Awkward social situations are Larry David’s bread and butter. The comedian, who has cultivated a persona of irritability, hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend (Feb. 6), reprising his role as the sometimes-irritable US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The night’s best sketch—a parody of David’s HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm—involved David’s Sanders filling in for the fictionalized version of himself that he plays on Curb.
It was a perfect fit:
A typical episode of Curb, which David also created, follows the maladjusted comedian as he demonstrates his incredulity with some social conventions. One of his greatest annoyances, for instance, is the “stop and chat” (video)—the expectation that you should make small talk with someone you don’t know very well when you pass them in the street. David’s refusal to play by everybody else’s rules often comes back to bite him—just as it does for Bernie in ”Bern Your Enthusiasm.”
The sketch was as good as anything the show has done in years. It was timely, topical, and most importantly, it was funny. It worked on multiple levels, lampooning Sanders, Curb, and the Iowa caucuses all at once.
Perhaps, though, it’s not a great sign that arguably the show’s best sketch in years was mostly because of Larry David’s comedic genius, instead of anything that the usual SNL players and writers did. It simply wouldn’t work (or even exist) without David. (To their credit, the cast members playing Curb characters were all spot-on).
Still, it was a rare return to form for the legendary NBC sketch comedy series, whose ratings have dramatically declined in the midst of a creative rut. The show has had its ups and downs throughout its 40-year history, so maybe the great Bernie episode will spur a hot streak.
Later in the episode, the real Bernie Sanders appeared in a sketch alongside David, as a man on a sinking ship who takes issue with David’s character arguing the lifeboats should be reserved for the rich.