Late last year, buried underneath the sea horrifying news stories that have seemingly become a regular feature our day-to-day lives, HBO quietly announced that its long-running television show Curb Your Enthusiasm had been renewed for a 10th season. Fans the show rejoiced, excited to hear that they’d get to watch at least one more season filled with Larry David’s neurotic hijinks.
As someone who happens to be a fan both this show and hip-hop, hearing this news inadvertently jogged my memory about a now-forgotten piece tri that frequently causes me to wonder “What could have been?” I’m speaking, course, about Kanye West’s failed Curb Your Enthusiasm-inspired pilot for HBO.
Styled in a similar improvisational vein, the show was conceived as a half-hour comedy that would follow around Kanye West—playing a larger-than-life version himself, much like Larry David on Curb—as he navigated the uniquely awkward situations that accompany life as a rich and famous rap artist. Filmed in 2008, the pilot partnered Kanye with seasoned comedians like Wyatt Cenac, J. B. Smoove (and less-seasoned comedians like GLC), and sought to highlight the less-serious side an artist who, in spite a conflicting public persona, has referred to himself in the past as “the black Larry David.”
Little is known publicly about this pilot, except for what can be pieced together through interviews and one unsanctioned public screening, but the following details seem noteworthy:
- Kanye West turned in an hour-long episode to HBO, despite being asked for a 30-minute pilot. He rounded out the hour by inexplicably including non-comedic interviews with Cornel West, Nelson George, and Boyce Watkins.
- To prepare for the show, Kanye had one the founders the UCB, Matt Besser, give him private one-on-one improv lessons.
- GLC initially refused to wear makeup while filming. Upon continued insistence, he eventually conceded on the condition that everyone who referred to his make-up did so as “player powder.”
If these details pique your curiosity, you’re in luck. You can see a bit what the show was supposed to look like in this short clip leaked footage, hidden away on YouTube in relative obscurity. To give you a bit more context for the scene, Kanye is wearing his hoodie zipped all the way up in this clip due to a storyline in the episode about his chronic fear bad breath:
From everything that I’ve read about the topic, the general consensus amongst those who saw the finished pilot was that it was raw but ultimately had potential. These thoughts were shared by those who helped make the show, like Cenac, who has spoken in interviews about how dedicated Kanye was to always surrounding himself with the right talent. Ultimately, though, this may also have been what caused HBO to pass on the series. Aware that he wasn’t the greatest improviser or actor, Kanye deferred to his more talented ensemble far too frequently for HBO’s liking, conflicting with what they had initially believed was an investment in a Kanye-centric show.
With the benefit a decade’s hindsight, it’s hard to imagine that this show would have been particularly successful. In 2008, it may have seemed reasonable, but it’s difficult to imagine now—the same Kanye who spent much the Yeezus tour ranting on stage about his difficulties breaking into the world high fashion, moonlighting as the main character a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style sitcom.
Admittedly, Larry David’s character on Curb isn’t always depicted as an average Joe either, but much the show’s initial appeal stemmed from the fact that the problems he encountered were relatable to the general public. Whereas David is fascinated by topics like the etiquette being asked to watch someone’s laptop at Starbucks, Kanye’s more recent lyrics seem to suggest that he’s fascinated by the etiquette an entirely different set concerns.
With this in mind, I decided to use my neurotic imagination and Kanye’s lyrics as inspiration to create my best approximation what I think a Kanye West Curb Your Enthusiasm-inspired sitcom might look like in 2018. Enjoy!
“Now if I fuck this model, and she just bleached her asshole, and I get bleach on my t-shirt, I’mma feel like an asshole”
Fade In: Kanye West and a model named Stacy are in an upscale hotel room in New York. The pair have just finished having sex. Kanye is getting ready to leave.]
Kanye: That was fun. I wish I could stay longer, but I—uh—I have to run to a meeting. I’m in the process designing a new line shoes that look like aircraft hangars. They’re going to be dope.
Stacy: It’s okay, Kanye. I didn’t exactly think we were going to cuddle…
Kanye reaches down to put his shoes on when he notices a discoloration on his shirt]
Kanye: What happened to my t-shirt?!
Stacy: Oh, um, this is awkward. I think you might have accidentally gotten some bleach on it.
Kanye: What are you talking about? I haven’t been anywhere near bleach.
Stacy: Yeah, um, about that. I didn’t want to bring this up earlier. But, when you initially called me, I was in the middle , uh…
Kanye: Middle what, Stacy?
Stacy: Um, bleaching my asshole.
Kanye: Jesus Christ!
Stacy: Yeah… Sorry I didn’t tell you earlier. I thought it had dried!
Kanye: ‘You thought?!’ What do you mean ‘you thought?’ You didn’t check? You’re supposed to check!
Stacy: No, I just—I figured enough time had passed.
Kanye: ‘Enough time?' What does that mean, ‘enough time?!'
Stacy: Enough time for the bleach to dry.
Kanye: How do you keep track a thing like that? What, are you using a stopwatch?
Stacy: No, I just thought it would be fine. Then you showed up and one thing led to another and…
Kanye: And, what? At no point, did you think to stop and tell me, “Kanye, maybe we should wait for a few minutes, I just finished bleaching my asshole?”
Stacy: No! I thought it’d ruin the mood.
Kanye: The mood?! It ruined my shirt!
Stacy: I know, I’m sorry!
Kanye: What about The Window, Stacy?
Stacy: What window?
Kanye: The Window! The window time you’re supposed to wait between bleaching your asshole and having sex!
Stacy: You sound insane! There is no window. What, do you think there’s forums on the internet about this or something?
Kanye: Of course there’s a window! It’s common courtesy! If you ask ten people, nine them will tell you that there’s a window.
Stacy: You know you’re acting like a real asshole right now, right Kanye?
Kanye: Oh, I'm the asshole?! Your asshole ruined my shirt!
Stacy: It’s just a shirt, Kanye. You can afford a new one.
Kanye: It’s not about the shirt! It’s about the principle!
The bickering continues as the scene slowly fades out]
“How you gon' be mad on vacation? Dutty wining 'round all these Jamaicans”
Fade in: Kanye and Kim are at a resort in Jamaica, in the middle a heated argument]
Kim: Look, Kanye, you can’t just keep spending all our money on these Donda business ventures without consulting me first!
Kanye: I knew it! You never had any faith in my luxury search engine idea.
Kim: I don’t even know what that is.
Kanye: It’s like Google, but more exclusive.
Kim: Yes, you keep saying that.
Kanye: You just don’t get it!
Kim: You’re right, I don’t. Why would anyone want that?!
Kanye: Can we talk about this later, Kim? We’re literally in the middle a tropical paradise right now.
Kim: No, I just found out how much our money you wasted, so I want to talk about it now.
Kanye: Exactly. That number is going to be the exact same once we get back to LA, so why can’t we talk about it then?
Kim: Kanye! I’m angry about it right now, so I think we should discuss it. What part that don’t you get?
Kanye: But, we’re on vacation. Can’t this wait until we’re on the plane at least?
Kim: That’s not how emotions work!
Kanye: Why can’t it be?
Kim: What are you asking? Are you telling me to pretend to be happy just because the weather’s nice?
Kanye: I mean, would it kill you? Unless you’re going to leave me over this, I don’t see why we can’t just enjoy our getaway. There should be a rule that couples can’t fight on vacation.
Kim: So, what you’re saying is: I can say anything I want to you right now and you won’t get mad?
Kanye: No, I’m not—
Kim: Because, I liked your Pastelle clothing line way more than I like the new stuff.
Kanye: Kim! How dare you even say that?! You know damn well how close we are to the Season 6 launch!!!!
Kim: Nope. You can’t get mad at me. We’re in Jamaica.
Kanye: But, this is different. You’re deliberately trying to pick a fight with me.
Kim: Calm down, Kanye. This is your rule, I’m just playing by it. While we’re at it, I also think that you’re making the wrong decision to not put cover art on Yeezus.
Kanye: Don’t say things you can’t take back!
Kim: Nope, you’re not allowed to get mad. Let’s go dance with the locals.
Kanye: I don’t feel like it now.
Kim: Well, that’s too bad, isn’t it?
“I am a God, so hurry up with my damn massage / In a French-ass restaurant, hurry up with my damn croissants”
Fade In: Kanye West is in a pastry restaurant in Paris, talking to his waiter Antoine]
Kanye: Hey Antoine, I don’t mean to complain, but this croissant you just served me took a really long time to come out and it isn’t very fresh.
Antoine: I’m sorry to hear that, sir. Our staff is very busy today.
Kanye: That’s okay. Would you mind just popping this back in the oven for me, then?
Antoine: Sorry, sir, it’s against bakery policy to reheat pastries.
Kanye: ‘Against bakery policy?’ I’m not sure I understand. This isn’t the United Nations. How strict could these policies be?
Antoine: We feel like it compromises the integrity the pastries.
Kanye: ‘The integrity the pastries?’ What does that even mean?! It’s not a witness in a court trial, its bread.
Antoine: Well, it’s not bread. It’s a croissant.
Kanye: What are croissants made ?
Antoine: Um, flour and butter.
Kanye: It really feels like you’re going out your way not to say “bread.” Look, I can see the oven right behind you. Why can’t you just put it in there?
Antoine: I’m sorry, sir. I don’t make the policies, I just work here.
Kanye: I’m not asking you to play God or anything, I’m just asking you to reheat a croissant.
Antoine: I have to follow the rules.
Kanye: Okay. Can I please order another croissant, and can you please hurry up?
Antoine: Sorry, sir. The croissant you ordered was actually our last one.