Why the West Side (Pandemic Edition): Susie Essman

By Eileen Katz

Susie Essman is an actress, comedienne and a neighborhood treasure! You’d be hard pressed to find someone more passionate about living here than she is. Hot off season 10 of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, Susie shares how she and her husband are managing these days. She last spoke to us in 2017.

West Side Rag: How are you, Susie?

Susie Essman: “I feel very lucky that my family is well, I feel fortunate I had hot water in my shower this morning, these are awful times and I love New Yorkers – everyone who is sacrificing and doing their best through all this so I’m just trying to appreciate the good things where I find them. Whatever happens and how ever much we’re suffering, we have to remember what we have to be thankful for. I’m definitely experiencing a lot of anxiety. I’m not sleeping well. I keep thinking about my kids, 2 who are in Brooklyn and what if I can’t get to them? I have tremendous fear about that. But you feel it and then you have to move on. You burst into tears and then you move on. It’s the only way I know how to deal with this. I’m waiting for the miracle of a vaccine.”

WSR: Are you cooking a lot?

SE: “I feel fortunate again that I was lucky enough, after much diligence, and I mean checking every hour, to get a Fresh Direct time slot. They are so impossible to get these days. And I stocked up my freezer so we’re eating great! I miss going to restaurants cause it’s always been one of my favorite things to do and I fear so many places will be closed when we do come back from this and that breaks my heart too. You know, I’m a pragmatist. Not an optimist, not a pessimist, a pragmatist and I just think about how I have to do what I have to do to get through each day and protect my family. I’ve always been this way. Very very grateful for little things and I think that’s what we have to do each day through this. But anyway, I’ve been cooking a lot, which I don’t usually do. I’ve been trying to rotate to keep things interesting.”

WSR: So what’s made the power rotation?

SE: “Marinated chicken breasts, Brussels sprouts, salmon…and oh! I made something I never made before: Beef Stew! It was delicious! I’m making large batches of things so I can put them in the freezer. You know, I’m not a cook, it’s not one of the things I’m good at, but I know how to make things delicious. Just add butter. When in doubt add butter! That makes everything taste better.”

WSR: So cooking isn’t what you usually do, what else have you been doing that isn’t part of your normal schedule?

SE: “I’ve been cleaning like crazy! I can’t have my housekeeper come here. But I gotta say, I’m not enjoying that at all! You know for most of my adult life I didn’t have a housekeeper because first I was so poor and then when we had our kids, we didn’t want to send that message that someone was going to clean up after them but that they had to do it. And it wasn’t until they all left for college that I let myself indulge and get somebody once a week and let me tell you, I do not like going back! Again, small problems compared to everything else going on.”

WSR: One of the things I’m incredibly grateful for is season 10 of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. The timing of it has been such a godsend! It’s impossible to believe that this season could be funnier than the last but it ABSOLUTELY is! For me it’s the only thing I have the focus to watch and it does not disappoint!

SE: “That’s so nice of you to say! I’m hearing that from other people too…they’re binging the whole 10 seasons over again. I’m feeling that in isolation, as I am and most people are, there’s so little I can do which is why I’m so thankful that the timing of the rollout allows this to be out there now, if it helps someone laugh or give a distraction even for a little while. So many of my friends who are writers, myself included, are finding it really hard to write right now.”

WSR: My last Fangirl moment here, and I don’t want to give anything away to any readers who haven’t watch yet, but the episode about your portrait is one for the comedy hall of fame! Have you found yourself binge-watching anything in particular?

SE: “Well, first of all, my husband and I are big sports fans, so that’s out. No baseball, no golf, no Final Four so that’s gone but honestly we have found we are just blasting music all day long all through the house. Every Pandora mix you can imagine from ‘60’s rock to ‘70’s rock to Jazz, Sinatra, Ella, Brazilian, just the craziest combinations you can imagine. I have found listening to music to be my great solace. Just dancing around the house listening to music. When I have been in the mood for some TV, I’ve been watching “Unorthodox” which I love as much as “Shtisel” but we keep saying we have to re-watch season 10 of Curb because I always have to watch each season a few times because when I’m watching it, I’m not really seeing it the way other viewers do. When I watch I’ll be like: “Oh, that was the day that such and such happened!” or “Oh we had to do 6 takes of this….” So I always have to see it a few times before I can really “see” it.”

WSR: Well, you’re in for a treat!

SE: “You know I think of Larry in that chaise lounge chair (not a spoiler alert) in the last episode and it makes me laugh so hard. I love him so much. And his PSA’s are so fantastic. Did you read the Maureen Dowd interview with him in the Times?”

WSR: Yes!

SE: “That interview I love so much because that’s the Larry David I know and love so much. You know the question I get asked more than any other question from people on the streets is “What is Larry really like? Is Larry really like his character?” and Larry is NOT like his character at all. He is the sweetest, warmest, most lovely person in the world and I feel that article really shows the real Larry.”

WSR: Any other things that are helping distract you?

SE: “I’ve definitely been doing some reading for distraction. Like Agatha Christie, Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, you know like re-reading Dickens’ “Great Expectations”, those things have been giving me great comfort.”

WSR: Many people have been stockpiling paper products or cleaning products, etc. Have you found you’re stockpiling anything in particular?

SE: “I’ve got to be honest, my whole life I’ve always had a fear of running out of toilet paper so even before all of this, I’ve always had a good stock.”

WSR: During these times of intense casual stay at home-wear, can I ask what the fanciest thing is that you’ve put on?

SE: “A brassiere! You know my dear friend Danny Koch, who owns The Town Shop, which is the greatest place in the world to buy bras, where ever you live in the tri-state area, after all this, you should make a trip to the Town Shop to get properly fit and buy your bras, so I am fully stocked with bras, but I haven’t put one on in three weeks. If there’s a silver lining in this, it’s the only plus of isolation.”

WSR: So who is your celeb crush that you’d like to be quarantined with?

SE: “I’m so happy to be quarantined with my husband, I’ve got to say! He’s not a celeb, although he was an extra in episode 7 of this season! I gotta go with Clive Owen. I’ve always had a crush on Clive Owen! And that I got to do scenes with him this season was amazing!”

WSR: Wait! Who was your husband in episode 7?

SE: “He was sitting in the “ugly section” as an extra.. which is not appropriate because he’s extremely handsome. It’s so quick you won’t even notice.”

WSR: I hope Clive Owen wasn’t there cause that would’ve been awkward! Your crush and your husband at one time!

SE: “No, no…not that day, but they have met. It’s all good!”

WSR: So when this is all over, what’s the first thing you’re going to want to do when you can go out and be free?

SE: “Probably go out to a restaurant! Go to Café Luxembourg or someplace in the neighborhood and have somebody else cook for me! Decadent! And socialize and see people and hug! That’s definitely one of the first things I’m going to want to do is hug people! You know feelings come in waves and you’ve just got to let yourself feel it. It’s completely appropriate for what’s going on. Feelings are fluid and you’ve just got to let yourself feel it and try to get to the other side. I think one of the scariest things about this is the unknown…just trying to protect your family, friends, everyone…

Read other columns in this series here.

COLUMNS | 9 comments | permalink
    1. UWSHebrew says:

      I’m a fan and even thought I’ve seen her in the neighborhood a few times, I did not want to go up to her and bother her. Two years ago, on a flight from Florida to New York, I was boarding and there she was, sitting in the center of a row next to her husband. I couldn’t help myself and said to her “Excuse me, but Susie Greene should be in first class! What is going on here?”. She gave me a big grin and said loudly “You’re absolutely right! Susie Greene DOES belong in first class!”. Some people were laughing and others were just puzzled by the whole exchange.

    2. mkmuws says:

      Great, she’s awesome! I’ve never really read anything about her personally, so this is a nice treat. I’m a massive Curb fan.

    3. West side guy says:

      Fantastic! We need more “why the west side” both during and post-pandemic!

    4. Susan says:

      I love this, and of course love Suzie and Curb! Thank you for giving us a lift during these tough times. P.S. A few weeks ago, while our office was still actually working together in an office, we were laughing about Curb and took an informal poll, “Who is your favorite Curb character?” and of course I voted for Suzie, and she got the most votes in the poll. She is just the greatest.

    5. Pam says:

      Susie you are great…loved this interview and have started curb from season 1. Makes me laugh and relax. Nightmare free!

    6. Dale Susan says:

      It’s my dream to run into Susie. She has been and always will be my favorite character on Curb. I totally relate to her character and would always tell my friends that’s the part I want if I were ever to be cast in anything. She just seems like she’s be the coolest person to just hang out with. Thanks for the laughs Susie especially now!! Happy to be sharing the upper west side with you!!

    7. Jean Luke says:

      Great interview. The only thing is after Corona, Handshakes and Hugs are going to be a thing of the past. H&H are an easy way to transmit the Flu and the Virus so I don’t think people are going to want to take any chances for many years to come. Dr. Fauci also says Handshakes should be a thing of the past.

    8. Naomi says:

      Love this. Also I miss those big Pier I chairs – and Pier I in general. Stay safe everyone!

    9. Kristin says:

      What a wonderful down to earth person! Yes, watching the latest Curb season has been such a treat especially at this moment. But can we just all take a moment and talk about Susie’s wardrobe on the show. OMG that costume designer has done some spectacular work! I’m trusting that Susie doesn’t dress like that left to her own devices! Thanks for the article about her and regarding restaurants…LONG LIVE FRED’s! If you have eaten there and appreciated David’s greeting please donate whatever you can spare to their Go Fund Me. Or donate to any of the numerous worthy causes related to Covid. Love the UWS!