Curb your identity: The real, fictional, and parafictional Larry David


In comedy, Larry David’s reputation as a prickly old grouch is legendary. Stories abound of his ill-temper and tendency to get into fights with audience members when performing stand-up in the 1970s — reportedly storming off stage if he felt the crowd was insufficiently appreciative of his material. His uncelebrated stint as a writer on Saturday Night Live in 1982 is now more often remembered for the incident in which, frustrated that none of his sketches ever made it to air, David quit on the spot with a profanity-laden tirade, only to turn up to work the following Monday as if the incident had never happened. This prickliness has become an indelible part of David’s persona, expressed most memorably across 11 seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm (1999–), the sitcom David created and stars in, playing himself. With improvised dialogue and comedy verité style, the show purports to sit somewhere between reality and fiction, with David deliberately erasing the distinction between his real and fictional presentations, creating instead a hybrid “parafictional persona” (Warren 2016). Larry David (the character) closely mirrors David’s own professional history, with the in-universe continuity reflecting David’s status as co-creator of the popular sitcom Seinfeld, and the lavish show-business lifestyle this success affords him. David’s fictional characterisation also reflects his real-life comic persona, with much of the show’s humour being derived from his depiction as an irascible curmudgeon with a tendency to get into fights over petty social grievances. This paper will analyse the presentation of David’s identity and persona across fictional, nonfictional and parafictional appearances, attempting to highlight the deliberate process of persona construction in one of American comedy’s most prominent and celebrated examples of parafictional persona.

Warren, K. (2016), ‘Double Trouble: Parafictional Personas and Contemporary Art’, Persona Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 55–69.

See and Be Seen: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Storytelling and Identity in Popular Culture
Bradley J. Dixon
Bradley J. Dixon
PhD Candidate

My research focuses on persona and practice in comedy media.