The title of a New York Times piece, published Saturday, signals one of those celebrity social distancing puff pieces: “Larry David, Master of His Quarantine.”
See, you remember that joke from “Seinfeld” over a quarter of a century ago, right? Larry David, who co-created that show and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is kind of perfect for that.
He’s a liberal, of course, one who used the Times interview to urge Bernie Sanders to drop out so that Joe Biden can have a clear shot at Donald Trump. But, hey, we’re all in this boat together (although hopefully socially distancing on said boat), so this was a light interview, right?
Well, I’m writing about it, so not quite.
Yes, there was some of that in the profile by Maureen Dowd. Do you know David is a germaphobe? If you know who David is, yes, probably you would assume that. Do you know he thinks toilet paper hoarders are comparable to horse thieves in the Old West — and that he could have never survived there? OK, then.
But, of course, part of the interview focused on David’s feelings about Trump, which were cringingly hyperbolic.
This line about the president was of particular interest to me and a lot of other people:
“You know, it’s an amazing thing. The man has not one redeeming quality,” David said. “You could take some of the worst dictators in history and I’m sure that all of them, you could find one decent quality. Stalin could have had one decent quality, we don’t know!”
Ah, yes, I’m sure there was a jocund side to that Stalin. The people around him must have found him a lovable fellow, even as he ordered mass killings of his enemies.
Stalin only killed 20 million people, which is far less than Mao did with the Great Leap Forward. See, redeeming quality!
Did Larry David lose all self-awareness during this interview? At what point did he think that Donald Trump was worse than communist dictators that, collectively, took over 100 million lives in a hundred years? And this is just counting communism.
Is he implying that Mussolini had decent qualities? Francisco Franco? Hitler, could you find a decent quality there? It might have been a throwaway line, but surely he could have thought it through a second longer.
This was hardly the end, as you may not be surprised to know.
On Trump’s coronavirus news conferences: “That’s the hardest thing about the day, watching what comes out of this guy’s mouth,” David said.
“It turns you into a maniac because you’re yelling at the television. All of a sudden, you find yourself screaming, like I used to do on the streets of New York, pre-‘Seinfeld,’ when I saw happy couples on the street.”
There was also some discoursing on Hillary Clinton, whom he’s not terribly fond of. He didn’t feel that the Hillary that came across in her Hulu documentary series was entirely genuine. However, Dowd went on to note that the “Hillary moment he can’t stop thinking about is when she didn’t wheel on the lurking Trump in the debate and tell him to get the hell out of her frame.
“I have literally gone over that moment in my basement so many times, pretending to be her, trying out different lines to say something to him,” David said. “I’ll say, ‘WHAT in God’s name are you doing?’ ‘What the hell are you doing?’ ‘Back up, man, what are you doing?’”
I list these laments — perhaps one might call it an “airing of grievances” — of David’s for a striking reason. Imagine living in a regime run by that charming Mr. Stalin. Heck, we don’t even need to go with Stalin. Let’s say Ceaușescu. Put Larry David in Romania in 1978, say.
At what point do you get to tell a reporter things like, “That’s the hardest thing about the day, watching what comes out of this guy’s mouth?” Would he be able to talk about Ceaușescu “lurking” behind a political opponent during a televised debate? (In an alternate universe where there would be televised debates in Romania, of course.)
These are things you don’t talk about to reporters in despotisms, inasmuch as reporters actually do interviews in authoritarian states. Prokofiev wasn’t giving interviews to Pravda about how he was screaming at his radio when Stalin was speaking about World War II. If he did, he would have met an early death.
Welcome to the wonderful world of autocracy. Maybe David could consider whether he’d be less likely to survive there or in the Old West.
Now, your argument against this counterfactual might be that Trump is working within a system that doesn’t allow him this kind of capricious power. That’s fair enough, but you’re going to have to point me to actions or words that demonstrate he’d actively murder wide swaths of the population to achieve his goals if given the chance.
Say what you will about Donald Trump’s words and deeds, but jumping to comparisons about murderous dictators, particularly in the midst of a pandemic, is wildly inappropriate.
David is a comedian who enjoys flouting politically correct sensibilities and one could say conservatives ought to realize that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Yes, but at some point, proportionality has to enter into the equation.
Comparing the president to Stalin and every other tinpot dictator that’s besmirched the earth over the past few millennia because you don’t like his coronavirus press conferences and you think he came across as stalker-y during the 2016 debates — and finding he comes out unfavorably in the comparison — doesn’t quite seem proportional.
I find there’s always a great irony buried in these sorts of puff pieces, and Dowd didn’t disappoint when she asked David about coronavirus-related celeb pratfalls like Gal Gadot’s infamous “Imagine” video and “why all these celebrities seemed so devoid of self-awareness.”
“I don’t know, that’s the $64,000 question,” David replied. “I guess their instinct is to help, their motives are good, and they don’t consider how it might come off.”
You don’t say.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.