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Larry David

'Curb Your Enthusiasm' finale director explains 'Seinfeld' echoes: A 'big middle finger'

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It seems you can鈥檛 teach an older David new tricks.

Larry David, co-creator of the hit NBC sitcom 鈥,鈥 reached for a pretty, pretty well-known playbook when it came to ending his 12-season HBO comedy 鈥淐urb Your Enthusiasm鈥 on Sunday.

The heightened and more onerous TV version of David declared in the finale: 鈥淚鈥檓 76 years old, and I have never learned a lesson in my entire life!鈥 This is a fact that would seem very obvious to any viewer who watched the 1998 鈥淪einfeld鈥 finale, too, as it was part of that series' "no hugging, no learning" mantra.

In the widely criticized finale, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander) and Kramer (Michael Richards) are sentenced to one year in jail for failing to intervene as they watched a man get car-jacked. Before a jury delivered their verdict, they heard the testimonies of those the four had wronged over the series' nine seasons.

On "Curb," Larry stood trial for violating Georgia鈥檚 鈥淓lection Integrity Act,鈥 by giving Leon鈥檚 aunt a bottle of water while she stood in line to vote. Jeff Schaffer, a director/writer/executive producer for 鈥Curb,鈥 and Susie Essman, who played caftan queen Susie Greene, talk about that surprising Lori Loughlin episode, their late friend Richard Lewis, and how the finale served as 鈥渁 big middle finger.鈥 (Interview edited for length and clarity.)

Need a break?

'Curb Your Enthusiasm' finale recap:Larry David's 12-season neurosis ends with 'Seinfeld' do-over

Question: What was it like on set when you stopped filming the finale, and it was all over?

Susie Essman: It was surreal, really. We all knew that it was done. We've been doing this for so many years. We're all so close. I knew Larry wasn't going to say anything; it's just not in character for him. In typical Larry fashion, I spoke to him the next morning and then we talked about it, but he's not one to do it in front of everybody. I'm the same way. We just talked about our love for the process and just how much we loved it and how great it was.

Jeff Schaffer: Did I shoot extra takes? Yes. Because you knew that once we said 鈥渃ut,鈥 it was done. And there was definitely part of me that didn't want it to end, either.

As a fan, there's a sense of relief in the show wrapping before we lost Richard Lewis in February. What was it like working with him?

Essman: It was difficult for all of us the past two seasons seeing Richard being unwell. We were all tremendously concerned for him, and we were all so happy when he was able to come back this season. (Last season) he had been written into a whole lot, and then he wasn't able to do it. So we were all so happy that this season he was well enough to come and be back. And everybody was thrilled that he was able to be there through the very end.

It was three weeks before he died that we did the reshoots, and none of us knew 鈥 he was not that kind of sick, you know. He had Parkinson's, which is degenerative, of course, but none of us were expecting him to die. That was a shock to all of us.

Schaffer: And in fact, those reshoots that were three weeks before he passed, he looked great. He was vibrant, and he was in great spirits.

'I feel he's watching me':Larry David says he talks to Richard Lewis after comic's death

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" co-stars and real-life friends Larry David and Richard Lewis

The 鈥淐urb鈥 finale mirrors the end of 鈥淪einfeld鈥 so closely. What was the motivation behind that?

Schaffer: We knew we were starting with the water and 鈥渢he crime鈥 in Georgia. So when you have that, one of the potential outcomes is there's going to be a trial. But we hadn't really figured out what we wanted to do.

This whole thing came from (us) talking about a little story where Larry doesn't want to get caught up in a kid鈥檚 lesson. And as we were talking about that, we realized hey, Larry doesn't ever learn anything. He keeps making the same (expletive) mistakes. What if we just owned that? What if we just told the world that Larry's never learned a lesson? Beat that into everyone's head, and then just redo the 鈥淪einfeld鈥 finale?

We're commenting not just on 鈥淪einfeld鈥 or 鈥淐urb,鈥 but on Larry. On Larry sticking a big middle finger at everyone who didn't like the 鈥淪einfeld鈥 finale going, 鈥淗ey, you know what? I've never learned a lesson in my life. I don't care what you thought. I鈥檓 doing it again.鈥

"Seinfeld" co-creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld realize how they should've ended their NBC sitcom during the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" series finale.

But 鈥淐urb鈥 had a different ending, with Larry being freed from prison. So did anybody have any regrets about the 鈥淪einfeld鈥 finale?

Schaffer: I never had a problem with the 鈥淪einfeld鈥 finale. I thought it was funny. So to me 鈥 and for Larry, too 鈥 it wasn't about us trying to right some wrong because we didn't think it was wrong. This is more about owning the fact that Larry's never learned a lesson and we're going to go right back in it. We're going to steer the Titanic right back at the iceberg and (f-bomb) everyone!

And how does everyone feel about the 鈥淐urb鈥 finale?

Essman: I loved it. I was thrilled by it. I thought it was absolutely the perfect ending to 12 seasons of this crazy show.

Schaffer: Endings are super hard. You're breaking up with your audience and for what's been 12 seasons, 24 years. For a lot of your audience, (it's) maybe the longest relationship they've ever had in their life. And all of a sudden you're leaving them. So there's always going to be this weird feeling. It's like, how do we tie a bow on the series but also make sure it's a funny episode of 鈥淐urb鈥? And that's what I'm proudest of, that we made a funny episode of 鈥淐urb,鈥 and were able to wrap up 鈥淐urb,鈥 and maybe wrap up 鈥淪einfeld鈥 in a way too.

Lori Loughlin appeared in a midseason episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" poking fun at her involvement in the college admissions scandal.

I have to ask about this season鈥檚 episode in which Lori Loughlin made fun of her involvement in the college admissions cheating scandal. Was that an easy sell for her to play that role?

Schaffer: She said yes immediately, and she was awesome! She was so game. She did everything we wanted her to. She really went for it, and she was great. It was great for people to see one, she's really funny, and two, hey, she's willing to make fun of herself. The story wouldn't have worked if we had an actor playing (her). It only worked with her.

Essman: The power of making fun of yourself is such a great thing. People should be able to do that more.

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