I haven’t seen West Side Story. Or at least, I can’t remember watching it. It could very easily have been on the television when I was growing up, but I usually can’t stomach musicals so I wouldn’t have paid it any attention.
Thirty years later, I’m a big fan of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and so the thought of West Side Story’s Officer Krupke really makes me laugh. In an episode of his show, Larry bumps into a Police Officer who he notices is actually named Officer Krupke. He almost doesn’t believe it, in the mindset that Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim only named the character as such so that the lyrics of Gee, Officer Krupke! provide a play on words when the song ends with ‘Officer Krupke, what are we to do? / Gee, Officer Krupke – Krup-you!’ – a thinly veiled disguise of ‘Fuck you!’. Larry’s enthusiasm for the song eventually gets him into trouble with said policeman in the episode’s final scene, when he’s mistaken for shouting the expletive out of his car window at a young girl who lives in his neighbourhood.
I’m not usually a fan of those sorts of forced conclusions in sitcoms, where two or three factors in the narrative arrive together to form a pay-off. They can feel a little hammy, especially when you can see them coming as soon as the set-up is established, but Larry David’s are nearly always spot-on. I still laugh just thinking about Larry taking a baseball bat out of his trunk, or saving Ricky Gervais with a baguette on the underground, or standing up for a chef stricken with Tourettes by joining in with him.
Hidden Gem: Gee, Officer Krupke!