Kanye West’s consummate rock star mentality makes him an ideal fit for many things, but being the next Larry David is not one of them. However, that did not stop the rapper from trying to fulfil the role with his very own version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. He crafted his own incarnation with a pilot that landed on HBO’s screening desk as the Untitled Kanye West Comedy Project back in 2007. They watched it and promptly turned away. Since then, it has frequently resurfaced in the recesses of the internet, and we’ve analysed it with keen interest so that you don’t have to.
When the legendary Australian musician Nick Cave was asked what he thought about the rapper last year, he responded: “Making art is a form of madness – we slip deep within our own singular vision and become lost to it. There is no musician on Earth that is as committed to their own derangement as Kanye.” Well, it would seem that one of the artistic derangements that Kanye West fully believed in was that he was indeed just like a young Larry David.
According to the obfuscated history of the maligned pilot that can be garnered from industry hearsay, Kanye West had watched one season of Curb Your Enthusiasm and fell into a deep obsession that he was some sort of real-life Larry David incarnate. He soon voiced this opinion in an interview that Curb director Larry Charles happened to see, and he passingly contacted the star. Thereafter, the absurd idea of West briefly ditching rap and turning to situational comedy came to the fore.
For those who perhaps don’t know, in the Curb Your Enthusiasm series, Larry David is an ageing misanthropic comedy writer who continually gets himself into awkward scrapes usually rooted in his own tactless verbal misfirings or pedantic refusals to acquiesce to social norms. Kanye West saw a kinship with the character and decided that perhaps that meant he was also primed to star in his own improvised comedy opus. However, the issue was that he might have shared the same asocial tomfoolery as David, but he crucially isn’t a comedy writer.
As it turns out, while Kanye West might have exhibited a shared curmudgeonly attitude over the years, he’s not really the same affable punchline crafter that Larry David is. Thus, when he is making crass remarks in front of a terminally ill Make A Wish Foundation fan, it doesn’t have the same absurdist comedic undertone. Granted, the same awkward aura that surrounds the comedy of Curb remains, just without any of the laughs, so what you are left with is simply Kanye rattling off despicable remarks in front of a dying kid without a giggle insight and an atmosphere so cringeworthy that it could snap a weak jaw.
From the point of view of a would-be producer at HBO, a few details surely rang alarm bells from the off. The first, and perhaps most noteworthy one, is that writing rap songs and a comedy series is about as disparate as a cookbook and a work of fiction. Although many musicians have penned screenplays, and a lot of them have been successful, it is far from a transition that guarantees quality.
The next red flag is that Kanye West and his collaborator on the script, Larry Charles (who directs Curb), had only written a brief outline, the rest they intended to improvise. According to Wyatt Cenac, who also starred in the pilot, Kanye knew that he wasn’t a great improviser However, he was inspired by a Jerry Seinfeld quote about surrounding yourself with better talent, and he hoped that on the day, this attitude and the curated ensemble would produce comedy magic.
One of the issues there, though, is that Kanye could hardly just star in the series as a regular part of the crew. When it comes to a star as big as he is, taking the leap from music to gags about kids going to heaven, it’s either a brief cameo or the centring protagonist and anything between would simply be as bizarre as Macauley Culkin playing in a comedy covers band. Thus, he fulfilled the latter out of necessity, which is never a great place to start when working on the main character.
The result sees him try his hand at the improvised comedy stylings of a reportedly autobiographical tale, whereby he gorged on takeaway food after a heady signing event and was whisked away to see a dying fan, only to worry on route about the scent of his breath. His anxiety grows further as he reveals what is apparently a common problem for the star – that whenever he meets someone only once, he fears that their singular lasting impression of him will spread like wildfire. Thus, he agonises that if his breath smells bad, then his final days of this ailing boy will be spent in the knowledge that Kanye must simply be permanently hexed by halitosis.
In short, the pilot is as absurd as it sounds, but it never recognises that fact itself and continually attempts to propagate the same bone-dry humour throughout, resulting in something akin to a banal acid trip or some other unexplainable occurrence like a black and white dream or a scentless fart. Essentially it’s Curb Your Enthusiasm but without the laughs.