About Larry Charles
Born in Brooklyn, NY on Feb. 20, 1956 and raised in Brighton Beach, Charles developed a healthy skepticism for established institutions, especially religion, through the twin influences of his pious grandfather and his father, who used puns and wordplay to lend a light tone to Jewish holidays. His initial passion was writing, so he attended Rutgers University in the early 1970s to pursue a degree in that field. However, a professor advised him to consider comedy as a more likely field, leading him to drop out to tour the country as part of a stand-up team. When the partnership failed, he returned to New York to contribute to Al Goldstein's taboo-breaking Screw magazine, among other prurient employers. In the latter part of the decade, Charles moved to Los Angeles, where he attempted to sell gags to comics working that city's vibrant stand-up circuit. One of his regular buyers was Larry David, who gave him a job writing for the short-lived sketch comedy series "Fridays" (ABC, 1980-82). Among the show's cast members was an up-and-coming comic named Michael Richards, who would later join David and Charles on "Seinfeld."
After ABC canceled "Fridays," Charles wrote material for the late night chatfest, "The Arsenio Hall Show" (syndicated, 1989-1994) from 1989 to 1990 before David invited him to script and serve as executive story editor on "Seinfeld" during its second season. Charles' main contributions were some of the show's quirkiest and darkest elements; he penned such stories as "The Baby Shower," which featured a dream sequence in which Jerry is killed by the KGB, and "The Trip, Parts 1 and 2," which centered in part on Kramer being mistaken for a murderer known as the "Smog Strangler." Charles was also responsible for fleshing out Kramer beyond the cartoonish sketch put forth in the first season; among Charles' creations for the character was a bizarre, never-seen friend named Bob Sacamano, who was named after a real-life friend. He also penned a notorious second season episode called "The Bet," which focused on a bet between Elaine and Jerry over the ease in purchasing a handgun. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and writer-director Tom Cherones balked on participating in the episode, which was never filmed. For his efforts on "Seinfeld," Charles won three Emmys, including one shared with Elaine Pope for "The Fix Up" (which involved George using a defective condom during sex) and an individual writing Emmy for "The Outing," which tackled Jerry and George's concern over being mistaken for lovers.
In 1995, Charles left "Seinfeld" to join the writing staff of another successful NBC sitcom, "Mad About You" (1992-99), which earned him two more Emmy nominations. His subsequent efforts were less successful - "Better Days" (1998) and the Jon Favreau-directed "Smog" (1999) never made it past the pilot stage, while the live-action "Tick" (Fox, 2001) and the animated "Dilbert" (UPN, 1999-2000) amassed small but loyal fan followings before their sudden demises. In 2003, Charles teamed with Bob Dylan for the metaphor-heavy fantasy "Masked and Anonymous" (2003), which starred the music legend as a recently paroled rock star who travels across a dystopian future America to give a benefit concert. Though filled with great songs and a terrific cast, including Jeff Bridges and John Goodman, the film was widely panned for its impenetrable plot.
Charles rebounded in 2004 as executive producer of David's hit HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Initially hired to direct episodes, he eventually joined the show as a producer in 2004 and scored three Emmy nominations and three nods from the Directors Guild for his efforts. In typical fashion, Charles oversaw some of the show's most outrageous episodes, including "The Nanny From Hell," "The Bow Tie" (David's dog is accused of racism) and "The Ski Lift" (David befriends a transplant doctor to get his friend, Richard Lewis, preferential treatment).
In 2006, Charles partnered with British comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen to direct "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," a faux documentary with Cohen as the title character, a gleefully naïve Eastern European who travels to the United States to learn about its culture and, hopefully, meet Pamela Anderson. Much of the film's humor resulted from Cohen and Charles' willingness to present Borat's behavior as anything but an act to its supporting cast of real people, which resulted in such jaw-dropping moments as Cohen and co-star Ken Davitian's nude wrestling match in the middle of a conference and Cohen handing the host of a fancy dinner party a bag of feces after excusing himself to visit the restroom. "Borat" became one of the biggest hits of the summer of that year, netting some $261 million in ticket sales, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Comedy, and a pipeline for both Charles and Cohen to the inner circles in Hollywood.
Besieged by offers to direct major motion pictures, Charles bided his time by returning to producing and directing duties on "Curb" while serving as writer and executive producer on "Entourage" from 2004 to 2005. When he did return to features, the results were again decidedly mixed. "Religulous" (2008) was a documentary about conflicts within organized religious groups, including some extreme far-center movements, with comic Bill Maher as guide and chief interrogator. It was largely dismissed as pedantic and aiming at soft targets. Similarly, the much-anticipated reunion with Cohen, 2009's "Bruno," failed to bring back the same audience numbers due to its flagrantly obnoxious main character, a gay, Austrian fashion reporter (Cohen) trying to once again pull the wool over real people. Undaunted, Charles returned to the medium he knew best for two hotly anticipated television series. The first was a CBS sitcom with British comic Paul Kaye, while the second was "iCon" (Epxi, 2010-) a comedy based on a blog and subsequent book that purported to tell the true story of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
|TV writing debut, ABC's short-lived sketch comedy show "Fridays"; first met Larry David|
|Wrote for NBC's "Seinfeld"; also acted on several episodes including the pilot|
|Wrote several episodes of NBC series "Mad About You"|
|Helmed several episodes of Larry David's show "Curb Your Enthusiasm"|
|Made feature directorial debut with "Masked and Anonymous," starring Bob Dylan, John Goodman, and Jessica Lange|
|Made a cameo as a producer on HBO's "Entourage"|
|Directed the comedy feature "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"; first collaboration with Sacha Baron Cohen|
|Documentary debut, "Religulous"|
|Reteamed with Cohen to direct "Brüno"|
|Third film with Cohen, political satire "The Dictator"|