of the stream, the particular rise and fall of a valley - such clues were the only means of charting a course. Straying off course meant exposing oneself more than ever to the risk of assailants, human, animal or supernatural. There were numerous instances of a traveler glancing back to the companion walking behind only to find the latter vanished without trace.
Along their torturous way, Axl and Beatrice encounter pixies and ogres and other wanderers; a boy named Edwin who's been cast out of his village because he's been bitten by a fiend; the elderly knight Gawain, arrayed in rusty armor, astride his weary horse, Horace; and a young warrior, named Wistan, determined to slay the dragon that he believes is responsible for exhaling that mist of forgetfulness over the land. Of course, as is standard in these tales of enchantment, no one and nothing are what, at first, they appear to be.
Axl, Beatrice and their ragtag band of wayfarers take many wrong turns, but Ishiguro never does. If "The Buried Giant" were only a fantasy-adventure tale, it would be well worth reading. But Ishiguro quests after far more profound mysteries here than the location of that dragon. Axl and Beatrice struggle to fight through the mist to hold on to their memories and identities and each other, even as they have to resign themselves, inevitably, to letting go. This is yet another radiant and deeply moving Ishiguro riff on loss and the tragic nature of life. It'd pay at the tribute of saying that as a novel, it's unforgettable. But as Ishiguro sadly tells us, that's only wishful thinking.
GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University and is the author of the new book "So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be And Why It Endures." She reviewed "The Buried Giant" by Kazuo Ishiguro. We hope you listen to and support your public radio station, and when you can't listen to FRESH AIR on the radio, check out our podcast which you can get on iTunes or your mobile podcast app. And of course, it's free.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.