2 February 2011, East Coast ceremony, New York City, USA
Jason Alexander: I first encountered Larry David — this is true — at the Improv Comedy Club in New York City in the mid 1980s. The man was introduced as a comic. He lurched out onto the stage sweating and profoundly uncomfortable, launched into some diatribe about the improper use of the tu form over the usted form in the Spanish language, and after — I kid you not — a minute and a half of incomprehensible banter about "Et tu, Brute?," he accused the audience of being ignorant, euphemisms of the female anatomy, threw down his microphone, and stormed from the stage.
To my amazement, less than a few years later, I would attain heights of fame and fortune I had never imagined by playing a character who was a thinly disguised alter-ego for that very same man. And I thank God for that blessing every day.
Larry David: Thanks Jason, it was really sweet of you to do this, although I have no doubt I'll be getting a call from you in the next few weeks asking me to do something very distasteful in return. "Larry, my wife's doing a save the poultry event, she'd like you to be the guest speaker. I think you owe me I gave you the Paddy Chayefsky Award."
I also want to thank my pal, the brilliant Larry Charles, for doing the thankless task of making that video. I don't know who the guy is he's talking about, but I'd like to meet him, sound very cool. Okay, to the matter at and. First off, I just like to say to Paddy Chayefsky, I'm really, really sorry. Please don't blame me, I had nothing to do with it. Apparently some of the same people who made the decisions about our last strike were also involved in this. So don't take it out on me.
And if it's any consolation, I won't put the award where anybody can see it. I'm thinking basement. So maybe when they come to fix the pipes, the plumber might spot it, and if he asks me what it is I'll just tell him it's from bowling. What's really ironic about this whole thing is that I hate writing. Nothing puts me to sleep faster than picking up a pen. Within minutes, I'm out cold.
I not only hate writing the shows, I hate all kinds of writing. Recommendations, thank you notes, excusing my daughter from school, condolence letters ... Oh those are the worst. Any expression of sympathy. I'd rather blow my own head off and make probably have to write them to me. And, of course, this speech.
As soon as I found out about the award, I immediately called the Guild and asked them what the shortest speech on record was for anyone who's ever been given this. Its ruined my life for the last two months. Not five minutes have gone by without me saying to myself, "You stupid schmuck. Why did you do this?" I actually started resenting the Guild for choosing me. It's almost like they did it on purpose just to accept me. It's like a sick joke. It's not funny.
I'm only sorry my mother is not alive to be here tonight because there's no doubt she would have stood up not shouted, "Larry? Are you sure? You're giving an award to Larry? Morty, they're giving an award to Larry." Her great dream for me was to become a mailman. Her dream. That's her best-case scenario. "If only my boy could deliver the mail. Please God, that's not asking too much, and wear a uniform."
She literally begged me to take a civil service test. "Please Larry, take the test." She was like Rod Steiger in On the Waterfront begging Brando to take the money in the cab. "Please take the test. Take the civil service test, take it, take it." I said, "No." She said, "What are you going to do?" And I really didn't know. At the time I was supporting myself by driving a limo for an old lady who was half blind and had no idea that I wasn't wearing the uniform and that the car was filthy.
I did that for a year, and then one night I went to the Improv, saw a bunch of comedians, and I thought, Jesus, theses people seem just like me. They're complete losers who do nothing and get up and talk about how miserable they are. Are you kidding? I can do that. And it had the bonus of sounding like a cool thing to say to impress women when they ask what I did, although I soon discovered that was not the case at all. I could have said I was a mailman and done just as poorly.
I told my parents about wanting to be a comedian and my mother said, "You're not funny, Larry. I've never heard you say anything funny." And my father backed her up, "She's right, she's right. You're not funny. Why do you think you're funny? You're not funny." So, I started doing it, but as Jason alluded to, I was not all that successful. My therapist at the time said I wasn't really temperamentally suited for it for the simple reason that if the audience didn't laugh I would scream and curse them.
"You stupid, fucking morons. You don't know anything!" I remember even walking the streets in New York looking for good spots to live in case I ever became homeless. I would mentally note them. Yeah, yeah, 44th between 5th and 6th. Good steam vent, there's an overhang. I got to remember this. I bombed all the time. Got heckled unmercifully. People threw things at me. I wallowed in self-pity. "Why me? Why? Why can't I do anything? I don't understand. It's not fair."
And then in 1988, Jerry Seinfeld asked me to develop a show with him. I'd never written a half hour before. I didn't even know the format. The number of pages, I had no idea what I was doing. I prayed for the show not to get picked up. Doing one was hard enough. How could I possibly do 22? It was impossible. I thought of all the half hours on television. All of the one hours. How did the writers do it week after week? Even the bad shows I was admiring, just for the fact that they got gone. When it got picked up I cried. I thought, "Are they insane? Why are they picking up this show? What is it?"
Then after a few weeks, I remember I was filling out a form in the doctor's office, and in the space next to occupation, I put in writer for the first time. That made me feel really smart. Oh, Jesus, I'm a writer. Holy shit, this is very cool. Although, who knows, maybe if I filled in mailman I would have felt just as good about it.
Now as much as it pains me, I'm going to be a little gracious, even at the risk of boring you. I have to thank Chris Albrect and Budd Frieman from the Improv, and Rick Newman from Catch a Rising Star, who consistently gave me spots in New York even though more often than not I turned the crowd into an angry mob. Rick Ludwin from NBC who stuck his neck out to get Seinfeld on the air. Of course Jerry Seinfeld, without whom, I'd probably be sitting on that steam vent on 44th street, screaming obscenities at passers by. Everything I wrote he improved.
I could so say the same for Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer, and Dave Mandel, who've done such great work on Curb these last few years and the main reason I continue to do it. The remarkable Seinfeld cast. It's unbelievable. When I did these things in real life, I was scorned, mocked, and shunned. When they did it on the show, people laughed and loved them.
And the incredible Curb cast who helped me enact my revenge fantasies with such aplomb. Chris Albrect again, for putting Curb on the air and allowing a bald man to star in a comedy for the first time since Phil Silvers played Bilko. Of course, he is bald, so maybe it wasn't such a big deal. And the current HBO team of Richard Plepler, Mike Lombardo, and Sue Naegle, who give me whatever I want. I only hope I don't spoil my children the way HBO has spoiled me. And finally the writer's guild for this award.
But you know, there's a disturbing element surrounding this. I've noticed that whenever something good happens to me, it's usually followed by something terrible. And this thing has got disaster and doom written all over it. I mean it's a great honour but it's not worth getting hit by a bus. So, thank you Writer's Guild for the death sentence. I only hope I live a few more months to enjoy it. Thank you.