Larry David is back with a new instalment of his cult comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm - and both he and his screen alter ego are as ornery as ever.
The comedian and writer has been turning his grumpiness into award-winning television ever since he co-created Seinfeld (1989 to 1998) - the exquisitely postmodern comedy "about nothing" that revolutionised the sitcom and elevated observational humour to high art.
He followed this with 1999's Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm, a one-hour mockumentary that he developed into a series the following year.
The show, which unveils its ninth season today on HBO (10am and 10pm, StarHub TV Channel 601), sees him play a famous television scribe who is perpetually annoyed at the niceties of social convention and the behaviour of others.
This, in turn, inspires him to be selfish, petty and spectacularly politically incorrect.
The character - who once declared, "I find human contact repulsive" - is billed as a fictionalised version of David himself.
But at a recent press day in Los Angeles, the 70-year-old is in such fine curmudgeonly form that it is hard to tell how fake the character he plays - and whose lines he heavily improvises - truly is.
Asked why he is reviving the show after a six-year hiatus, the star says: "I don't really miss things or people that much. But I was missing it and I was missing these idiots, so I thought, 'Yeah, what the hell?'" he says gruffly, gesturing at co-stars Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin and J.B. Smoove as well as producer Jeff Schaffer.
"And I got tired of people asking me, 'Is the show coming back?' I couldn't face that question any more - I wasn't ready to say, 'No, never' and I kept saying, 'Oh, you know, maybe, who knows?'
"So I thought, 'Yeah, I won't have to be asked that anymore,'" says David, who has two daughters aged 22 and 20 with his former wife Laurie Lennard, a 59-year-old environmental activist.
The comedian, who reportedly received US$650 million from the syndication of Seinfeld along with two Emmys (for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 1993), says he has brought the same pessimistic outlook to the creation of both shows.
With Curb Your Enthusiasm - which has been nominated for 39 Emmys, winning for direction (2003) and editing (2012) - he has begun each season thinking he did not have enough material to get through it and that that would be the last round.
Essman, who plays the wife of his character's manager, confirms this.
"After every season, Larry used to say, 'This is it. I'm never doing another one.' We were used to that."
David says: "On Seinfeld, I would write season endings to the last show because I didn't think I'd be back. So that's just my nature."
"I like to quit things too," he adds with glee. "You know, it's a very satisfying thing. Did you ever go up to a boss and say, 'I'm done, I've had it, go to hell' ? It's fun."
But Schaffer notes that David continued to come up with ideas for the show during the hiatus.
"You were always writing ideas," he says to David. "It wasn't like you stopped with your little notebook and stopped doing stuff. It was just a question of where those ideas were going to go."
The new season will thus draw on six years' worth of "uncomfortable situations" that David has found himself in.
Schaffer promises: "You're going to see it all. It's like we're sitting in the Fort Knox of awkward - it's great."
These days, though, Curb Your Enthusiasm is not quite as distinctive as when it first aired - in part because other comics and TV shows have mined that same fertile vein of misanthropic cringe comedy.
These include hit series such as the British mockumentary The Office (2001 to 2003), comedian Louis C.K.'s semi-autobiographical Louie (2010 to present), the dysfunctional family drama Arrested Development (2003 to present) and the British series The Trip (2010 to present), where comics Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon improvise their lines to create fictionalised versions of themselves too.
Asked if he is aware that other shows have taken a few leaves from his book, David smiles.
"I'm able to recognise when someone is doing a similar thing. I can spot that very quickly."
He is a little flattered. "Well, what do they say about imitation?"
But he understands that this is the nature of the game. "That's what television essentially is - copying."
David is also a copycat, of course: he plagiarises himself.
"I don't know if you're aware of this or not, but TV Larry is just about a quarter of an inch away from real Larry," he says.
"Real Larry plays golf, so TV Larry plays golf. See how that worked?"
But there is a difference between the two, says Schaffer.
"Real Larry comes in the office and says, 'This thing happened to me and I should have said this.'
"And then we go, 'Well, TV Larry's going to say that.'"
•Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 also airs on HBO on StarHub Go and HBO On Demand on StarHub TV Channel 602.