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Film

The moment Jason Alexander realised he was playing Larry David in 'Seinfeld'

By the late 1980s, TV had fully embraced post-modernism. Shows like Seinfeld took the absurdist and self-referential aesthetics of the day and made it an essential aspect of their comedy, poking fun at a nonsensical world. This taste for all things meta saw co-creator Larry David base many of the show’s episodes on his own life.

However, David also based an entire character on himself, using George Costanza as a kind of vehicle through which to re-tell the story of his own strange life. This might be common knowledge to Seinfeld fans, but it was less apparent to Jason Alexander, the actor who played George. In fact, there was a time when Alexander was completely unaware he’d be playing a thinly-veiled version of the Seinfeld co-creator.

Speaking to Kennedy Molloy during an interview on Triple M, Alexander recalled the moment he realised he was performing a version of Larry David: “If you look at the first ten-ish episodes [of Seinfeld], Woody Allen is still my role model,” Alexander said of George.

Adding: “Somewhere around episode ten a script came to the table and we read it for everybody, and it just seems preposterous. The situation just seemed crazy. So I went to Larry and I said, ‘Larry, please help me with this because this would never happen to anybody, but if it did, nobody would react like this.’ And he said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, this happened to me and it’s exactly what I did!'”

Alexander quickly realised George Costanza’s true identity. He was – and always had been – Larry David’s surrogate. Following the discovery, Jason began drawing everything he could from David, watching him like a hawk for insights into his character. Soon, Alexander had become an adept mimic of the comedian’s mannerisms, even figuring out how to replicate the exact fence Larry would pull when someone insulted him.

According to Jason, that same face crops up all the time in Curb Your Enthusiasm. “So, it’s whenever he perceives that someone has insulted him or is undercutting him,” Jason revealed. “He puts the tip of his tongue at the bottom of his teeth and he does this thing with his eyebrows. It’s just like he’s weighing it. He’s weighing it. ‘Do I attack? Do I retreat? Do I… What do I do? This is a guy who constantly perceives the world trying to crap on him.”

Paradoxically, Larry David would later reveal that he does a terrible impersonation of George and had to be taught by Alexander. I don’t really don’t know how to do a good impression of George,” Larry David confessed during a behind-the-scenes excerpt of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

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