"A strong reaction by sister Auntie Rae and one I regard as part and parcel with the psychological trauma of slavery felt by African-Americans from off the backs of our ancestors. I call it the ghost in the Negro bones. Auntie Rae and Larry stand out in a field to be plowed. A garden. Brother Larry is asking her to till the soil from which we all take nourishment, especially poignant for young African-American brothers and sisters who, absent a father at home, look toward matriarchs like Auntie Rae as givers of relief, be it from hunger, pain, distress, what have you. And now she has been subjected, albeit unintentionally, to the basest, most venal aspects of the relationship between slave-owner and woman slave. Once more Larry's example of Auntie Rae planting cabbage, the whitest vegetable I can think of, is the worst kind of passive superiority."
"Interesting," I reply. "Because I was more looking at it with 'Go Down Moses' as the theme, you know, that old paradigm. Larry rather exotically expressing a shared empathy with Auntie Rae." After another 45 minutes of analysis, we both agreed it was funny.
Auntie Rae runs away from Larry and back into the house. Next scene is Larry and his agent Jeff at the hospital commissary, laughing at Larry's recounting of the story. They compare penis control (one of my favorite Prince songs, by the way). The waitress at the hospital brings them their food and takes a drink order from Jeff, but not from Larry. Larry instantly seizes upon this as "baldism." Do hospital commissaries employ a wait staff? Because I'm always hearing about cutbacks at hospitals. Maybe hire fewer waitresses and my father won't have to wait six months for his prostate exam results.
Larry finishes his rant on baldism, then goes to the hospital pharmacy to drop off a prescription with a black pharmacist. I don't think it's any special achievement that he's black and a pharmacist, but usually when a black character pops up on Curb it usually means they will be tied into the plot later on, to Larry David's credit. Think of it as Seinfeld reparations, or the exact opposite way to write television scripts from how it's on CBS.
Larry returns home and is immediately accosted by Auntie Rae's nephew Leon. Leon wants to know what the hell is going on: "Goddamn, Larry, what the fuck, man? You hug my auntie, man. You stab her in the stomach? What the fuck is that?" Larry attempts to explain the circumstances. That Auntie Rae hugged him for longer than five seconds, past which he no longer has control over his penis. "You got a five-second rule?" asks Leon without missing a beat. "He got a five-second rule. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 BOING then it come out," Leon then explains to his cousin Loretta who has joined the fray. Guess who plays Loretta? Does the name "Sherice" ring a bell? It's Vivica A. Fox again, and she's swapped the hunky greaser God Brandon for a thin balding neurotic Jew, but it's still in Beverly Hills. Leon is played by longtime comedian JB Smoove and is one of television's breakout characters of 2007. Even the New York Times paid attention to him. He is hilarious on the show, a sort of wisecracking, fast-talking soul mate of Larry's. Larry spends more time in Season 6 with Leon than with his own wife. Leon has little consideration for social graces. He eggs Larry on with the familiar tone of Jackie Chiles, Seinfeld's brusque attorney. Leon doesn't miss a beat adopting Larry David's risible etiquette on the show, viz. his remark about Larry's five-second rule, or in a previous episode when, in the course of an argument between the two about morning toast, Leon confidently asserts, "You can't pause toast."
Comedy has rules just like anything else. What makes Leon funny is what has made any number of white performers funny: his brashness, his loud and often foul mouth, and his complete lack of a filter. But the black performer endures an extra burden. Can Leon be viewed as a stereotype? The whole point of Frank's Place was to beat back the Leons of the world, wasn't it? Is it the great dilemma of every black comedic performer to be funny without being laughed at too much? In an interview with Oprah, Dave Chappelle admitted that he started to question the direction of his show after seeing a white employee laugh hysterically at a sketch where Chappelle was dressed as a minstrel act. In effect, Chappelle was concerned that the guy was laughing but didn't really get the joke. Still, there's nothing less funny than insisting on positive images in comedy. An episode of Roc proves that. JB Smoove's Leon paints in broad strokes but with light touches. Lines like the one about toast are more often punctuated by faceless stares than, say, a pretend touchdown spike of a watermelon. This ain't J.J. Evans. It's the aughts.
The Blacks threaten to leave the house for good, but Larry explains he's merely been starved for affection since his wife left him and promises no more hugging. Besides, he has a date with a doctor he met in the commissary. On their date, the doctor tells Larry that her brother and sister are staying with her for the next couple of months. She's somewhat ambivalent about it and Larry can relate, explaining that he lives currently with a homeless family from the hurricane: "Their name is Black and they're actually black." "Well, that makes it easy," says the doctor.