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SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses plot points from the series finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

More than 25 years after he sent the “Seinfeld” gang to jail in the sitcom’s much-hated series finale, Larry David exonerated himself — both literally and figuratively — in the final moments of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

The April 7 series finale, which wrapped 12 seasons and 24 years of the unscripted HBO comedy, sees Larry on trial for accidentally breaking a Georgia voting law. (In the Season 12 opener, he gives a bottle of water to Leon’s aunt, who is in line to vote, which gets him arrested and makes him a sort of civil rights hero.) In the finale, much like the last episode of “Seinfeld,” Larry sits on trial as rivals from his past — like Mocha Joe and Mr. Takahashi — serve as character witnesses for the prosecution, recounting every bad deed Larry has done.

Larry is found guilty and winds up in a cell, but while the “Seinfeld” crew remained in jail, Larry ultimately walks free — thanks to a legal caveat exploited by his old pal Jerry Seinfeld. As they prance out of the jailhouse, Larry has a meta revelation: “Oh my God, this is how we should have ended the finale!”

As “Curb” sets off into the sunset, Susie Essman and executive producer, writer and director Jeff Schaffer spoke to Variety about rewriting “Seinfeld” history, working with Season 12 guest star Bruce Springsteen and what lies ahead for Larry David.

Jeff, was the idea to end “Curb Your Enthusiasm” by rewriting the “Seinfeld” finale something you and Larry had always toyed with? Or did that come about during Season 12?

Jeff Schaffer: This was not the plan when we were even starting Season 12. We knew that we were starting with Georgia and that idiotic law, and when you start that way, it feels like a trial is maybe in the offing, but we weren’t even settled on a trial. Honestly, we were writing episodes and talking about a story where Larry gets involved with a kid who’s done something wrong, like thrown a ball at his head, and the mom is trying to teach him a lesson and Larry doesn’t want to be a part of the lesson. As we were acting that out, Larry says, “I’m 76 years old and I’ve never learned a lesson in my life.”

As we were joking about that, we realized that’s how we do this. We tell everyone that Larry has never learned a lesson in his life, and then we go on trial like the “Seinfeld” finale and we just own it. We’re gonna run back into that burning building, and if you didn’t like it — tough. Oftentimes we blur the lines between real Larry and TV Larry. Lots of times, TV Larry does things that real Larry would never do or always wanted to do. But both Larrys have never learned a lesson. That’s what I love about this finale. [With “Seinfeld,”] Larry did what he thought was funny. And then he did it again.

In Season 12, TV Larry gets a lot of grief for the “Seinfeld” finale. Is the backlash to that episode something that bothers him in real life?

Schaffer: No. One of the best things about Larry is that he’s really never once worried about other people and their thoughts. That’s why the show is so good. If we think it’s funny, then we do it. We went back in and sort of peppered those [scenes where Larry is ribbed about the “Seinfeld” finale] into the season once we knew what we were going to do for the end.

What did you make of the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sending Larry David a letter, lightly scolding him over the voting law storyline? [He wrote, in part, “We’d like to congratulate you on becoming the first, and to our knowledge, only person arrested for distributing water bottles to voters within 150 feet of a polling station.”]

Schaffer: The letter is really funny! It was cheeky. I thought that was really cool. And by the way, the symmetry between the Good Samaritan law in the “Seinfeld” finale and the water in the “Curb” finale is mere coincidence. We wrote the “Curb” stuff with the water having no idea we were going to redo the “Seinfeld” finale on “Curb.”

So Larry’s legal hiccup initiated as just a minor storyline that you weren’t planning to return to?

Schaffer: We were planning on returning to it, but it’s been manufactured that the “Seinfeld” people did something bad and went to jail, and Larry did something good and went to jail. That relationship didn’t exist in our heads. It’s something people were looking at after the fact, but it was never intended or thought about.

Larry famously alluded to every season of “Curb” potentially being its last. But could you speak to the last few days on set, and whether there was a heightened sense of finality?

Susie Essman: The last scene that we shot was the actual last scene, not counting reshoots. That was the only time, in the plane, where I really felt, “This is it.” I didn’t feel it leading up to it at all. We were all hyper-aware on the last day of shooting that this was the last scene of the last season of the series. We all spoke about it. There were a lot of hugs and a lot of I love yous. We’re not really that type, but we went there.

Even Larry was a little choked up about the end?

Schaffer: I wouldn’t say that.

Essman: He wasn’t choked up. I think he was quite aware of it. From the very beginning, this was Larry’s creation, and he was letting go of it. But he compartmentalizes; he has his own way of dealing with this stuff. I didn’t feel a tremendous sense from him on the last day, until the very end, when he kind of slinked away and was quiet. He wanted to not acknowledge it, and get out of there.

Schaffer: To be fair, we had another eight months of editing to do. We weren’t done at all. We were just beginning the third phase — you’ve got the writing, the shooting and then the editing. So we had a lot of work to do.

Essman: I would write to Jeff and Larry [while they were editing] and tell them I miss them and they were like, “We don’t miss you! We see you every day!”

Schaffer: Yeah, I just watched you speak for 45 minutes in take after take after take. Susie, believe me, I see you in my dreams!

I know both of you are close with Larry in real life. What will happen now when he gets an idea that would be perfect for “Curb”? Do you all have a group text?

Essman: I’m sure we’ll still be in touch. But knowing Larry, he’ll find an outlet in some other form for all of those things percolating in his head. For Jeff, too. Jeff’s way younger than all of us — he’s the baby in the family — so I’m excited to see what he’s going to do next.

Schaffer: But also, I’m sitting here in my office. Larry’s office is right over there. Larry’s going to walk in, and he’s going to complain about something, and then we’re going to talk about it. Just like we’ve done for decades. Until man can step outside of his house and not be annoyed by fellow man, I think he’s going to keep working.

Jeff, you’ve been a shepherd for younger voices in comedy, especially with “Dave” which was successful for FX and Hulu. Do you anticipate that Larry will want to have more of a behind-the-scenes hand in helping shape those younger voices in comedy?

Schaffer: I think Larry is still a very young voice in comedy. People always say “Curb” is about Larry’s life. That’s wrong. “Curb” is about Larry’s ideas. And he still has ideas. He is still going out and interacting with the Westside of Los Angeles, which by the way is rife with terrible people. It’s an evergreen business, documenting the shortcomings of people on the Westside. He’s not suddenly going to go to a monastery and paint watercolors. He’s going to get into stuff. We’ll see what happens.

Essman: I live in New York, and the people that come up to me on the streets the most are men in their 20s. The fact that this age group loves this show of all people over 60 — it just tells you how relevant Larry and Jeff’s voices are to every generation.

I was at an event on Friday where Larry was asked why “Curb” resonates so deeply with young audiences and he played coy, only saying, “It’s funny.” But do either of you have another idea as to why “Curb” seems to transcend generations, seemingly more than any other comedy on television?

Essman: Because it’s funny.

Schaffer: Not to triple down on that, but I’ll say the same thing in a different way. Because it’s wish fulfillment. Everybody — whether you’re 20 or you’re 60 — you’ve had an interaction with somebody and you go, “This is a ‘Curb’ moment.” You’re watching the show and you go, “Someone did that to me. I wish I had said what Larry did.” Or, “I can’t believe Larry did that.” It’s wish fulfillment for the audience, because Larry says the things out loud that they were thinking — or maybe they don’t even know they were thinking until he says them. The joy of it is that it’s also wish fulfillment for Larry. He walked in one day and goes, “I was at this dinner party and the hostess served tap water. Who serves tap water at a dinner party? I should have said something.” And I go, “Well, real Larry didn’t say anything, but TV Larry is gonna say something.” That’s a story. That’s how the show exists.

Essman: Larry used to say that he aspires to be that character. He aspires to be the guy who, when you run into him on the street and say, “Let’s have lunch,” he says, “You know what? We’re never gonna have lunch. Why are we going through this charade?” For my character, I can’t tell you how many women have told me they wish they could speak to their husbands the way I speak to my husband.

I was at the Bruce Springsteen concert last night, which explains my T-shirt, and there were multiple signs in the audience referencing Bruce’s appearance on “Curb,” including one that read, “If I was a floor fucker.”

Schaffer: I got tons of those texts last night. By the way, did you wash that shirt? Or did you get it from the concert and now you’re wearing it?

I got it from the concert and now I’m wearing it.

Schaffer: Interesting.

You seem disappointed in me. 

Schaffer: I’m worried about your skin. But anyway, ask your question.

What was it like getting Bruce on the show, and, Susie, what was it like improvising with him?

Essman: It was great. He was truly a natural and couldn’t have been sweeter. When he left, he said to me, “Do you mind if I take a selfie with you?” Do you mind? Nah, go ahead Bruce, it’s fine. I’ll make an exception!

He was just so down to earth, and all of his lines, he improvised. He was a terrific actor, and we really enjoyed having him on set.

Schaffer: For all his brilliance and generosity in doing the show — he did all of that in one day — do you know how he is repaid? He now has a lifetime of “floor fucker” signs at every concert he goes to. And by the way, I felt terrible because we did a show about how Larry gets him sick and he has to cancel the concerts. And then a month later, we’re in the editing room, and Bruce gets sick and has to cancel the concerts. I turned to Larry and go, “You have the supreme power of manifesting negative things. You did this.”

Essman: I have found that Larry is very prescient. Something will be on the show and then it will come out in the real world too many times for it to be coincidental. He’s got some kind of woo-woo going on.

Well, thank you both for your time, and congrats on such an amazing run.

Schaffer: Thanks, Ethan. Wash the shirt.

This interview has been edited and condensed.



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