How Curb Your Enthusiasm Manifested Bruce Springsteen's Postponed Tour

[This story contains spoilers from season 12, episode nine of Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Ken/Kendra.”]

Life imitated art again with the latest Curb Your Enthusiasm. Or, if you ask show boss Jeff Schaffer, “life imitated silly art.”

The silly art he is referring to is when Curb‘s Larry David (played by the real Larry David) gave Bruce Springsteen COVID, forcing him to cancel his music tour. Springsteen had made a brief cameo earlier in the season in “The Lawn Jockey” episode, where the Boss praised Larry for becoming a liberal hero after he (unknowingly) stood up against a Georgia 2021 voting law that makes it illegal to provide food or water to voters in line at the polls.

“That’s Larry David’s middle name: Larry ‘Involvement’ David,” said Springsteen on CNN when making his first Curb cameo.

Now, in the ninth episode of season 12 — the penultimate episode before the Emmy-winning HBO comedy’s series finale this weekend — Springsteen returns. In the show, the Boss is so impressed with Larry’s political stance that he wants to meet the Seinfeld creator in real life.

But when they sit down at a table together in the home of the Greenes (Susie Essman and Jeff Garlin), several things go afoot. First, Springsteen’s manager Ken (played by trans comedian Ian Harvie) identifies himself as being formerly Kendra Morris and recalls how they used to have sex (and always on the floor). This prompts one of the episode’s best lines when Springsteen is aghast at Larry being a “floor fucker,” and Schaffer says that line was all the Boss.

“Bruce telling Larry, ‘I never took you for a floor fucker’ is one of my favorite moments ever — like, in life,” recalls Schaffer when speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about the episode. “We knew we were going to be talking about floor fucking, but that was all Bruce. That was Bruce chiming in, which was amazing. We were like, ‘What! He’s so funny.’”

Schaffer adds, “If the music thing doesn’t work out, he definitely has a future in comedy.”

As a make-good, Larry David brings the masseuse he offended (played by Tania Gunadi) to Bruce Springsteen’s house so she can snap a photo of the Boss, who is sick with COVID.

John Johnson/HBO

The uncomfortable exchange ends up cutting Larry’s meet-and-greet with the Boss short but not before a mix-up over their water glasses. The next day, Larry comes down with COVID, and he soon hears on the TV that Springsteen is also sick with COVID, is blaming Larry David for giving it to him and has to cancel several shows on his current tour. Today anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb deliver the news that Springsteen’s health is in danger, and now the world is very mad at Larry David.

This, of course, will not bode well for Larry’s reputation for his upcoming trial, where he faces up to one year in prison and a fine of $10,000 for obstructing the election process in the state of Georgia. He also was threatened in this episode with being “Me Too-ed” after he offended his masseuse.

The COVID Curb plotline was written in 2022, and they filmed the scene with Springsteen in one day in December 2022, on the improv comedy’s final day of shooting that year. “It was a long time to keep that one secret,” says Schaffer.

Then, flash-forward to February 2023, when Schaffer and David are editing the season, and Springsteen in real life ends up postponing three of his shows in one week “due to illness.” Then, in April 2023, Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa come down with COVID. And in August 2023, the Boss ends up postponing more shows after having “taken ill.” In September, it was then revealed he had been diagnosed with peptic ulcer disease, and he ended up canceling all remaining 2023 dates so he could recover.

“Bruce got sick and had to cancel his tour, and I just turned to Larry and said, ‘You have an amazing ability to manifest negative things. You are the supreme negative manifester,’” Schaffer recalls. “I remember going, ‘Oh my God, it’s exactly what we did.’ In the show, we say he had complications so his health was really at risk. It played out just like we said — which I feel terrible about! The good news is he got better, and he was hilarious. Happy ending.”

Springsteen with David, Ian Harvie and Jeff Garlin in Curb Your Enthusiasm.

John Johnson/HBO

Schaffer says when they initially reached out to Springsteen’s manager, they never thought the guest role would materialize. But quickly after the pitch, the Boss said yes; he was a fan of the show. After they wrapped, they sent Springsteen his scenes, because the Curb team was so happy with the final result.

“He loved them, which was great. He was putting a lot of faith in us,” says Schaffer. “He’d seen the show, but a lot of people haven’t worked the way we do, where it’s not all scripted. Lots of things get said. And we kept telling him, ‘We’ll use the best stuff,’ so he could try everything. And he played around. He knew the basic beats, but he was in there adding and slugging around. We showed him the scenes because we were so happy with how they turned out.”

The plot around how Larry likes to have sex ends up circling around when his ex-wife Cheryl (played by Cheryl Hines) calls him out for lying to her about why he wanted to have sex on the floor. (“It’s hot, like in the movies,” she says he told her.)

“Larry being a floor fucker because he wants to avoid depressing post-coital conversation was a story from one of our consulting producers that we thought was really funny. Ian Harvie had been on our radar for a while, and we knew he was the right person for this part. He was perfect,” says Schaffer. “Then as we were writing, it became clear that the reason the restaurant they ate at ended up getting a C rating had to be because a waiter was fucking on the floor. It’s perfect that after hearing how vile a human being is for not wanting to have any emotional attachment to anyone you’ve just had sex with, Larry’s response is not that he’ll change his ways but that he’d love to meet this guy. ‘We have something in common.’ So, I don’t think Larry has learned his lesson.”

Schaffer still marvels that they got Springsteen to do such a big role and coyly teases that the Boss might make some sort of return in next week’s finale.

“Everyone was so excited that Bruce had that brief cameo in episode two, and Larry and I were sitting there thinking, ‘If you guys only knew that he’s doing all these scenes in show nine.’ We were able to shoot a lot of stuff with Bruce in the one day we had him.”

He adds, “Things come back to haunt Larry every week. His life is a comedy haunted mansion, everything boomerangs.”

Below, with only one episode remaining before Curb signs off for good (maybe, hopefully not), Schaffer takes THR through some more highlights from the penultimate episode in season 12, “Ken/Kendra.”

  • Another tidbit on Springsteen: the Don Henley comparison was written by the Curb writers, but the Boss knew the Eagles frontman would “be cool with it.” Schaffer says, “We wrote that as a rock icon kind of mad lib.”
  • JB Smoove’s Leon “didn’t want to get COVID because he didn’t know what it was going to do to his dick,” says Schaffer of the hilarity that ensues when Larry’s housemate desperately tries to avoid getting sick. “We often like to surprise Larry. I didn’t tell him that JB was going to come through the house in a gas mask with an arm full of toilet paper,” says Schaffer, revealing that they often try to catch their star and creator off guard to get his most honest reaction. “Larry interacts with the world, and the world’s against him. So I create the world against him, for maximum surprise. His reactions are so good.”
  • A great example of one of those reactions comes in the epic staircase war-of-words between Larry and his oft-nemesis, Susie Greene (Essman): “That Larry-Susie fight in the stairwell is one for the ages. Them arguing that each other is a virus, capped off by Susie saying, ‘Larry, you cold-hearted, COVID-carrying cocksucker,’ is one of my favorite Larry-Susie arguments of all time.” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was actually on set that day of filming. “He got a giant earful of raw Curb,” says Schaffer, adding that the virus insults were all hurled in one take. But, “you’re seeing on Larry’s side every frame before he laughs. Larry’s reaction to Susie calling him that was taken from a different reaction because he was laughing so hard. Larry is always going to blink first with Susie. Susie screaming at him is his kryptonite.”
  • A restaurant being downgraded from an A to a C rating mid-meal is a plot plucked from real life, when Schaffer, David, former writers Alec Berg and David Mandel, and other Curb writers were out for lunch in Palisades Village when filming season six. “We watched them change the letter right in front of us and no one could believe it. They just changed the letter in front of Larry David and the Curb writers, what do they think is going to happen? Talk about low-hanging, probably unwashed fruit. We always wanted to do it. I know it seems impossible, but it really is true.”
  • The name of the book written by Young Larry director Les McCrabb (played by Matt Berry), “To Hang a Lantern On It,” originates from Schaffer’s pre-Seinfeld job at Witt/Thomas Productions where he worked on “a show starring an unknown comic named Jeff Garlin and then on Herman’s Head.” Schaffer says the show was filled with idioms that end up showing up in the fictional Curb script, like, “America doesn’t want to see that” and “hang a lantern on it.” Really “hacky sitcom stuff,” he says. “We would do that jokingly when writing, and so when we needed a title for this book written by this sort of journeyman director, I was like, it has to be ‘Hang a Lantern on It.’ I wrote a solid two pages and worked out some feelings of what it’s like working out at a schmaltzy place (laughing). The exact stuff that Seinfeld and Curb is the antidote for.”
  • The fictional “Vonderdonk” cheese from last week’s episode is now actually being sold at The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills (available during store hours). “I’m sure the cheese is excellent, just don’t leave it in your car,” quips Schaffer.
  • In other real-life news, Felicity Huffman booked her first TV gig following her role in the college admissions scandal and after Lori Loughlin parodied herself with a Curb cameo earlier this season. “I can’t imagine that anyone is looking to us for hour-long trends, but I’m very happy that Lori got to be the first to come back triumphantly,” says Schaffer.
  • With one week left before the finale, Schaffer responds to Garlin recently sharing how emotional he got when the executive producer-director called cut on the final scene. “I remember doing a few extra takes to make sure we got it because it was important,” says Schaffer of next week’s ending. “Once we did, we were done. And, who wants it to be done? Then I realized, someone has to say something! So I looked at Larry, because village was right next to the set, and said, ‘Are you good?’ He said ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ So I said, ‘That’s a wrap on the greatest sitcom ever.’ Everyone applauded and hugged. Then I turned around and Jeff was yeah, just sitting quietly off to the side crying. Very sweet.”
  • How will Curb tie it all together in the series finale? “It’s definitely longer than our usual episodes. We have a lot to say,” says Schaffer, always tight-lipped about any spoilers. “I can’t believe that we’ve arrived at this moment. But I think it’s been a really lively season and the finale is a very funny fitting end to it all.”

Curb Your Enthusiasm releases its series finale Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO and Max. Read THR’s chats with Schaffer from the season here.

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