If you’re unfamiliar with JB Smoove, then you obviously don’t care about comedy, racial stereotypes, or America. JB plays Larry David’s freeloading roommate Leon Black on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm—one of the most consistently hilarious parts on television. Part of Leon’s appeal is that the character is dangerously close to being a racial caricature, and it’s impossible for white people (i.e., Curb’s audience) to do an impression of him without sounding at least a teensy bit racist. But that’s the subtle brilliance of JB Smoove. You can’t tell if he’s poking fun at Larry David’s nervous hand-wringing about race, or if Leon Black is Jar Jar Binks with better jokes and timing.
VICE: You’ve had some great quotes on this season of Curb, but you’ve also left us guessing. Help me out with this: Where exactly in New York does somebody get a croissant filled with “motherfucking champagne”?
JB Smoove: You can have anything you want put in that shit if you have the right amount of money and friends like Larry David. You can get a croissant filled with ladies, a croissant filled with champagne, anything you want or desire. Your hopes and dreams can be in that goddamn croissant. You just have to ask for it. “Hey, I need some hopes and dreams put inside this goddamn croissant.” They’ll say, “You know what? I can do that for you.”
I need an address. Or at least a restaurant name.
It’s every restaurant in New York City. Every restaurant in the world. You just have to say, “I’m friends with Larry David.” How about a croissant filled with ass? You can get that! The French are very open people. You know that a croissant was created by the French, right?
I am aware. But I’m not sure they’d like to take credit for these croissants filled with ass.
Different things taste different depending on where you’re from and your background. A black person has a different type of tongue than a white person. You might have taste buds that like frog legs or caviar. I have a fried chicken taste bud. I have a potato-salad-and-cornbread taste bud. You understand?
So you have a new website, named after something you talk a lot about on Curb: “the Ruckus.”
Yeah, man! I love it! “Bring the ruckus!” You’ve got to bring the ruckus, you know what I’m saying?
Are you sure it’s the best idea to tie yourself to a comedy catch phrase? It’d be like Robin Williams opening a nightclub called “The Nanu Nanu.”
See, here’s the thing about the ruckus. The ruckus changes so much. “Nanu nanu” is just nanu nanu. Nanu nanu can only just be one specific thing. The ruckus can be attached to anything at all! You determine your level of ruckusness. You understand what I’m trying to tell you?
I’m going to be honest here, I really don’t.
You can’t control Nanu nanu. Nanu nanu is something that an alien might say. The ruckus is from the earth. Nanu nanu came from someplace else and it hit earth. Ruckus is from here, but it can launch from here and go anyplace you want to go. You get enough ruckusness, you can walk your ass on the sun. The ruckus is that powerful. It’s like a kid who got beaten by his mean daddy or his mean step daddy. It made him tough, and now he’s a UFC fighter or some shit like that. He learned how to take pain. You can twist his middle finger backwards and he won’t budge, because his step daddy used to bend his finger back all the time. “I told you don’t drink my beer!” “Oh, daddy, no, daddy!” Snap!
I was watching the original “ruckus” scene on Curb, and if I’m not mistaken, you told Larry that you “bring the ruckus to the ladies” as a way of explaining why a semen stain didn’t belong to you.
That’s right, that’s right.
So “the ruckus” is ejaculating inside somebody?
No, no, no! When I said I bring the ruckus to the ladies, I meant to the ladies. You feel what I’m saying? Not necessarily on them, but in their general vicinity. I gets mine. Why would I ejaculate on a damn blanket when I could ejaculate all over a lady’s face?
So one possible definition of your website’s title, and help me out if I’m not translating this correctly, is that the Ruckus, as in your new website, promises to ejaculate on or in its audience?
But not in an insulting way. I’m not going to insult you as a person. I’m going to motivate you as a person.
By ejaculating on us?
Exactly! It’s not a degrading facial at all. It’s going to be amazing. This is like suntan lotion or some shit like that. You’re going to be saying, “Wow, this is wonderful! This is like Neosporin. This is going to cure some shit.” That’s what the ruckus really is. It’s medicine. I’m going to cure your ass of something. I’m going to allow you to come into this world. Some things are surrounded by a moat with fucking alligators and shit. They’re not very welcoming. This site is very welcoming.
Wait, is this still an ejaculation metaphor? Or have we moved on?
Forget the ejaculate. I’m talking moats! The ruckus has a drawbridge and that drawbridge stays open. You can cross this drawbridge and knock on the fucking ruckus door anytime you feel like it, and I will open.
I also wanted to ask you about that great scene where Leon advises Larry to retaliate against an anti-Semite by getting into his asshole: “You pull the asshole open, step into the asshole, close the door behind you.” You could teach a comedy class based on that line alone.
Because it’s true to life!
Well, I don’t know about that.
You must distinguish yourself as a grown-ass man. Why would you allow another man to degrade you, your culture, your personality, and your presence on this planet? When I first said that to Larry David on the set, he thought I really wanted him to go down there, pull some man’s pants down, open his asshole up, get inside, and spray paint “LARRY WAS HERE” all over his insides. But that’s not what I meant.
In almost every interview you’ve done, somebody invariably asks about the differences between you and Leon Black. Every time you answer it sounds like you’re answering as Leon Black, with the same cadence and timbre to your voice and the same crazy nonsensical trains of thought. Please, one last time, can you try to set it straight?
Look, man, here’s how it is: Leon is Leon, and I am Leon, and Leon is JB Smoove. We have to connect on some level, and we do share some DNA. But who could actually live like that? I’m sure we all know a Leon or we’ve met people who remind us of Leon. I know Leon Black exists in the world somewhere. That dude is out there, and when I get to the Curb Your Enthusiasm set and put my Leon wardrobe on, I channel him. He just comes into me and says what he wants to say. I don’t control any of it. I’m his vehicle. I’m his fucking vehicle of transportation. It’s up to me to spread the word of these Leonisms, to get these gems of wisdom out there for the betterment of mankind. I’m a motivational speaker every fucking week! Guys sit down to watch the show with notebooks and pads and shit. They learn from motherfucking Leon.
How much longer does Leon have? Will he disappear when Curb Your Enthusiasm stops making new episodes, or is he going to live on somewhere?
You know how when you watch a TV show and there’s one character you want to see more of? You want to cut this guy open and see what his inner-workings are, open him up like an autopsy. I want to do a spin-off called The Autopsy of Leon Black. You know what I mean? Somehow we need to open this guy’s ass up and see what he’s made of. What are his mechanisms? Because life is all about mechanisms, you know what I’m saying?
I’m not sure I do. How is life all about mechanisms?
There are simple mechanisms and then there are complicated mechanisms that fucking run the world. It’s kind of like when your toilet is running. You ever have a toilet that keeps running?
You mean like overflowing?
No, you have to keep jiggling the handle because the tank won’t fill up. Every day you’re jiggling the handle to make it stop running and shit. It becomes a way of life. Your wife can’t sleep, your kids can’t sleep. “Honey, go in and jiggle it.” You have become responsible for the fucking jiggle. But then one day the jiggle stops working. You can’t jiggle that shit no more. So you open the back of that motherfucker to see what the fuck is going on back there, to get a look at the mechanisms of that motherfucker, right? And it’s complicated. It’s a pulley, it’s a goddamn stopper, it’s a fucking floater in that bitch. And it’s all attached to that fucking jiggle handle. Then you start fucking around with that goddamn mechanism inside there. You put your hand in there, fuck around with it, get some tools and start loosening and tightening shit, “maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that,” you go to the store and buy another goddamn floater, put the floater on there and shit, “maybe this is the problem,” but your wife told you, “Don’t fuck around with that goddamn mechanism.” She wants you to call a professional who knows how to fix the goddamn jiggle. A plumber or jiggler-fixer, whatever, I don’t know what they call it in the goddamn phone book. All he does is fix the jiggle in your goddamn toilet bowl. That’s his whole job. But you don’t call him. You’re back there fucking around with that goddamn bowl, and now you’re responsible. You’re responsible for that fucking mechanism in the back of that toilet bowl because your ass decided to do it yourself. The shit is still fucking running, and now you can’t jiggle it no more, the jiggle don’t work no more because you fucked around with that mechanism.
Are we still talking about Leon?
That’s all I’ve been talking about! Somebody needs to open his ass up and see what his fucking mechanisms is. How he runs, what kinds of nooks and crannies does this man have, what kind of screws does he need to run? We don’t need to call in no plumber. Just peek in there and take a look. If we end up breaking him and the jiggle don’t work no more, it doesn’t matter. He wasn’t even real! Who cares if we broke him? The world needs to know about the inner mechanisms of Leon Black. We need to do more than jiggle his handle. It needs to be a TV show! That’s all I’m saying.