NEW YORK -- Larry David may be the writer, creator and star of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but arguably the performer who truly embodies the show's caustic charm is Susie Essman. The stand-up comedian stars as Susie Greene, the fabulously foul-mouthed wife of Larry David's manager/BFF, Jeff (Jeff Garlin). Perpetually clad in skintight animal print and always at the ready with a fusillade of profane insults, Susie is a long-standing fan favorite -- with good reason.
The long-delayed ninth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which concluded on HBO Sunday night, has seen the indomitable Susie face new challenges, including launching an organic soap company and dealing with her husband's latest infidelities. Essman, 62, recently spoke with The Times about her decades-long friendship with David and just how the semi-improvised "Curb Your Enthusiasm" comes together.
Q: People must ask you to curse at them all the time.
A: All the time. And it (gets tiring). I'm buying a melon at Fairway, I don't feel like telling somebody to go ... themselves. You know what I mean? It's my job. I don't come to their job and say, you know, "Can you do my books for me?" if they're an accountant, or whatever the hell it might be. It's my job. Leave me alone. I'm a comic. And the fact that I've made a living -- not only made a living, but become beloved -- for telling people to go ... themselves ... I could not have planned that.
Q: Why do you think fans love her so much?
A: I think they love Susie because she's so true to herself. She's so comfortable in her skin, and especially for women, she's comfortable with her anger. So many women are not comfortable with their anger. You know how we're brought up. "It's ugly." "You're a shrew." "You're a bitch." "Be ladylike." Whatever. And Susie doesn't give a ... about that. If she's angry, she's gonna tell you, and she's gonna tell you exactly why. It's freeing to people. There's some vicarious thing that people are getting from her comfort with her anger.
Q: Is Susie inspired by anyone that you knew?
A: There were these girls that I went to high school with. I remember being so envious of these girls. I think they all had mothers that really loved them because they were always secure, never had all these doubts and neuroses and questions that I seem to have. And I was always just like, "Wow, what's that like?" And I think that I tapped into that when I was putting Susie Greene together; that's why she dresses the way she dresses. She believes she's got the greatest taste in the entire world.
Q: Tell me about your friendship with Larry David.
A: I knew Larry from back in the old days, in the '80s, hanging out at (New York comedy club) Catch a Rising Star. Hanging out at the bar, he'd tell me all his tales of woe, dating problems he was having, which were constant and then later on became George (Costanza) story lines (on "Seinfeld"). Larry was what's called a comedian's comedian because he had such amazing material, but he just couldn't always connect to an audience, he didn't have the rapport. So we would all go in to watch him because you never knew what was gonna happen. He was explosive in a lot of ways as a comic. A fellow comedian once said that Larry was in watching me and came out and said something really nice about a bit I was doing. And I remember being thrilled, because Larry was at a higher level as a comedy writer than any of us.