It’s quips like this — albeit, more profanity laced — that have captured the hearts of Curb fans since his introduction during the show’s sixth season. As the Larry David-starring show wraps up its ninth season, Smoove is hitting the road for his Lollygagging tour, which includes four sets at Cleveland Improv Dec. 8 and 9. He’s also promoting his new book The Book of Leon: Philosophy of a Fool. We talked to Smoove about the recent season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, channeling Leon Black during his writing process and more.
After a six-year hiatus, the world is very different from the one that Curb left. How has that affected the show?
People have asked me, in this PC world, how’s it been? Curb is Curb, man. If it came back after five or six years and it wasn’t the same Curb, you would be very upset that Curb is not the Curb it used to be. It’s not as edgy. It’s PC now. Larry has found a unique lane where he has found a way to be relatable to what’s going on in the world.
Did those conversations come up during filming?
It always has. There’s always a point where you look at it and say, “Is this irresponsible? Is this insensitive?” You always have that. And that’s for the writers to figure out. We get that outline, and we create our own dialogue, so you tend to turn up, so you can then pull back a little bit. I think that’s the best way to do it.
Your book is a satirical self-help book written in the voice of Leon Black, your iconic Curb Your Enthusiasm character, and inspired by the advice he shares with the show’s star Larry David. How did the book come together?
I was in the middle of writing a JB Smoove book, and one day, I was on set with Larry and said “I’m writing a book.” He said, “You know what, you should write a Leon book.” I didn’t think I could do it because HBO owns the character, but Larry said, “Write a Leon book. Everyone will love it.” So I went home and started thinking about what people love about Leon. They love the Leon-Larry interactions. I wanted to write this book like the reader is Larry and I was giving you that “good-bad advice.”
How did you get into the character during the writing process?
I would actually sit down, put my doo-rag on and channel Leon because I felt like that was the only way to write it. Even though it’s a book, it still has this improv feel to it because it is. I wanted it to feel like, “Wow, Leon is a nutcase but he’s hilarious.” That’s why I also did my own audiobook because I wanted people to feel it.
Lamping is Leon’s term for intense relaxation. Sometimes, when work gets hectic, I try different tricks to de-stress. In the spirit of self-help, I’m wondering, is there a way to lamp at my desk in the middle of the workday?
Here’s how you do it: Get the shoes off, No. 1. Undo your belt and unbuckle your damn pants. That way you’re sitting there and your stomach is relaxed now — not restricted by your damn belt. That’s how you lamp at your desk, but be sure before you get up, make sure pants aren’t too loose and fall down while you’re at work. Just make sure you’re comfortable, free and loose when you’re at work.
What is your stand-up act like, and how much Leon will people see in the standup?
There’s a lot of Leon in JB, but there’s no JB in Leon. It’s still the same cadence, the little nuances, the outspokenness. You definitely will love and feel Leon, and see all that cool stuff that makes JB, JB. I’ve done shows where I turn my back on the audience. I’ve done shows where I leave the stage. I’ve done shows where I did like 15 minutes behind the curtain just because I was creating a world behind that curtain and I wanted them to hear it and visualize what I’m seeing. The stage size, the mic, the type of bass in the mic, the lighting — all these things play a part in a stand-up show to me. That’s what makes it unique. That’s what makes people feel like this show is catered this for them. From the 8 o’clock show to the 10 o’clock show, I’m going to do something totally different.
7:00 PM EST
December 4, 2017