The Curb Your Enthusiasm COVID-19 Survival Guide

Let's take a few lessons from America's lovable curmudgeon, Larry David

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Larry David’s public service announcement #StayHomeSaveLives from the Office of the Governor of California offers wise advice for “the idiots out there” who refuse to shelter at home.

Yet as cooped-up binge watchers and long-time fans can attest, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” offers key coronavirus survival strategies. Even early episodes – produced years before we knew what PPE and N95 meant – hit all the essential themes.

Social distancing: Check.

Hyper-hygienic: Check.

Existential foreboding: Check. Check. And Check.

Here’s a look at COVID-19 teaching moments, from the first five seasons of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Season 1, Episode 2 – Ted and Mary

Larry’s shoes are stolen at a bowling alley, and his germaphobia kicks into gear. Larry gets his shoes back, and promptly takes them in for a good fumigation.

OK, COVID-19 isn’t transmitted through shoes. Or is it? We’re learning that this virus can live on surfaces for hours or days. And as a practical matter, it feels like social distancing — not to mention the pre-pandemic ick factor — includes not wearing someone else’s shoes. Larry’s teaching moment: Be persistent, reclaim what’s yours … and make sure what’s encountered is properly sanitized. 

Season 2, Episode 4 – The Shrimp Incident

Larry is convinced and aghast that HBO executive Allan Wasserman stole some of his kung pao shrimp after a take-out mix-up. Stealing and savoring someone else’s food has always been a no-no. But during times of pandemic, it’s especially taboo. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “Avoid sharing personal items like food and drinks.” 

Season 3, Episode 2 – The Benadryl Brownie

Another food-related snafu at Larry’s house leaves Richard Lewis’s girlfriend with a bad case of hives. She’s a Christian Scientist, so chooses prayer over, natch, science and over-the-counter remedies. Larry’s invited to a prayer circle, and is a fish out of proverbial water — he’s never been a big toucher, let alone a prayer-circle participant. While a pandemic prevents the faithful from mass gatherings, Larry, in his own way, teaches us that faith is highly personal and can (and for the time being should) be observed solo.

Season 4, Episode 7 – The Surrogate

Larry fakes a heart attack to escape a road-rage assault. But wife Cheryl cries foul at Larry’s phony myocardial infarction. He’s taking up a hospital bed actual sick people need! Larry’s elective hospital stay is a commentary on today’s scarcity of basic medical supplies. It’s this scarcity that’s driving ad hoc shelter-in-place policies. And there’s also this: absent a nationwide strategy, health systems across the country are creating their own stay-at-home public service announcements, i.e., Providence’s This isn’t going anywhere if you go everywhere.

Season 5, Episode 10 – The End

So much going on in this season finale: Bad medical-record information leads Larry to believe he’s adopted and not Jewish. The (brief) religious conversion compels him to donate one of his kidneys to friend Richard Lewis. The resulting surgical complication leads Larry to die and ascend to heaven, only to get kicked out and returned to his body. On his temporary deathbed, Larry offers parting critiques of, and demands for, surviving loved ones. “You use too much mayo,” Larry admonishes best friend, Jeff. Yes, the preference would be to say the four things that matter most: “Thank you.” “I love you.” “Please forgive me.” “I forgive you.” But the lesson here is clear: Tell your loved ones today, now, how you feel about them and the things that matter most to you.

Michael Drummond is the communications director for Providence’s Institute for Human Caring.


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