'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Is Still The Funniest Comedy Of Manners On TV In Season 9

Richard Plepler, the chairman and CEO of HBO, introduced the cast and crew of Curb Your Enthusiasm at this week's premiere of the ninth season (which airs this Sunday on HBO at 10 p.m. ET/PT). After talking about how the show is able to consistently top itself every season, Plepler commended star Larry David in suitably grandiose terms: "[The] thing that astounds me is how easy they make it look," he said. "And it is not easy. It almost looks unrehearsed. Yeats had a great line: 'Poetry is the illusion of unrehearsed speech.' This is comedic poetry." Right on cue, Jeff Garlin punctuated the speech by comically yelling "extraordinary."

Based on the first two episodes of the new season (we were treated to the premiere plus episode five), we can safely say that Larry David remains the William Butler Yeats of comedy. He hasn't exactly been slouching in the six years since season eight of Curb aired: David has been busy with a Broadway play Fish In The Dark, an HBO movie Clear History, a little bit of stand-up, and his recurring role as Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live. But all along the way, he's been filling up notebooks with ideas for the show, generating a huge backlog of Curbian scenarios and etiquette complaints. And as David told reporters on the premiere's red carpet, nothing gives him more pleasure than coming back to Curb.

Somehow, nine seasons and 17 years later, Curb Your Enthusiasm remains one of the greatest comedies in television history (it's also the longest running HBO series of all time), and the new episodes show no sign of David losing his comedic focus. Not that we can say much about the details: in a pre-recorded bit that played before the premiere, David asked the audience to keep the plot of the new season under wraps lest it ruins the experience for others. "As far as what we're screening tonight, keep your trap shut, will you do me a favor?" he said. "You don't have to tell your friends the story. Don't be a spoiler, don't spoil."

Executive producer Jeff Schaffer, who co-wrote the entire season with David, was able to offer a little bit more for fans: "We pick up with everybody five, six years later," he told us. "Everyone's back, all the Curb cast you know and love are all back with a vengeance. We found out what Larry's been doing for the last five years. He's been working on a project that he's very excited about and he's ready to show the world, and he does not get the response he was expecting at all. That kicks off an insane season."

Susie Essman, who plays the poetically profane Susie Green, was even more reassuring about how everyone has developed: "We're starting out, pretty much, everything's the same," she said. "Susie will be yelling and screaming at Larry. Susie will be cursing at Jeff. Susie will be getting angry and kicking them out of the house. We haven't grown and learned. We're not all of a sudden enlightened and self-aware. We're the same."

The core cast—David, Essman, Jeff Garlin, JB Smoove and Cheryl Hines—are joined by recurring side characters including Richard Lewis, Ted Danson and Bob Einstein's Funkhauser; new guest stars including Lauren Graham as a love interest, Bryan Cranston as his therapist, Carrie Brownstein as an assistant, Elizabeth Banks, Nick Offerman, Jimmy Kimmel and at least two “huge” ones that are being kept under wraps ("We needed these specific people to do very specific things for a very specific reason," Schaffer told EW, "and it could be only them, and we wisely had no plan B").

The premiere kicks into gear from the get go, and is a laugh-out-loud funny classic with a remarkable plot turn that definitely shouldn't be spoiled (Schaffer noted that "a lot of set up" had to be done in that episode to start things off). The fifth episode is something of a stand-alone one, ala season four's "Wandering Bear" or season seven's "The Black Swan." Leon offers helpfully unhelpful wisdom, Danson continues to hate his frenemy, Lewis and David bicker gloriously, Susie curses beautifully, and David remains the unchecked id of polite society.

Smoove, who joined the cast in season six and almost immediately became a fan favorite, still can't get over how much time has passed—and how much he missed the show: "Man, the first episode when we are officially back, it's so surreal man, it's like WOW," Smoove told us. "When someone told me it's been six years, I was like, 'Really?!' because it didn't feel like that, no. Even when you're not performing, you're not shooting, you're always reminded of Curb. People asking questions, people yelling out Leonisms, yelling out Curb moments. Or if you're traveling and you're sitting next to a guy in first class and he's calling you fucking Leon the whole trip...You know, your body never relaxes, so, you're always in Curb mode in your brain."