Larry David’s Only SNL Sketch to Ever Air Is Unmistakably Larry David

There are few more singular voices in comedy than Larry David’s. His particular brand of cantankerousness, based largely on being ground down by minor inconveniences, has made him enormously successful and internationally beloved. And it turns out that voice was always there.

Back in 1984, David was hired as a writer on Saturday Night Live (which is where he met future collaborator Julia Louis-Dreyfus). He only lasted one season, and has famously talked about how he only ever managed to get one sketch on the air during that time. But the sketch, “Going Up,” is about as Larry David as it gets.

Performed by Billy Crystal, Ed Begley Jr., Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest and (possibly due to its slot in the 12:50 graveyard of the show, when the audience is exhausted) receiving almost no laughter, it’s unmistakably the work of the man who would go on to create Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

It’s… not a great sketch! It’s very slow, goes nowhere, and doesn’t seem quite finished. But as a piece of history, and a snapshot of where the mind was that would go on to be one of comedy’s most dominant voices, it’s kind of fascinating.

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The basic gist is this: an architect going over the design for a new building fiercely defends his decision to build a stool into the elevator as a place for the elevator operator to sit when there are no passengers. Which might sound familiar to anyone familiar with David’s work.

The chair idea lingered with David, later coming up in both Seinfeld and Curb. In the former, in the episode “The Maestro,” George (Jason Alexander, playing a character based on David) is struck by the plight of a security guard who has to stand all day and gives him a rocking chair. In Curb’s “Running With The Bulls,” he gets upset that his therapist (played by Bryan Cranston) has a nicer chair than him. He’s diagnosed as having “chair issues,” which might very well be the case.

The fact that this was David’s only sketch that made it to air led to another key moment in the making of the Larry David we all know: he famously quit SNL, livid that so little of his material made it onto the show.

“I walked up to the producer and said ‘That’s it! I’m done! I’ve had it! Take your show and shove it!,’” he told David Letterman years later. Upon realizing the financial implications of joblessness, he took the advice of his neighbor (Kenny Kramer, the inspiration for Michael RichardsSeinfeld character) and turned up the following Monday acting like nothing had happened. This incident later became sitcom gold in the Seinfeld episode “The Revenge.”

It’s odd that the most noteworthy element of David’s SNL career is its lack of success, but it all worked out pretty (pretty) well in the end. This underwhelming elevator-stool sketch was just one step on the road to becoming the world’s favorite misanthrope.

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