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For the purposes of this column, we’re assuming Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, and Susie Essmen are the other regular members of the cast since the beginning and do not qualify. Anyone else who has appeared in more than one episode is up for grabs.
10. Jerry Seinfeld – Jerry Seinfeld/Jerry Seinfeld (5 episodes)
While no one would ever accuse Jerry Seinfeld of being a great actor, the interplay between him and David was truly joyful to watch in season 7. His cameo appearance in the season 4 finale also earns him bonus points for being a genuinely funny moment along with being a great long-awaited first appearance in the show.
9. David Schwimmer – David Schwimmer (4 episodes)
Schwimmer did a great job being a straight man to David in the role of the star to replace Ben Stiller. He brought a new dynamic to the season that nicely allowed for new conflicts to develop. The highlight was his steadily growing impatience with Larry which countered nicely with Stiller’s more obvious and instantaneous dislike.
8. Ben Stiller – Ben Stiller (4 episodes)
Ben Stiller does not have the best reputation in Hollywood, and he got to play a version of that reputation here. In some ways, he was very similar to Larry David in that he was not necessarily wrong about anything but his reaction to things only served to make things worse.
7. Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Elaine Benes (8 episodes)
Julia’s fictionalized version of herself works so well in large part because of the way she conveys such a long-term exasperation with Larry and his antics. He clearly has worn out his welcome long ago, but a part of her feels an obligation to maintain a relationship with him no matter how many times he burns the bridge. It’s such a subtle but very effective character for the show to check in with at various times over the course of the series.
6. Jason Alexander – Jason Alexander/George Costanza (5 episodes)
One of the things explored all the way back in the Curb movie in 1999 is the idea that George Costanza was based on Larry David. The way the fictionalized Jason Alexander has responded to that on this show has been brilliant. They added touches of arrogance, delusion, and a chip on his shoulder to make him a very human version of what we imagine any actor held back by this would be like. And the “Acting Without Acting” bit is a personal favorite.
5. Richard Lewis – Richard Lewis (39 episodes)
Richard Lewis really has done a nice job of satirizing himself and being one of Larry’s regular buddies. If there was a recurring issue with his character though it is that his sense of humor and personality quirks have always felt a little too close to David’s himself. It takes him down a notch! And if the other characters feel like they are there due to earning more and more screen time, Lewis mostly seems like he appears so much because he’s been friends with the real Larry David for so long.
4. Vivica A. Fox – Loretta Black (11 episodes)
Vivica A. Fox came into the show and instantly felt like a complete human being while also holding her own in the cutthroat comedic world of the show. That is an incredibly rare thing to do halfway through a show like she had to do. She also served a great function on the show in regards to bringing out something new from Larry and Cheryl.
3. Bob Einstein – Marty Funkhouser (22 episodes)
If for no other reason, Super Dave would have made the cut just for the best joke in the Seinfeld reunion season alone. Rest easy, Bob Einstein.
2. Ted Danson – Ted Danson (27 episodes)
Ted Danson really nails the ability of playing a believable and human version of what we all imagine Ted Danson to be while simultaneously turning up the volume on the most obnoxious components of his theoretical personality. This makes him an excellent foil for Larry David in many of the ways that Richard Lewis falls short. Danson is the Jerry Seinfeld to Larry’s George Costanza in this world, and it’s only a shame he does not appear more often.
1. Leon – J.B. Smoove (36 episodes)
There is nothing to say about J.B. Smoove’s work on Curb Your Enthusiasm that has not already been said a billion times and in much more coherent ways. He is simply one of the funniest people on the planet. He single-handedly reinvigorated the show. He is one of the best late-additions to any television show ever. And it is a travesty that he has not been showered in awards for his work.