JB Smoove of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm talks to Awards Daily about why Leon would survive the apocalypse, the meaning of “Pu-pu-pa-dupe!”, and whether his character is really just a figment of Larry’s imagination.
There have been 10 Curb Your Enthusiasm seasons on HBO, which many fans might divide into “Before Leon Black” and “After Leon Black.”
Fans were first introduced to Larry David’s future sidekick in Season 6 of the series, when actor JB Smoove first appeared on the comedy series as Leon. He and his family the Blacks came to live with Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) and Larry for a while following displacement caused by a hurricane, but even though the Black family eventually leaves, Leon sticks around. In fact, in many ways, he comes to replace Cheryl in the house when she divorces him later in the series.
Leon is Larry’s confidante and friend, and even shows up at weddings and other get-togethers Larry attends. With each subsequent season, we get more and more of Larry and Leon’s unexplainable friendship, which is one of the truest and most genuine on a show where friends publicly announce tapping out at the hint of a cancer scare. However, JB Smoove blew my mind when he questioned whether Leon is actually real. Is this some M. Night Shyamalan shit going on on this series?
Awards Daily: I’ve watched every episode. I’ve seen the episodes before Leon and after Leon. I feel like Leon has taken Cheryl’s place, like LD’s pseudo wife. Have you ever thought of him like that to Larry? Of him becoming his life partner almost?
JB Smoove: Ha-ha! How weird would that be? I think about that kind of stuff all the time. One day I was thinking, growing up on Sesame Street, what if Leon is not even real? What if he’s like Big Bird’s Snuffleupagus? (Laughs) Leon, who? He’s not even a real person. He’s been Larry’s imaginary friend all this time.
AD: That is really interesting. If you think about it that way, he only ever seems to interact with Larry.
JS: That would be hilarious.
AD: What a twist. And they have such an amazing relationship. LD offends a lot of people, but Leon never seems offended. Even when he says to him, “Are you happy with your color?” They have a lot of conversations about race, but Leon doesn’t ever seem upset. Why doesn’t Larry offend him?
JS: I think Leon is one of those dudes who thinks people are people and you’re too grown to change. He just kind of floats through life and takes one day at a time, takes one person at a time, and takes one scenario at a time. He’s a one thing at a time kind of guy. I don’t think anything worries him. He can think his way out of anything. I think if the world ended right now, Leon would be one of the last people left, hiding under a baby pool. (Laughs) He’ll come out and go, “Whoah, that was close.”
AD: (Laughs) That’s so true! So it’s like cockroaches, Cher, and Leon.
JS: He’ll find some way to survive, even with the roaches.
AD: I loved the bit with the Big Johnson meeting this season. Tell me: What goes on at a Big Johnson meeting? What’s on the agenda and what are the meeting minutes like?
JS: They go over all of the perils and pitfalls to stepping and tripping on your own johnson. Turning some ladies off. All of the pitfalls they deal with. Credit score. Credit score is a big part of it. (Laughs) Believe it or not, it affects your credit score. All of those things. Makes their legs tired. It’s all about new fashion trends. Zipper length. The length of all zippers. Just different things. The whole Big Johnson community comes out.
AD: Does Leon still see his family and Loretta (Vivica A. Fox)? Or is LD his new family?
JS: When he didn’t go and hop in that car with his family, they turned their back on Leon. No one talks to him anymore. The only one who talks to him is Auntie. Peanut and Baby Girl love him. But Loretta ain’t messing with him. She’s not fucking with Leon. She feels like Leon should have hopped in the car and rolled out with the family, but Leon said, look, I have a whole bag of Chinese food here. It’s wrong. I got a bed upstairs. I got my belongings. Nobody told me you guys were going to up and leave. I ain’t ready to go yet!
AD: Leon seems to be Larry’s most loyal friend. When they have that discussion about “I can’t be a cancer friend,” I think Leon would stay with him through cancer. Do you think he would?
JS: I think Leon definitely would. See, Leon has your back if you got his back. He will stick by you through thick and thin, to make sure you’re comfortable, you’re good. He’d have ladies over to make sure you’re taken care of, massages. If you have a foot fetish, he’ll make sure your feet are taken care of. All of the things you look for in a friend like that. Leon would definitely have your back.
AD: I even thought that during that conversation, everyone else, including Jeff said, “I’m out!”, but he didn’t say anything. That’s because he’d totally be there for him.
JS: Leon got you, man. Leon is not squirmish. A lot of people are squirmish, but Leon’s not squirmish. He’s seen it all. Diarrhea, he’s seen it. Nothing turns Leon off. The only thing he hates is a melted milkshake. That shit right there. If your milkshake melts, that’s the only thing that gets under his skin.
AD: One of the new additions this season was Vince Vaughn. What was it like playing off of him?
JS: We only did one scene together! I was so mad. Vince Vaughn is one of my favorites. I was a little upset that I didn’t get to more scenes with him, but I love that dude. I’m a huge fan. I’ve always loved Vince, and it was so great to work with him, even in that small capacity. We’re even talking about doing something together in the future. My writing partner and I are working on a movie, and think that me and Vince would be great in it.
A lot of times on Curb, I miss out on who the guests are. I don’t really hang out. And I like to see the show in its entirety. I don’t like to know all the secrets and know all the guests. The only guest I met this season was Vince Vaughn. I didn’t know Jon Hamm did it. I didn’t know all those guests came and did it. I like to see the show with fresh eyes. I do my scenes, and I leave.
AD: That’s so Leon.
JS: I keep to myself.
AD: Maybe you’ll get to do more scenes with Vince in the next season, since you guys were renewed for Season 11.
JS: I know! I can’t wait. I’m excited. I can’t wait until next season. When I first met Larry, I told Larry to figure out when and how long he’s gonna go. He told me he wasn’t sure how long, because he was getting old and he didn’t know how long he would be doing the show. I told him pick an end number and that’s your last season. Pick out what number is your favorite number, and that’s how you determine. I told him you also want to make sure your box set looks good on the shelf. So pick a number that looks good in a box set. Otherwise, it’s a mess, you can’t carry it cause it’s too many or too little.
AD: What number did he tell you?
JS: He said, “Eh, I don’t know. I don’t know how long I’m gonna be doing this show.” I think he’s been having so much fun the past few years, he’s invigorated and he just wants to keep going. I told Larry make sure you have one sex scene every season, and you’re good! (Laughs) That’s all you gotta do, Larry. That’ll keep you going a little while longer.
AD: One last question: Leon is so smart and is never short on interesting facts. Like when he talks about women wearing furs and how the girls would go “Pu-pu-pa-dupe.” Where does he get this from? Does he read a lot?
JS: He watches old movies on TV Land, those old, old movies. Of course some of those old movies were racist and prejudiced, but they have some very fine qualities in there on how to pick up women. Not until they colorized these black-and-white movies did you realize that “Pu-pu-pa-dupe” came into play. “Pu-pu-pa-dupe” is a flirty word. *Sings in a high-pitched voice* Pu-pu-pa-dupe! Modern-day “Pu-pu-pa-dupe!” is when someone says, “Look at you!”
JS: That’s a modern-day “Pu-pu-pa-dupe!”
All seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm are available on HBONow and HBOMaxx.
Megan McLachlan is a freelance writer that lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, The Cut, Paste, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thrillist, and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @heydudemeg.