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Who is Larry David?

"Who the hell knows," the TV and comedy star tells Charlie Rose in a hilarious and revealing 60 Minutes interview that Larry says he didn't want to do in the first place
Who is Larry David? 12:29

The following is a script from "Larry David" which aired on March 1, 2015. Charlie Rose is the correspondent. Tanya Simon, Nichole Marks and David Browning, producers.

The hottest ticket on Broadway right now is a comedy called "Fish in the Dark," written by and starring Larry David. He's famous for playing a crusty curmudgeon on the television show "Curb Your Enthusiasm." And for being the co-creator of "Seinfeld," where a lot of the jokes came from real-life Larry David experiences. Now he's playing another character that walks and talks like Larry David.

Charlie Rose challenges Larry David 06:22

As you'll see, with actors and comedians, you never quite know where the act stops and the real person begins. David's friends, for instance, say he's a sweetheart. He says that's just an act, the nice guy act. Who is he? That's what we wanted to find out.

Charlie Rose and Larry David CBS News

Charlie Rose: This is what everybody that is watching this wants to know.

Larry David: Yeah.

Outtake: Who is Larry David? 01:30

Charlie Rose: Who is Larry David?

Larry David: Oh, this guy. He's too much.

Charlie Rose: Who is Larry David?

Larry David: You are too much, Mr. Rose.

Charlie Rose: Why?

Larry David: Huh?

Charlie Rose: Why?

"I had to be talked into 60 Minutes. You think I wanted to do this? I didn't want to do it!"

Larry David: You're probing. What is the probe?

Charlie Rose: Because we wanna know who you are, I mean -

Larry David: Who the hell knows? I don't know.

Charlie Rose: But you do know.

Larry David: Like what, whatever you're seeing, that's who I am!

Charlie Rose: Really?

Larry David: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: Well, it's not true. You told me you created a character. It's not you. It's who you might want to be but are not. Who are you?

Larry David: I'm a jerk, that's who I am. I'm like -

Charlie Rose: You're not! That's an act!

Larry David: I'm like everybody else.

Charlie Rose: No, that's an act.

Larry David: No, it isn't.

Charlie Rose: It really isn't?

Larry David: No.

Charlie Rose: How are you a jerk?

Larry David: Oh, look. Let's stop talking about me. I, that's why I didn't want to do this interview in the first place. I had to be talked into 60 Minutes. You think I wanted to do this? I didn't want to do it! 'Cause I knew you'd be asking questions like this!

Charlie Rose: Then, why'd you do it?

Larry David: They, they talked me into it just like they talked me into the play!

Charlie Rose: Oh, so you're a guy that you can be talked into things.

Larry David: Yes, hence the jerk.

Charlie Rose: You have no backbone. You have no capacity to say no.

Larry David: No!

Charlie Rose: But the guy that you create would be able to say no.

Larry David: There you go.

Charlie Rose: And there's your biggest hang-up.

Larry David: Yep.

Charlie Rose: You can't say no but you can create a character that can say no.

Larry David: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: You're not a jerk. But can create a character that's a jerk but you don't have the courage to be a jerk.

Larry David: That's perfect. That's good. I like that. How much you charge? That's better than any therapy I ever got.

Outtake: Larry David hates therapy 01:03

Whoever he is, Larry David attracts hardcore fans who'll wait for hours in bone-cracking cold for a stage door glimpse of their hero.

[Larry David: Look at you. You're all prepared, huh? Goodbye.]

The play begins a three-month run this coming Thursday. Advance ticket sales set a $15 million record, with the best seats priced at $425 each.

[Charlie Rose: So here we are backstage...]

David is a very fit 67 years old. And being the star of the show, he insisted on bringing his own clothes, for comfort's sake.

Larry David: It takes me a while to acclimate to new clothing. I don't know about you.

[Larry David in "Fish in the Dark": Mom, are you crazy?]

"Fish in the Dark" is a dark comedy about family dysfunction in typical Larry David style. After his father's death, Norman Drexel -- David's character -- fights with his mother, his brother, his wife and the housekeeper over just about everything.

Outtake: Larry David's complaint about Broadway 01:21

Larry David: Well, it's not about me. But the character is very similar to me. OK, it's me. Yeah.

[Larry David in "Fish in the Dark": That was a wonderful, wonderful eulogy.]

Sometimes his characters are so similar to the man it's easy to get confused.

On the HBO show "Curb Your Enthusiasm," his character was actually named Larry David. He was politically incorrect, a bit of a jerk and an equal opportunity offender.

[Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm": Let me ask you this question. Have you noticed if she has any proclivity for chopsticks?]

[Jerry Seinfeld: If that's not that -- what is that?]

David and Jerry Seinfeld created one of the most successful sitcoms ever. And, by his own admission, the character closest to David's heart was the wily weasel George Costanza.

[George Costanza: I'm gonna slip him a mickey!]

[Anna Shapiro: It's not about where he can go to get the thing...]

We asked the play's director, Anna Shapiro, about the many faces of Larry David.

Outtake: Larry David's nightmare 01:17

Charlie Rose: Here's a guy who says he doesn't consider himself an actor. Doesn't want to be an actor. Has created two characters that he says are him. And then is gonna play a character who he says is him.

Anna Shapiro: He's a liar. He's just lying. All those things, none of those things are true. He is an actor. They aren't him. And he's actually a pretty good actor. And he's clearly interested in acting.

[Larry David in "Fish in the Dark": You're talking normal again.]

Anna Shapiro: Because you don't do a play if you're not interested in acting. It's a very, very weird way - it's kind of a long way around to get a laugh. So I don't think it's true. I think he's acting his head off.

And acting is a very different animal from improvisation, making it up as you go along, which was the essence of his TV show "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Here, he's got to stick to the script and remember it.

Charlie Rose: Is the acting, does it worry you? Did you have trepidation of not being able to do it?

Larry David: Is that one of the great understatements of the century? Yeah.

Charlie Rose: Of what? Forget your lines? Not know how to move?

Larry David: All of it. Yes, everything.

It's a million miles from Broadway to Brooklyn, and the apartment building where he grew up. He hadn't set foot in the place in half a century.

Outtake: What Larry David's mom said 00:51

Larry David: This was my apartment. This is where I grew up. And here, this is where my aunt and uncle and cousins grew up...

The current residents, the Galinskis, invited us in.

Larry David: Look at the size of our kitchen.

This is the point in most profiles where the subject is usually flooded with warm, nostalgic memories. Well, curb your enthusiasm.

Charlie Rose: Emotions?

Larry David: Not much. Nothing.

Charlie Rose: You've moved on. A place where your loving and wonderful mother raised you. It's where she made you, along with your father -

Larry David: Yeah, I feel nothing, yeah.

Charlie Rose: - you know, gave you the confidence to go out and be what you became?

Larry David: Oh, yeah. Oh sure. Yes.

Charlie Rose: Don't you feel that?

Larry David: Nope. Nope.

Charlie Rose: It doesn't touch you?

Larry David: Nope. Completely devoid -

Charlie Rose: What kind of heart do you have?

Larry David: I'm completely devoid of any feelings whatsoever at this moment.

The David apartment was a lot like Seinfelds. Larry remembers a lot of relatives and friends constantly wandering in and out. A lot of yelling and no privacy.

Outtake: Larry David flunked Hebrew school 01:06

We moved on to Shell Bank Junior High for the story of his school days.

Larry David: In junior high school and high school, I did not participate in anything.

Charlie Rose: You didn't -

Larry David: I didn't even know things were going on. By the way -

Charlie Rose: Yes you did.

Larry David: I didn't even know, I swear to you, I didn't even know there was a prom, OK?

Charlie Rose: You didn't go to the prom?

Larry David: Not only did I not go, I didn't even know about it!

[Larry David: Yeah, this is it.]

This is the very spot where he made his only previous stage appearance at age 13, in the school play "Charley's Aunt," wearing a dress.

Charlie Rose: This is your class. Just look at this and tell me if you can find yourself.

Larry David: Oh there?

Charlie Rose: Oh oh oh oh. You were a good looking kid.

Larry David: Cute, yes. Cute kid.

Charlie Rose: What would you have written for your caption at that time?

Larry David: Lost at sea. Yeah.

Charlie Rose: Did you feel lost at sea?

Larry David: Yeah, the prom story is true, I didn't know there was a prom. So, you know.

Charlie Rose: That says a lot to me.

Larry David: That says a lot.

Charlie Rose: Didn't know.

Larry David: Didn't know.

Charlie Rose: Here's what they should have written about you.

Larry David: Out of it. Yeah.

Charlie Rose: No. Didn't go, didn't know.

Larry David: That's it. Perfect. Yeah. I wish I came up with that answer. Yeah.

But he does concede that growing up in Brooklyn gave him all sorts of material for later use. Some of it, very close to the bone.

Charlie Rose: What did your mother want you to be?

Larry David: A mailman.

Charlie Rose: A mailman?

Larry David: Yes. She wanted me to work in the post office.

Charlie Rose: 'Cause it was safe?

Larry David: Safe, yes. Secure pay checks.

Charlie Rose: Pension.

Larry David: Yeah. That was her dream, by the way. You know, that wasn't just, that was a dream. It wasn't only because she said that. That's how I felt about it. I--

Charlie Rose: You had no reason to believe that you were gonna be as successful as you wanted to be.

Larry David: Zero, zero belief in myself. And it's changed somewhat, but there's still a lot of that in me.

Getting out of the house, going to the University of Maryland, lightened his mood. People actually enjoyed his emerging sense of humor. After college he became friends with fellow funnyman Richard Lewis, and David started doing standup. But it was not his finest hour.

Larry David: You know, when you do standup there are certain requirements that you have to do like you have to go on stage and when you get introduced you have to say "Hey,how ya doin'? How are ya?" I couldn't do it.

Charlie Rose: It was false for you.

Larry David: It was false, I couldn't do it.

Charlie Rose: It is even said that sometimes you would take a look at the audience and not go on.

Larry David: Yeah, I did that once. I got up on stage and I kinda looked them over and I went, "Naaah I don't think so." And I left.

He survived along the way, as young entertainers do, with odd jobs.

Larry David: Paralegal -

Charlie Rose: Chauffeur -

Larry David: Private chauffeur, taxi -

Charlie Rose: - taxi driver.

Larry David: - driver. And -

Charlie Rose: Bra salesman.

Larry David: Bra salesman, yeah.

[Mr. Farkus to George Costanza in "Seinfeld": So basically, George, the job here is quite simple. Selling bras.

George Costanza: Well, that interests me very much, Mr. Farkus. Very much indeed, sir.]

And when Seinfeld came along, who could tell the uplifting story of David's brief bra career better than his favorite jerk, George Costanza.

[George Costanza in "Seinfeld": From the first time I laid eyes on a brassiere, I was enthralled. I knew I wanted to be around brassieres.

Mr. Farkus: That's an incredible story.]

Fortunately, Larry David chose television over bras. It brought him fame and many millions of dollars -- almost everything.

Outtake: Larry David's wealth 01:41

Charlie Rose: Did it change you?

Larry David: I mean, it gave me money.

Charlie Rose: Yeah, of course it did. Lots of money.

Larry David: But - but -

Charlie Rose: But confidence, a sense that -

Larry David: It gave me something.

Charlie Rose: Yeah!

Larry David: It gave me something that I didn't have, but not in the way that, that people think, that oh, man, I just - like a total transformation.

Charlie Rose: But then you tell me--

Larry David: It wasn't that at all. I still, you know, to this day I still couldn't walk up to a woman at a bar and say hello. You know, so I don't have that. But I feel--

Charlie Rose: Yes, you do.

Larry David: No, I do not.

Charlie Rose: Yes, you do.

Larry David: Oh, no!

Charlie Rose: You know why?

Larry David: Huh? I don't. I don't. Charlie, don't argue with me on this one, baby.

[Larry David in "Fish in the Dark": Oh, hey. Hey doc.]

And so, Larry David or Norman Drexel or whoever he is, prepares for opening night. And whether he's a jerk or not, he's figured out one thing:

Doctor in "Fish in the Dark": Whadya doin? Givin me a tip?

Larry David: Yeah.]

Jerks make for great comedy.

[Larry David in "Fish in the Dark": I thought it was customary.

Doctor: I can assure you it is not customary.]

His play starts with a man on his deathbed, we end on a similarly light note.

Charlie Rose: So on your tombstone first line is gonna be "writer"?

Larry David: Oh, god. Oh, oh. I don't know. "Writer"? Really? Is that what people put on tombstones, their occupation?

Charlie Rose: No, what they love.

Larry David: Oh, what they love. What they love? I like to watch TV. Like -

Charlie Rose: "Here lies Larry David."

Larry David: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: "He liked to watch TV." Or "Here lies Larry David."

Larry David: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: "He liked to make people laugh."

Larry David: Oh, Charlie.

Filmed at New 42ND Street© Studios

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