I love to hear my friends and family describe episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Writing online in 2021 means coating every sentence in obfuscation and irony, but I mean this sincerely. The people in my life who enjoy Curb Your Enthusiasm really seem to get a lot of joy from it, and I like to share in their joy without actually investing in the show. I understand that it’s funny. I’ve watched probably 20 episodes, including several that likely stand among your personal favorites. “Palestinian Chicken,” “Crazy-Eyes Killer,” things of this nature. I recognize the jokes as they happen, I understand that what is going on is funny. Never the less, watching the show is never as fun or as funny as hearing someone who is absolutely gassed on Larry and his bullshit tell me about the jokes they love. Through a layer of separation, it all sings.
I find this phenomena – this personal feeling of liking the thing that others like, but only in the context of them describing it to me – at the intersection of two ideas. The first is the communal experience of comedy (laughing together is always easier and more fulfilling than laughing alone). The second is in the appreciation of art criticism as much, if not more, than the appreciation of the art itself (hearing someone effectively explain a piece of art creates affection for both the subject and the interpreter). I can sit here, thanks to others second-handing me the content of the show, and laugh along with the notion of a spite business without having to process Curb Your Enthusiasm first-hand. To borrow an oft-quoted Dillinger Four / Hold Steady song, I get the scars without the war. I get to be in on the joke without doing the work of being in on the joke. I don’t have to like the thing, as long as the people I like are out here liking the thing and telling me about it.
There is probably a word in German for this feeling.
(I asked my wife if she ever feels this way about anything, appreciating something when it is described to you while having no interest in engaging further in it, and her answer after a two-second-pause was “golf.” Owned.)