Thursday, 29 October 2009

Curb your indignation

As one of the co-creators and head writers on Seinfeld, Larry David made the character of George Costanza, brought to life by Jason Alexander, a cariacature of his own social ineptitude. But when Seinfeld ended there were clearly sides of Larry's personality which still needed the chance to air themselves. And so 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' was born, in which Larry plays an exaggerated version of himself, attempting to get through life as a multi-millionaire malcontent.

According to the way he portrays his own neuroses, it would seem that Larry's main goal in life is to offend and annoy everyone he meets. Now it seems that his tactless insensitivities have crossed over into real life, as the latest episode of the long-running, largely improvised comedy, have caused a whole new level of offence.

In the rather implausible plot of the new episode, Larry was on medication which made him pee with excessive force. As a consequence, his accidental splashback left a rogue droplet on the face of a portrait of Jesus, hanging in his employee's bathroom. She and her mother became convinced that the droplet was a miraculous tear, and felt the need to share their holy artifact with the world.

Unfortunately, the Catholic League of America, not usually known for its sense of humour, was not amused. Bill Donohue, the organisation's president, said in a statement, "Was Larry David always this crude? Would he think it comedic if someone urinated on a picture of his mother? This might be fun to watch, but since HBO only likes to dump on Catholics, and David is Jewish, we'll never know."

Donohue must never have seen the episode where Larry was labeled a 'self-hating Jew' for whistling Wagner, or the time when Larry mistook a contestant from the TV show Survivor as someone who had 'survived' the Holocaust.

It would seem that the target for Larry's humour here, is the fanatical faith of people who insist on seeing meaningful signs in contrivance and coincidence. The people who recognise the face of Jesus in a plate of manicotti, on a stack of pancakes, or on the back of a toilet door in Ikea.

Larry David's skill is to poke fun at the foibles of modern life - from phonecall etiquette and disabled bathrooms, to terrorism paranoia and inappropriate language. It's only fair that, occasionally, religious convictions might enjoy the same level of scrutiny.

It's just a shame that the Catholic church is willing to allow its persecution complex to get in the way of enjoying some of the finest comedy on TV. If they weren't so keen to see themselves as the butt of every joke, they'd realise that this whole story is really just a splash in the pan.

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