In Larry David’s commercial promoting FTX Cryptocurrency that aired during the Superbowl, Larry David played the schlemiel character and script, which, to be sure, is his hallmark (whether in Curb Your Enthusiasm or in his writing for Seinfeld). In this commercial, David plays schlemiel characters throughout history who – in the span of one minute – all comically reject the introduction of inventions that changed civilization, such as the wheel, the fork, the toilet, the Declaration of Independence, the light bulb, the flight to the moon, etc. The punch line is at the end of the commercial where he rejects FTX’s crypto-app as a “safe way to get into crypto.” To which he says, “Naaaaah, I’m never wrong about this stuff, never.” The commercial ends with the words, “Don’t be like Larry.”
The irony here is that we should have listened to the schlemiel’s advice on this one. For once, the schlemiel was right and we were wrong. We were duped. FTX was a scam that was bigger than anything Bernie Madoff had done and, as we speak, it is piling up.
Larry David, along with many other celebrities (such as Tom Brady, the star quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, basketball players Shaquille O’Neal and Stephen Curry) has been sued in a class action suit for promoting FTX.
To be sure, the irony of this commercial reminds me of one of the greatest schlemiel stories of all time, I.B. Singer’s “Gimpel the Fool.” In the story, everyone comes to dupe Gimpel, even the woman he marries who claims that the children born out of wedlock is really his. He trusts her because he loves her. In the end of the story, when she gets sick and on her death bed she confesses to him that she duped him:
“Before she died she called me to her bed and said, ‘Forgive me, Gimpel.’
I said, ‘What is there to forgive? You have been a good and faithful wife.’“Woe, Gimpel!” she said. “It was ugly how I deceived you all these years. I want to go clean to my Maker, and so I have to tell you that the children are not yours.”
If I had been clouted on the head with a piece of wood it couldn’t have bewildered me more.
“Whose are they? I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “There was a lot…but they are not your.” And as she spoke she tossed her head to side, her eyes turned glassy, and it was all up with Elka. On her whitened lips there remained a smile.
I imagined that, dead as she was, she was saying, “I deceived Gimpel. That was the meaning of my brief life.”
It is not Gimpel who is at fault, it is Elka, it is all of the people in the city of Frampol who, like her, deceived him. The irony of this ad that Larry David did is that the schlemiel character is used to sell us on the idea that FTX crytpocurrency is like all of the inventions the schlemiel rejected, inventions that have, as we all know, made life better. It’s better that we don’t listen to the schlemiel and invest in FTX.
Now Larry David is being sued for duping us. Maybe we should have listened to the schlemiel. I.B. Singer’s point is that we can learn more about being good and moral from Gimpel than we can from the rest of the town and his wife who deceives him. We need to give the schlemiel back its good name and not use him (or her) to dupe others. In a way, it’s a an object lesson on the schlemiel and about how our society has gone off the rails.