Larry David's definitive statement about apologies: All that matters if if you're ACTING sincere
Says Nathan Flomm: "Apologies don't have to be sincere. It's just the act of the apology itself. It's only -- all that matters is if you're acting sincere."
In Saturday's "TV Watch preview" I was caught up by a segment of the trailer HBO put out for its film Clear History, premiering that night, starring Larry David as a marketing genius who walks away from what turns out to be "literally a billion-dollar idea" and becomes an object of national scorn.
JON HAMM CHARACTER: It doesn't matter if you apologize if it's not sincere.
WIDLY ENHAIRIFIED LARRY DAVID CHARACTER [exasperated]: Apologies don't have to be sincere.
JON HAMM CHARACTER: That is literally the only thing an apology has to be. I'm sorry it had to be like this.
WILDLY ENHAIRIFIED LARRY DAVID CHARACTER: You see? You apologized, but you didn't mean it!
In this clip the Wildly Enhairified Larry David Character merely takes the reality one step further, to the entirely reasonable destination where sincerity doesn't even come into the matter of an apology. If this sounds like pure Larry David, bear in mind that all three writers and the director were ranking collaborators of his on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. (It still sounds like Larry to me. Do you suppose the NSA has surveillance video of the Clear History writers' room?)
FIRST, LET ME CORRECT MYSELF ABOUT THE WRITING CREDITS
I identified the writers of Clear History as David Mandel, Alec Berg, and Jeff Schaffer, thinking I was dutifully transcribing the information given on the HBO website. Or perhaps I should say "the always-dreadful HBO website," which loads like a tortoise and, as it demonstrated once again, yields up information with the greatest reluctance. And since the credits don't appear until the end of the film, even when I watched most of it I didn't see that Larry David is indeed listed first among the four writers, with his longtime collaborators Mandel, Berg, and Schaffer.
NOW BACK TO THE APOLOGY, IN THE FULL VERSION
Nathan Flomm (Larry David), known for the marketing genius he displayed at Edible Arrangements, was hired by Will Haney (Jon Hamm) as marketing director for the revolutionary new electric car he has invented. But Nathan, who is also a 10-percent investor, "drew the line" when Will announced that the car was to be named the Howard -- after his precious son, who's named after The Fountainhead's Howard Roark. "Nobody's gonna buy a car named Howard," Nathan insisted. "It's like naming a restaurant Hepatitis." When Nathan suggested to the mortally aggrieved Will (remember, he named is son Howard) that he buy out his share, Will happily did.
Only to leave Nathan derided by his wife and friends, who insisted he had to go back to Will and get his job back. With this result.
WILL: The name that yesterday you had nothing but disparaging comments about.
NATHAN: I'm really sorry. I am. I'm sorry.
WILL: It sounds to me like you're sorry you fucked up, but not, you know, not for what's underneath it.
NATHAN: I apologized. That's what's important.
WILL: It doesn't matter if you apologize if it's not sincere.
NATHAN: Apologies don't have to be sincere. It's just the act of the apology itself. It's only -- all that matters is if you're acting sincere.
WILL: That is literally the only thing an apology has to be, is sincere.
NATHAN: Oh God, Will, I completely disag- . . .
WILL: Otherwise it's just words.
NATHAN: I'm acting sincere. Of course I don't believe it.
WILL: Here, at this company, we believe in sincerity. You had the opportunity to meet my son yesterday, the one thing in the world that I happen to care about more than this company. What did you do? Do you remember? You talked about his nanny's hair, and how much it might stink.
NATHAN: Nope, nope, never said the nanny's hair stunk. I never said that. I never said it stunk.
WILL: You know what you didn't say?
WILL: "Cute kid."
NATHAN: I was gonna get to that.
WILL: "What a nice son." "What a great job you did raising your son as a single parent. What a nice job. Seems like a good kid." You know what? You don't "get to that," you lead with it.
NATHAN: How could you lead with it if somebody's shampooing once a week?
WILL: Janine has your severance package at the front desk. Your things have been packed up. You can tell the delivery company to take them wherever you need them to be. I'm sorry it had to be like this.
NATHAN: Are you sorry? Are you really sorry?
WILL [after a pause]: No.
NATHAN: You see? You did the exact same thing I did. You apologized but you didn't mean it.
WILL: Janine has your things. The delivery guys need an address.
NATHAN [gets up, walks toward the office door, then turns around]: You know, I was an early investor in this company. I believe in this car. I thought we were good friends. Will, this isn't fair. It's not fair.
Okay, you could watch the movie -- it wouldn't kill you. But the genius part is still the part about apologies. Really, is there anything more preposterous than the demanded apology? It would be one thing if the offending individual actually showed, not just remorse, but genuine understanding of what in his/her statement or action is objectionable.
CONSIDER THE CASE OF IOWA LOON STEVE KING
Let's imagine -- and I realize it's quite a leap -- that Congressman Steve had an impulse to damage control that included a lick of sense or decency. (I warned you that this would be a really big leap.) He could, of course, apologize if anyone was offended by his remarks. He could even attempt an apology in which he does his best to act sincere. But if he wanted to make it right, what he would need to offer is not an apology but an education to anyone who might have taken those remarks the least bit seriously -- an education as to why what he said was wrong and why it's dangerous for people to spout such evil gibberish.
For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."
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