Lawrence Gene David (born July 2, 1947) is an American comedian, writer, actor, director, and television producer. He and Jerry Seinfeld created the television series Seinfeld, of which David was the head writer and executive producer for the first seven seasons. David gained further recognition for the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, which he created and stars in as a semi-fictionalized version of himself. David has written or co-written the stories of every episode of the improvisational comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm since its pilot episode in 1999.
David’s work on Seinfeld won him two Primetime Emmy Awards in 1993, for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Comedy Series. Formerly a comedian, David went into television comedy, writing and starring in ABC’s Fridays, as well as writing briefly for Saturday Night Live. David has received a total of 27 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, as well as three Golden Globe Award nominations. He was voted by fellow comedians and comedy insiders as the 23rd greatest comedy star ever in a 2004 British poll to select “The Comedian’s Comedian” and was awarded the Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement by the Writers Guild of America in 2010.
Since 2015, David has made recurring guest appearances on Saturday Night Live playing 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Early life and family
Lawrence Gene David was born on July 2, 1947 in the neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. His parents are Rose and Mortimer Julius “Morty” David, a men’s clothing manufacturer, and he has an older brother named Ken. David’s family is Jewish. His father’s side moved from Germany to the U.S. during the 19th century, while David’s mother was born into a Polish-Jewish family in Ternopil, now in Ukraine. David graduated from Sheepshead Bay High School, and then from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was a brother in Tau Epsilon Phi in the 1960s, with a bachelor’s degree in history. It was while at college that David started developing his unique perspective and discovered that he could make people laugh simply by being himself. After college, David enlisted in the United States Army Reserve for five years.
Stand-up and SNL
While a stand-up comedian, David also worked as a store clerk, limousine driver, and historian. He lived in Manhattan Plaza, a federally subsidized housing complex in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, across the hall from Kenny Kramer, the inspiration for the Cosmo Kramer character in Seinfeld. David then became a writer for and cast member of ABC’s Fridays from 1980 to 1982, and a writer for NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) from 1984 to 1985. During his time at SNL, he was able to get only one sketch on the show, which aired at 12:50 am, the last time slot on the show.
David quit his writing job at SNL in the first season, only to show up to work two days later acting as though nothing had happened. That event inspired a second-season episode of Seinfeld titled “The Revenge”. David met his future Seinfeld stars during that early stage of his career: he worked with Michael Richards (Kramer) on Fridays and with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine) on SNL. He can be heard heckling Michael McKean when McKean hosted SNL in 1984, and he can be seen in the sketch “The Run, Throw, and Catch Like a Girl Olympics” when Howard Cosell hosted the season finale in 1985.
In 1989 David teamed up with comedian Jerry Seinfeld to create a pilot for NBC called The Seinfeld Chronicles, which became the basis for Seinfeld, one of the most successful shows in history, reaching the top of TV Guide’s list of the 50 greatest TV shows of all time. Entertainment Weekly ranked it the third-best TV show of all time. David made occasional uncredited appearances on the show, playing such roles as Frank Costanza’s cape-wearing lawyer and the voice of George Steinbrenner. He was also the primary inspiration for the show’s character George Costanza. David left Seinfeld on friendly terms after the seventh season but returned to write the series finale in 1998, two years later. He also continued to provide the voice for the Steinbrenner character.
David wrote 62 of the episodes of Seinfeld, including 1992’s “The Contest”, for which he won a Primetime Emmy Award and which TV Guide ranked as episode No. 1 on its list of “TV’s Top 100 Episodes of All Time”. The syndication of Seinfeld earned David an estimated $250 million in 1998 alone. This amount has been steadily decreasing each year, but payments will continue until the full $1.7 billion from the original syndication deal has been paid. In 2008, David made $55 million from Seinfeld syndication, DVD sales, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He was nominated for an Emmy award 19 times for Seinfeld, winning twice – once for best comedy and once for writing.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The HBO cable television channel aired David’s one-hour special, Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm, on October 17, 1999. This was followed by Curb Your Enthusiasm, a television series on HBO that aired its first episode on October 15, 2000. The show revisits many of the themes of Seinfeld, and is improvised from a story outline only several pages long that David writes (as of the 5th season, additional writers were hired).
The actors improvise their dialogue based on the story outline, direction, and their creativity. David has said that his character in the show, a fictionalized version of himself, is what he would be like in real life if he lacked social awareness and sensitivity. The character’s numerous and frequent social faux pas, misunderstandings, and ironic coincidences are the basis of much of the show’s comedy and have led to the entry into the American pop culture lexicon of the expression “Larry David moment”, meaning an inadvertently created socially awkward situation.
The basis of the show is the events in David’s life following the fortune he earned from the Seinfeld series; David, semi-retired, strives to live a fulfilled life. Alongside David is his wife Cheryl (played by Cheryl Hines), his manager and best friend Jeff (played by Jeff Garlin), and Jeff’s wife Susie (played by Susie Essman).
Celebrities, including comedians Richard Lewis, Wanda Sykes, and Bob Einstein appeared on the show regularly. Actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen have had recurring roles as themselves.
The show is critically acclaimed and has been nominated for 30 Primetime Emmy Awards, with one win, as well as one Golden Globe win. In the first six seasons, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander appeared in several episodes, and Jerry Seinfeld made a cameo. In season 7, the cast of Seinfeld, including Michael Richards, returned in a story arc involving David’s attempt to organize a Seinfeld reunion special.
On Wednesday, June 2, 2010, the series premiered on the TV Guide Network, making its network television debut. TV Guide Network also produced a series of related discussions with high-profile guest stars, media pundits, and prominent social figures called “Curb: The Discussion” debating the moral implications depicted in each episode. David is quoted as saying “Finally, thanks to the TV Guide Network, I’ll get a chance to watch actual, intelligent people discuss and debate the issues addressed on ‘Curb’. Now if only someone could tell me where this alleged ‘Network’ is, I might even watch it.” The show’s 10th season premiered in 2020.
David has also been involved in other films and television series. David wrote and directed the 1998 film Sour Grapes, about two cousins who feud over a casino jackpot. It was neither a commercial nor a critical success.
David also has appeared in bit roles in Woody Allen’s Radio Days (1987) and New York Stories (1989), before taking the leading role in Allen’s New York-based comedy film Whatever Works (2009) alongside Evan Rachel Wood.
David had a cameo appearance on the HBO series Entourage as a client of Ari Gold, and because his daughters were Hannah Montana fans, David, along with his daughters, guest-starred, as themselves, in the episode “My Best Friend’s Boyfriend”, in which they were waiting for a table at a fancy restaurant.
During the 2008 U.S. presidential election, David supported Barack Obama. In December 2010 David penned an op-ed piece for The New York Times, a sardonic critique of the extension of Bush-era tax cuts headlined “Thanks for the Tax Cut!”
David appeared as a panelist on the NBC series The Marriage Ref and also played Sister Mary-Mengele in the 2012 reboot of The Three Stooges. David co-wrote and starred in the 2013 HBO television film Clear History.
David wrote and starred in the Broadway play Fish in the Dark. Also appearing were Rita Wilson, Jayne Houdyshell, and Rosie Perez. The play centers on the death of a family patriarch. It opened on March 5, 2015. Jason Alexander took over David’s role in July. The play closed in August. As of February 1, 2015, its advance sale of $13.5 million had broken records for a Broadway show.
Since 2015, David made multiple guest appearances portraying 2016 and 2020 United States presidential election candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live; he also hosted the show on February 6, 2016, with musical guest The 1975 and a cameo from Sanders himself, and on November 4, 2017, with musical guest Miley Cyrus.
In the summer of 2017, PBS’s Finding Your Roots discovered through genealogical research that David and Bernie Sanders are distantly related. Sanders told David the news. “I was very happy about that,” David said, according to Variety. “I thought there must have been some connection.” The comedian explained that Sanders is “a third cousin or something.”
On January 8, 2020, David joked on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “I would say, I would beg him (Bernie) to drop out so I don’t have to keep flying in from Los Angeles to do SNL,” David answered. “I thought when he had the heart attack that would be it, I wouldn’t have to fly in from Los Angeles. But, you know, he’s indestructible. Nothing stops this man!” He later added, “If he wins, do you know what that’s going to do to my life? Do you have any idea? I mean, it will be great for the country—great for the country. Terrible for me.”
David has named Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Phil Silvers, Abbott and Costello, Jackie Mason, Alan King, Don Rickles and MAD Magazine as influences.
David lives in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. David was married to Laurie Lennard from 1993 to 2007. They have two daughters, whom they co-parent – Cazzie David and Romy David. Laurie and Larry became contributing bloggers at The Huffington Post in May 2005. On October 7, 2020, David married Ashley Underwood, whom he met at Sacha Baron Cohen’s birthday party in 2017.
David is a supporter of the Democratic Party. In 2010, David wrote an article for The New York Times criticizing the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. He ended the article with a sarcastic thank you to then-President Barack Obama for approving the tax cut extension.
David was raised Jewish and today identifies as an atheist.
It is estimated that David’s net worth is somewhere between US$400 to $900 million as of 2015. The National Review estimated his net worth to be about $400 million as of 2020. Charlie Rose noted David’s overall wealth as closer to $500 million in a televised statement on 60 Minutes in 2013. In a 2015 interview with CBS, David confirmed that half of his wealth was eroded by his 2007 divorce in the community property state of California. “I have a lot of money,” David said in the interview, but also added that the “figures out there are crazy.” Most of his wealth originates from syndication deals of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm; the former netting $3.1 billion in total re-run fees as of 2013. In 2008, David was reported to gross $55 million in total compensation, mostly from Seinfeld syndication and work on Curb Your Enthusiasm. His speculative net worth was parodied on “The Shrimp Incident” (S2E4) episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm when HBO executive Allan Wasserman yells at David, “If you want shrimp, take your $475 million, go buy a fucking shrimp boat.”
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