Richard Lewis Delighted in Sparring With Larry David on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

The final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm reunited Larry David with one of his closest co-stars when the late Richard Lewis returned to the HBO comedy after taking a hiatus over his health.

On the Feb. 18 episode of season 12, titled “Vertical Drop, Horizontal Tug,” the lifelong friends were seen riding a golf cart, talking about their Wordle streaks and golf swings. Their friendly chatter quickly turned antagonistic — as could be expected from the comedians’ Curb alter egos — when Lewis told Larry he tweaked his will and had added the Seinfeld creator to his end-of-life document. When Larry pushes back, insisting he doesn’t need his money, Lewis counters: “When I die, I want you to know how much I cared about you. You’re my best friend, you’re getting it.” Despite Larry’s insistence that he would not accept the offer, Lewis didn’t give up: “I’m giving it to you anyway, pal.”

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Ten days after that episode aired, Lewis passed away at age 76. He died on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. Lewis had revealed in April of last year that he had been living with Parkinson’s disease and was retiring from stand-up. He had stepped away from Curb in 2021 and appeared on only one season 11 episode. But he returned for the now-airing final season, which has six episodes remaining.

After starting off this season in Atlanta, Georgia, Curb has since returned its Larry David to Los Angeles, where the character has reunited with his regular ensemble, which included Lewis. In that Feb. 18 episode — the third in the season — a later country club scene between them, while sitting around the lunch table with the characters played by Jeff Garlin, Vince Vaughn and J.B. Smoove, saw David and Lewis going at it again as their Curb alter egos.

David stifled what appeared to be real laughter as he insulted Lewis’ sperm count in a conversation that was sparked by Vaughn’s character being a sperm donor. “What do you got, three sperm?” Larry accused, breaking with a laugh. “You could have intercourse with her for the next 15 years, there’s no way you’re ever going to impregnate her.” A visibly amused Lewis replied: “I’ll bet you $1,000 I have more sperm than you.” The next line ended the faceoff, when Smoove broke in to say: “The only problem is, you can’t get someone pregnant on old ass sperm and shit when it’s in powdered milk form.”

That type of toe-to-toe improvisation is what the Curb team could expect from David and Lewis. “Larry is a particular kind of energized when he’s in a scene with Lewis,” Curb executive producer Jeff Schaffer had explained when talking to THR two weeks ago about the episode. “They’ve known each other forever, they’re old friends. Larry delights in pressing Lewis’ buttons. And Lewis delights in fighting with Larry. So when those two get after it, there’s a real energy of two real friends. You cant fake it.”

When the news broke of Lewis’ passing, David reflected on how long they have known each other.

“Richard and I were born three days apart in the same hospital and for most of my life he’s been like a brother to me,” the Curb creator said in a statement. “He had that rare combination of being the funniest person and also the sweetest. But today he made me sob, and for that I’ll never forgive him.”

THR‘s obituary on Lewis, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., highlighted how he liked to joke that David attempted to strangle him with an umbilical cord, and how they attended the same summer sports camp as teenagers and butted heads. “I hated him,” Lewis told New Jersey Monthly in 2015. “We became friendly years later as young comics in New York, but I noticed something one night. ‘There’s something about you I hate,’ I told him. ‘Wait, you’re that Larry David from summer camp.’ And he said, ‘You’re that Richard Lewis.’ We nearly came to blows.”

Schaffer, when speaking two weeks ago, told THR that Lewis was dealing with his Parkinson’s diagnosis when they were shooting season 12. “He was a champ,” he said, recalling how they filmed during early morning hours in the cold L.A. winter. “Richard is down to do anything on the show. The will stuff was part of the story, but the sperm fights (laughing) just came out of nowhere. Them arguing about who has more sperm, and then Leon just shutting it down because nobody wants it in powdered milk form (laughing) — there’s a lot of things we put in people’s heads in this episode that hopefully they won’t be able to unsee for a long time.”

Lewis will continue to appear on the season, and had been with the cast and crew to promote the final run. “He’s so energized and invigorated by doing scenes with Larry and the guys, he was great,” said Schaffer in that interview. “And he’s doing fantastic right now, I’m very happy to report, having seen him for press and everything. He’s doing amazing.”

When Curb wrapped filming on season 12, Lewis was one of the first to take to social media to pay tribute to the series, which he has been a part of for more than two decades, since it first launched in 2000.

“There I was a few hours ago in my trailer on location to shoot my last scene of #Curb12,” he wrote in the March 2023 post. “Hard to believe we started in 2000. The cast and crew all knew we were working for a genius. When that rarity happens, no one ever takes a moment for granted. We love you LD.”

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Richard Lewis in episode three, season 12 of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

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