Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of the funniest shows of all time. Larry David, our favorite social assassin, complains about everything we complain about. With no filter, he fights back against the unjust and the stupid, no matter how small and inconsequential.
But in many ways, Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen, the creators and stars of Danish sitcom Klovn, have outdone David’s brilliance. No, it might not be as funny or as neurotic as Curb Your Enthusiasm, but Hvam and Christensen are certainly the purveyors of truly dark situational comedy.
Klovn, which recently struck it big with spin-off film Klown (a fine entry point into the series), is no doubt inspired by Curb. Hvam and Christensen play characters of themselves, just like David and friends play outlandish versions of themselves. Like David, Hvam and Christensen are both comedians and are heavily involved in the production of TV series. The two shows live and die by the awkward sword and the whole idea that what goes around will eventually come around.
But what Klovn gets away with Curb wouldn’t even dare try – even on HBO. Example: Hvam, a big goof of a main character, signs up to play soccer with Christensen’s soccer team. After being instructed to stop the opposing team’s star player by doing whatever it takes, Hvam shoves him into the bushes. The player lands a used needle. Turns out, that needle gives the player HIV. The situation is funnier in context when you consider who the player is: the new boyfriend of a friend’s ex-girlfriend. A grimace from Hvam, followed by a mental shoulder shrug, and we’re cleared of that.
Even though Klovn has riled up consistent laughs from me, the show is not for everyone. Even fans of Curb will find the humor extremely dry and subtle. But the subtitles shouldn’t discourage anyone. Things can be funny in another language and the show isn’t successful with clutch one-liners, but the context of the situation, and it doesn’t matter what language the show is in to understand that.
The real prize of Klovn is the friendship between Hvam and Christensen. Hvam is the uncool and almost dorky partner to Christensen’s good looks and celebrity nature. The substantial difference between the two pays dividends for the avenues the show can travel down and its ability to make even the darkest of situations – rape, death and serious handicaps – perfectly funny.
In one episode, Hvam, who along with Christensen find themselves tempted to cheat on their girlfriends time and time again, flirts with and begins to court a black woman after Christensen tells him he needs to experience it. Under false pretenses Hvam tells the woman he’s a very big advocate for the Tibetan people. The woman, part of the Danish refugee program for runaway Tibetan monks, asks Hvam to let a monk stay with him. Hvam takes the monk kayaking in the ocean with him, Christensen and another friend and while the three argue, the monk drifts out to sea because the group forget to give him his paddle. Hvam is stuck with the option of either calling the police and having the monk sent back to Tibet after being caught or just letting him drift on. Hvam chooses the latter and when explaining to his girlfriend and the woman what happened, justified his decision by saying he’s probably in Sweden by now.
It’s situations like those that Hvam burns and crashes his way through his awkward and confrontational life. And even though the show bears so many similarities to Curb (all in honor, nothing of a ripoff variety), the show is utterly its own, bringing hilarious light to dark situations that most comedies wouldn’t want to touch at all.
A note aside from this post: For some reason, Danny McBride and Todd Phillips are going to remake the film. Oh, America.
Here’s the trailer to the VERY FUNNY film that they’ll be remaking, which is not very safe for work.