Kanye West is having a moment. His new album, Yeezus, is being showered with critical acclaim; his new clothing line sold out almost instantly; he's a new father; and even his occasional bursts of public self-aggrandizement are being met with awe. On Monday, we were reminded that not everything Kanye touches turns to gold.
In 2008, West teamed up with record producer Rick Rubin and Curb Your Enthusiasm executive producer Larry Charles to create a pilot for HBO — a partially improvised comedy series sort of like, well, Curb Your Enthusiasm. "What Kanye West said to me the first time, he said, 'I'm the black Larry David,'" Charles told ComingSoon.net in September 2008. "That's the first thing he said to me. So it's like a Kanye and Curb show, it's kind of improvised about the situations and stuff."
Alas, it was not meant to be. Charles speculated to ComingSoon.net that the pilot "was too hardcore for HBO," and that "HBO doesn't have a good track record when it comes to black shows," anyway. The show was "really good," test audiences liked it, and Kanye is "so much funnier than people realize," Charles added, but HBO's new management didn't seem too into pursuing the project. They weren't.
So the never-aired "untitled Kanye HBO project" slipped into pop culture obscurity. In 2010, actress Alison Quinn uploaded a clip from pilot to YouTube — she's the woman in the video above. And then? "Somehow, no one noticed," says Tanya Ghahremani at Complex. "On the Internet. For three whole years. Not even Reddit noticed! That's a huge deal."
No kidding, says Sam Biddle at Gawker. "Three full years and four Kanye albums have passed, and we haven't made fun of him for this." That needs to be rectified, immediately. This video is probably the worst thing Kanye has ever created, ever, but imagine "having to think of a way to explain how bad it is, to Kanye West," Biddle muses: "We dig the idea of a Black Larry David, but it's just too hardcore."
That's a little harsh, says Kayla Reed at A.V. Club. "The concept itself is funny — a kid from the Make A Wish Foundation finally gets to meet Kanye, who he thinks is 'alright,'" and Quinn — who, after all, uploaded the clip as part of her online reel — "carries her own comedic weight." Her line about how, in her native Ohio, they pronounce his name "Kenny" is pretty good. Kanye just sort of comes off as a jerk, though.
Being a jerk worked for Larry David, of course. But "West doesn't do much aside from play up his celebrity status and his reputation for arrogance," says Aisha Harris at Slate. Does he rise above that in other parts of the pilot? We may never know. "But it's still fun to watch and wonder what could have been."
The other possibility is that this mysterious discovery of a clip from Kanye's canned show is part of a campaign to make HBO reconsider its decision, or for some other broadcaster to pick it up. Hey, it worked for Arrested Development.