“You don’t know how the universe is gonna work for us. But all this plays a part in our journey” – JB Smoove
For the past four decades, many comedians have viewed Saturday Night Live as the launching pad for their careers. However, there is plenty of comedians whose stints with the program fizzled out but in spite of that they found success. Perhaps the most famous of the latter is Larry David, whose stint as a writer on SNL was very uneventful. Curiously enough, another SNL writer whose stint on the show was similarly uneventful ended up becoming one of David’s co-star’s on Curb Your Enthusiasm, J.B. Smoove.
Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Smoove reveals the story behind losing his writing gig on SNL and getting his role on Curb Your Enthusiasm — and how his wife and friend’s confidence in him proved to be right.
A bunch of things had to happen for me to even be a part of that show. I was working with SNL as a writer. My fourth season I didn’t get renewed, but I was already a huge fan of Curb. My wife was washing dishes one day and she said, “You gonna be on that show one day because you say crazy stuff all the time. You would fit right in!”
All this happened within a month or two. I signed with a new agent, my buddy passed away and I had to come to L.A. for one day. I said, while I’m in L.A. I’m gonna go visit my new agents. And then the agent comes, says, “Hey man, I got an audition. How long are you in town?” I said, “I leave town tomorrow. What’s it for?” He said, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I said “Get the … out of here, that’s impossible!”
I left his office, went straight to the audition. I never go into the room as myself. I always walk into the room as my character.
So I walk into the room and Larry is standing in the middle of the room, and I said, “Holy ….” They said, “OK J.B., you’re gonna improv with Larry.” But I was already in Leon mode when I walked into the room. I said, “OK, let’s do this …, Larry”. Because we improv-ing right? I said, “I’ll smack you in the face, right?” And Larry looked at everybody, like, “Who the … is this guy?”
I left town, went straight to Pittsburgh to do a comedy show. Got there, there was a big snowstorm. I was in a horrible town, a horrible club. Everything was horrible. I never been in a hotel that filthy in my life.
I said, “What the … is happening right now? I used to work at ‘SNL.’” And I’m driving 15 miles an hour in the snowstorm to get to the airport, then my phone rings. It’s my agent. He said, “Slow down, do 10 miles an hour, ‘cause I need you back in L.A. because you got ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ You start work on Monday”.
My buddy who passed away, right? His name was Oji Pearce. He was a music producer. He wrote, “This Is How We Do It” [by Montell Jordan]. He wasn’t just a friend, he was also a big fan; he always motivated me. So I did the whole season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and we had our wrap party. And the gag reel is all the funny moments from the season, cast and crew, photos of everybody. It’s always funny. And guess what the song was on the gag reel? “This Is How We Do It.”
Yo, a chill went up my back! My wife and I looked at each other, we said, “Holy … It’s Oji saying what’s up. Saying he’s proud.” If I got re-signed to SNL I wouldn’t have been able to do Curb. If my buddy didn’t pass away, I would’ve never come to L.A.
Even if he had passed away three days later, I would’ve missed that window. All that … had to happen in order to get the part on my favorite show in the world, Curb Your Enthusiasm. You don’t know how the universe is gonna work for us. But all this plays a part in our journey.