Larry Charles at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival
December 1, 1956 |
Brooklyn, New York
|Other names||Rene Fonatine|
Larry Charles (born December 1, 1956) is an American writer, director, and producer.
Charles is best known as a staff writer for the American sitcom Seinfeld for its first five seasons, contributing some of the show's darkest and most absurd storylines. He has also directed the mockumentary comedy films Borat and Brüno, the documentary film Religulous, and comedy film The Dictator.
Early life and career
Charles was born in Brooklyn to a Jewish family, and performed stand-up comedy during the 1970s until he was hired to write for the short-lived sketch comedy show Fridays, where he worked with Larry David, who would later give him a job as a writer on Seinfeld and director on Curb Your Enthusiasm. This began Charles' career in television writing that included The Arsenio Hall Show and eventually Seinfeld.
Although series co-creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld wrote the bulk of the show's episodes during the first five seasons, Charles was their second in command during this period. Charles had met Seinfeld co-creator Larry David when he was part of the writing staff of the ABC sketch show Fridays, on which David and Michael Richards were also part of the show's ensemble cast. Charles had been unable to write for the show's first season, as he had been writing for The Arsenio Hall Show during its production.
Charles is noted for contributing some of the show's darker storylines and scenes. In the season two episode "The Baby Shower" Charles wrote a dream sequence in which the title character, Jerry Seinfeld, was killed. Charles' episodes also covered such controversial topics as Nazis (in "The Limo"), a psychotic stalker (in "The Opera") and a hospital patient committing suicide (in "The Bris"). A season two episode he wrote, "The Bet", concerning Elaine buying a handgun to protect herself, was never filmed because NBC, some of the cast and the show's director felt the gun content was too provocative. Charles claimed that his writing on Seinfeld was heavily influenced by Dragnet, Superman and Abbott and Costello.
Charles said he was instrumental in the development of Cosmo Kramer; he felt that "Jerry and George were so well-defined through Larry David and Jerry, that there was less room for me to, sort of, expand on those personas. But Kramer was very unformed at the beginning of the show and it gave me an area of creativity to, sort of, expand upon. So I spent a lot of time with Kramer because he was a character that I could have an impact on in the future of the show". It was Charles who imbued in Kramer a distrust of authority (especially in his episodes "The Baby Shower" and "The Heart Attack"), and who created the character of Kramer's notorious unseen friend Bob Sacamano, after his real-life friend of the same name.
|2||"The Baby Shower"||"I was extremely happy and proud with this show, and I loved the idea of doing that fantasy sequence, I loved the cinematic quality of the story where we kinda go from a plane to a fantasy sequence, and we have all these stories swirling around. I thought that it was a good template for later episodes." — Larry Charles|
|2||"The Heart Attack"||According to the Seinfeld Notes, Charles' own tonsils grew back in real life, just as George's do in the episode. Bob Sacamano is mentioned for the first time in this episode.|
|3||"The Library"||The 'Inside Look' feature on the Seinfeld Season 3 DVD features Charles in an interview, talking about how he wanted to create a Jack Webb/Dragnet-style police monologue in a sitcom format, which was the inspiration for Lt. Bookman in this episode.|
|3||"The Fix-Up"||Charles and Elaine Pope won the award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series at the 1992 Emmy Awards for this episode.|
|4||"The Trip Part 1"|
|4||"The Trip Part 2"||Charles appears in a brief cameo alongside David on the far right of the screen next to the police when the authorities show up at Kramer's apartment in Los Angeles to arrest him for murder.|
|4||"The Airport"||Charles appears in a brief cameo as the passenger who vacates the plane's lavatory, leaving a foul stench that Elaine Benes must endure as she uses the lavatory while holding her breath.|
|4||"The Outing"||Charles was nominated for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Comedy Series at the 1993 Emmys for this episode.|
|4||"The Old Man"|
Charles also has a cameo in the episode titled "The Parking Garage," which was written by David.
Mad About You
|4||"The Weed"||Co-written with Billy Grundfest|
|4||"The Award"||Co-written with Seth Kurland and Ron Darian|
|4||"The Finale (1)"||Co-written with Billy Grundfest and Victor Levin|
|4||"The Finale (2)"||Co-written with Billy Grundfest, Victor Levin, and Paul Reiser|
|4||"The Finale (3)"||Co-written with Billy Grundfest, Victor Levin, and Paul Reiser|
|5||"Dr. Wonderful"||Co-written with Victor Levin|
|5||"The Grant"||Co-written with Richard Day, Victor Levin and Jenji Kohan|
|5||"Burt's Building"||Co-written with Victor Levin and Ron Darian|
|5||"The Gym"||Co-written with Richard Day and Victor Levin|
|5||"Chicken Man"||Co-written with Ron Darian and Jonathan Leigh Solomon|
|5||"Astrology"||Co-written with Jenji Kohan|
|5||"The Penis"||Co-written with Richard Day and Maria Semple|
|5||"On The Road"||Co-written with Richard Day and Paul Reiser|
|5||"The Dry Run"||Co-written with David Guarascio and Moses Port|
|5||"The Birth (1)"|
|5||"The Birth (2)"|
The Tick and Dilbert
Charles served as executive producer on two short-lived programs, The Tick (for which he wrote two episodes), and the Dilbert animated series, which he co-developed with Scott Adams and co-wrote the following episodes:
|1||The Name||Dilbert is made head of the project to find a name for a product that hasn't even been made yet, and as a result begins to fall victim to the legend of the "Chicken Man". Co-written with Scott Adams|
|1||The Takeover||Dilbert and Wally invest in their company's stock after Dogbert manipulates the price. Co-written with Scott Adams and Ned Goldreyer|
|1||Little People||Dilbert discovers that his dry-erase markers are missing, which leads to the discovery of little "downsized" people addicted to the markers' fumes. Co-written with David Silverman, Stephen Sustarsic, and Scott Adams|
|1||The Knack||Dilbert loses "the knack" for technology when he drinks from the boss's cup by mistake and gets management DNA. His following goof-ups send the world back to the Dark Ages. Co-written with Ned Goldreyer and Scott Adams|
|1||Y2k||Dogbert and Ratbert try to decide where they are going to celebrate the new millennium, and Dilbert is put in charge of the company's Y2K problem. Co-written with Andrew Borakove, Rachel Powell, and Scott Adams|
|1||Charity||Dilbert is forced to be a charity coordinator for the "Associated Way" charity drive. Co-written with Stephen Sustarsic, David Silverman, and Scott Adams|
|1||Holiday||Dilbert is annoyed at the amount of holidays because he believes it to be a waste of time. Dogbert concurrently convinces the United States Congress to abandon all holidays in favor of a National Dogbert Day. Co-written with Ned Goldreyer, Stephen Sustarsic, David Silverman, and Scott Adams|
|1||The Infomercial||The Gruntmaster 6000 is sent to be tested by a Texan family. Co-written with Ned Goldreyer and Scott Adams|
|2||Art||Dilbert is assigned to create a work of art. Co-written with Ned Goldreyer and Scott Adams|
|2||The Dupey||Dilbert has to design a toy called a "Dupey" but has problems doing so successfully. Co-written with Scott Adams|
|2||The Merger||The Boss decides that the company needs to merge with another. Co-written with Scott Adams|
|2||Hunger||Dilbert makes a new food product to end world hunger but is rejected because of its taste. Co-written with Scott Adams|
|2||The Assistant||Dilbert is unwillingly promoted to management and given an assistant. Co-written with Mark Steen, Ron Nelson, and Scott Adams|
|2||The Return||Dilbert tries to buy a greatly advanced computer online but has problems when he gets the wrong model. Charles's ex-boss Jerry Seinfeld guest stars as Comp-U-Comp. Co-written with Ned Goldreyer and Scott Adams|
|Dilbert, Alice and Wally hear about an empty cube to hide their junk. Co-written with Ned Goldreyer and Scott Adams|
|2||Pregnancy||Ratbert accidentally sets off Dilbert’s model rocket into space, to collect DNA but comes back and impregnates Dilbert. Co-written with Scott Adams|
|2||The Delivery||Dilbert fights over the rights to keep his baby. Co-written with Scott Adams|
|2||The Fact||Dogbert posts false information on the Internet and releases a book about a made up disease called “Chronic Cubicle Syndrome.” Co-written with Ron Nelson, Mark Steen, and Scott Adams|
|2||Ethics||The show's finale. The company employees are forced to take ethical training classes, but then Dilbert is made project lead for an unethical contract. Co-written with Scott Adams|
Curb Your Enthusiasm
In 2000, Charles began his first job as a director, on Seinfeld creator Larry David's follow-up series, Curb Your Enthusiasm. He directed 17 episodes of the hit HBO show.
|1||"The Wire"||To bury a telephone wire, Larry must befriend his next door neighbors, the Weinstocks (Wayne Federman, Lucy Webb), who ask to meet Julia Louis-Dreyfus.|
|2||"Trick Or Treat"||Larry refuses to give candy to uncostumed teenagers on Halloween. Larry and Cheryl attend a handicapped friend's movie premiere.|
|3||"The Benadryl Brownie"||Larry's first cell phone call leads to an allergic reaction involving Richard Lewis' Christian Scientist girlfriend.|
|3||"The Nanny From Hell"||Charles was nominated in the 'Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series' categories at both the Directors Guild of America and Emmy Award ceremonies for this episode.|
|4||"Mel's Offer"||Larry is offered the lead role in Mel Brooks' musical, The Producers. Larry reminds Cheryl of an anniversary gift she had promised him 10 years earlier.|
|4||"The Blind Date"||Larry sets up Michael on a blind date with a veiled Muslim woman; Jeff admits to Larry he fantasized about Cheryl.|
|4||"The Surrogate"||Larry befriends a surrogate mother; Larry confronts his doctor about the waiting room's magazine selection.|
|4||"The Survivor"||Charles received his second Emmy nomination in the category of 'Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series' for this episode.|
|5||"The Bowtie"||Larry hires a private investigator to find out if he is adopted. After Larry adopts a dog, Wanda deems it to be racist after she visits and finds it barking at her.|
|5||"The Ski Lift"||Larry and Jeff befriend the head of a kidney transplant consortium in an attempt to get Richard Lewis on the top of the hospital waiting list; Jeff and Susie invite Larry and Cheryl to spend the weekend at their ski lodge; Larry learns something about Jeff's penis.|
|5||"The End"||Charles received his second Directors Guild of America nomination for 'Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series' for this episode.|
|6||"Meet the Blacks"||Charles directed the season premiere of season six.|
|6||"The Bat Mitzvah"||Charles directed the season finale of season six.|
|7||"Funkhouser's Crazy Sister"||Charles directed the season premiere of season seven.|
|7||"The Bare Midriff"||Charles directed episode 66, the sixth installment to season seven, where Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld further discuss possibilities for the role of George's wife in a Seinfeld reunion show and confront a secretary about her work attire.|
|8||"Mister Softee"||An ice cream truck triggers a painful childhood memory for Larry.|
|1||"Busey and the Beach"||co-written with Doug Ellin|
|1||"New York"||co-written with Doug Ellin|
|2||"Chinatown"||co-written with Brian Burns|
Charles's feature debut was Masked and Anonymous (2003) which he directed, and co-wrote with Bob Dylan (under the pseudonyms Rene Fontaine and Sergei Petrov, respectively). The film received a mixed reaction from audiences and critics alike. Charles maintains it takes many viewings to get true enjoyment from the film: "I want the movie to be like a great Bob Dylan song that is listened to over and over and for people to [go] back and see it again and get a lot more things, or totally different things."
His second feature film as director, Borat, was more successful. In an interview, Charles discussed how, because of the nature of the mockumentary process, he had to act as well, even if none of his performance made it to the screen: "We all, especially me, had to play a character as well. I wasn't Larry Charles when we were on the road. We all had to be in character, and we had to balance that with our aesthetic and logistical needs to produce the movie properly [...] The director also had to act." The film was nominated for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes.
- Masked and Anonymous (2003)
- Borat (2006)
- Religulous (2008)
- Brüno (2009)
- The Dictator (2012)
- Army of One (2016)
- Sharp, Rob (2008-07-21). "Larry Charles is turning his razor-sharp wit on world religion - and no one will be spared". Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-05-10.
- Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Notes about Nothing - "The Baby Shower" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. November 3, 2004.
- Donlon, Brian (October 2, 1991). "Seinfeld hits stride // Stand-up sitcom finds its following". USA Today. p. 1D.
- Alexander, Jason. Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Inside Looks - "The Bet" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
- Cherones, Tom. Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Inside Looks - "The Bet" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
- Charles, Larry. Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Audio Commentary - "The Baby Shower" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
- "Seinfeld - Season 3 DVD Review". Sitcoms Online. Retrieved 2014-05-10.
- Marisa LaScala (2014-01-21). "11 Famous Television Characters We Never Actually Saw". Mental Floss. Retrieved 2014-12-26.
- "Interview with Larry Charles". Reelmoviecritic.com. Archived from the original on February 16, 2009. Retrieved 2014-05-10.
- ROTTEN TOMATOES: RT Interview: High Five![dead link]
- "Bill Maher Talks Religion Documentary at WorstPreviews". Worstpreviews.com. Retrieved 2014-05-10.
- "Nicolas Cage Shooting a Movie in Morocco". Morocco World News (28 March 2015). Retrieved 12 April 2015.
- "uncabaret Audiobooks". Audible.com. 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Larry Charles.|
- Larry Charles at the Internet Movie Database
- Larry Charles on National Public Radio in 2008
- Larry Charles judged The Film of the Month competition in July 2009 on the independent filmmakers networking site Shooting People.