Larry David’s freeloading, endlessly profane roommate Leon Black may well be TV’s single funniest character. Leon, played by comedian JB Smoove, arrived in season six of Curb Your Enthusiasm after Larry took in a family who lost their home in Hurricane Katrina. Their cousin Leon lived in L.A., but he took refuge with the Davids anyway– and stayed after his family moved out. Since then, Smoove and David have become one of the greatest comedy duos in recent memory. Brian Hiatt spoke with Smoove about his first audition with David, working with Michael Richards and more.
I heard about your audition. You made Larry laugh without doing anything. What do you remember about that?
I had no idea you had to improv directly with Larry David – had no idea. I said, “Oh, shit! All right! Let’s do this shit Larry!” I walked up to Larry’s face I said, “Larry, let’s do this shit, we’re gonna improv, right Larry? Let’s improv, baby!” I said, “I don’t know, man, I’m about to fuck around and slap you in the face, man. ‘Cause its improv, right, so don’t take it hard if I slap you in the face.”
And he just stared at me and then said, “OK, let’s start the scene.” And so the scene was gonna start out with me sitting down, so I walked across the room and sat in the chair and just sat there, looking at him. I gave him the Leon-quick-of-the-head look. You know, that little turn to the head like my eyebrows go up, cause I got this thing with my forehead where one side of my head, like one side of my forehead gets wrinkled up, right? I’m like The Rock. Have you ever seen The Rock do his little eyebrow? My shit is more pronounced.
People wonder whether they would actually have Michael Richards bump up against Leon. Did you have any concerns about this? What were your feelings about letting that be a joke and letting him have a little bit of redemption?
I thought we handled it in a great way. I had to play it professionally, because I was in a scene. He was playing Michael Richards in the goddamn scene, I was playing Leon in the fucking scene. So I had to play it how Leon would play the shit, I couldn’t play it how JB would play the shit. So what happened with him is shit happened. I had to set JB Smoove aside, I said, “Okay, JB, Leon will have to handle this shit how Leon would handle it, since Leon don’t know what’s going on in the fucking world.” Since Leon’s in his own little world sometimes, Leon never even saw Seinfeld. Leon don’t know what the fuck Seinfeld is. So I had to play this shit how Leon would play it, no matter how the fuck JB felt about it.
But now does JB forgive him?
JB forgives him because you know, the man fell back. People go to jail for the words “fuck it”. Cause they get in situations where they’re like, “Shit should I do that? God damn, if I do that then I could get caught. Fuck it.” Now if he reacted with the “fuck it” attitude to everything, it would have been nice. But he fell back, he didn’t go into that mode where he just said, “Fuck it. I said it. I was in the fucking moment; I did what I had to do. If you don’t fucking get the fucking joke, fuck y’all too.”
How much have you hung out with Larry outside of the show?
I call Larry once in awhile to check on his ass to see what the fuck he’s into – see if he’s fucking with himself, playing with his balls or whatever the fuck he does in his spare time. I don’t know what Larry does in his spare time. Larry can be doing any fucking thing. For all I fucking know, Larry could have a toupee in his off time. I don’t know what Larry does. Larry might even dress up like a hip-hop star. I don’t fucking know what the fuck Larry does in his spare time cause I don’t see Larry in his spare time. Larry in his spare time is like seeing Elvis and shit. It’s so fucking weird shit. He’s like a living icon. He’s like a dead icon who’s living. Where the fuck is Larry at? And if you do see him, it’s like oh shit! Fuckin’ Larry! You know what I mean? You’re surprised like it’s Elvis or some shit. Like it’s the walking dead. Larry David.
Do you think Leon could have his own show?
I’ve been nudging Larry’s ass every time I see Larry. I’ve been nudging Larry. Larry, let’s do this. Let’s do this ruckus. Let’s do the motherfucking ruckus. The show should be called either “The Ruckus” or “That’s How I Does It.” I’ve been nudging Larry’s ass all year about that shit. Larry, I can’t be here forever. At some point he’s gotta get the training wheels off. You know what I mean? You gotta take the fucking training wheels off, right? Shit. Right now I have training wheels on me. I said let’s do this shit Larry. Let’s spin this shit off. Stop bullshitting. He might do it. But who knows, man? I’m gonna nudge his ass. I don’t know how long he’s gonna go but we’re gonna see what happens. But I’m gonna hang around. I’m gonna hang around until the wheels fall off, then it’s gonna be obvious that I’m gonna spin this shit off.
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