Nothing can quite prepare you for an actual conversation with Larry David. Even having the HBO media rep tell me that Larry was about to call me to talk for my story, even watching his TV shows. Afterward, the HBO rep called me back to apologize for how surreal that must've been. Well, let me just say this. Talking to Larry David is just like you might imagine it. While everyone around him on Curb Your Enthusiasm is improvising, Larry David is being Larry David. Take that, Manny Ramirez and your Manny being Manny. Larry actually began our chat by saying he didn't want to talk to me because "I was just in the Boston newspapers" last week. And so he was. But I had to find out for myself how the real Yoshi Obayashi, an aspiring stand-up comic who I recall from our days together in the Seattle comedy scene, found his name and signature opening line in the premise for a recent Curb episode.
This story is a follow-up on my blog posting of Oct. 18, headlined, "Coincidence?"
‘Enthusiasm’ for kamikaze shtick shocks L.A. comic (Boston Herald)
It’s sometimes hard to tell fact from fiction on Larry David’s critically acclaimed HBO comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Especially when they collide.
Yoshi Obayashi, an L.A.-based stand-up comedian, saw something a little too familiar in the “Kamikaze Bingo” episode, which first aired Oct. 16 and remains available via Comcast On Demand.
The premise: David makes fun of his friend Yoshi once he finds out Yoshi’s elderly father was a former kamikaze pilot who didn’t die in World War II. Cringeworthy hilarity ensues, including a failed suicide attempt by Yoshi.
The real-life Yoshi, 36, has opened the majority of his stand-up gigs for years with a similar bit. A Seattle Times article in 2000 even quoted his joke: “My grandfather is a retired kamikaze pilot. Obviously not very good.”
Obayashi said people have ribbed him about the TV Yoshi.
But he had nothing to do with it.
And now he worries that some audiences will think he stole his bit from the show. “That’s the ultimate irony of the thing,” he said.
“My friends tell me not to get mad. This stuff happens in Hollywood all the time,” he said. “I find the whole thing really curious.”
David, who has a home on Martha’s Vineyard, said he had never heard of nor seen Obayashi and picked the name Yoshi for the storyline because it sounded funny.
“It’s just unfortunate,” David said. “It’s totally bizarre. It’s completely bizarre.”
But all a coincidence, he says.
“I should call the guy,” David said.
So he did. Will there be a happy ending? Stay tuned.
Yoshi tells me he had a surreal phone talk with Larry, too. Yoshi certainly doesn't want to make waves or pick a fight with a guy who has made millions of dollars off of Seinfeld. Nor do I. But Larry David has such a sublimely bizarre ability to blur reality and at the same time co-exist with it (remember his episode from seasons past at Dodgers Stadium that helped provide an alibi for an alleged criminal?) that this coincidence was too surreal to let go without at least asking about it. I suppose if the TV character had a name other than Yoshi, I would've let it go. Anyhow, I wish both the real Yoshi and the real Larry David the best.