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Go ahead, call her a spoiled celeb kid. No one shades Cazzie David better than Cazzie David

Comedian and actress Cazzie David.
Comedian and actress Cazzie David, 26, is out with a book of essays, “No One Asked for This.”
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

When Cazzie David was 6, she refused to go trick-or-treating. Not even the promise of Skittles or Twix could persuade her to put on her Halloween costume. It was simply too embarrassing.

This was the moment when her father, Larry David, realized she had inherited his anxiety.

“We have the same low opinion of ourselves,” he says. “We are in a contest as to who is crazier. I can’t smoke weed because of what it does to me physically, but she can. So I said, ‘There’s proof — I’m definitely crazier.’ And then I find out she can’t sing when she’s by herself, because she’s too self-conscious. So now I think she wins.”

Cazzie, now 26, does smoke pot; it calms her and it helps with nausea. When she is anxious, she often gets stomachaches, and she has emetophobia — a fear of vomiting. But warding off that vicious cycle might lead to paranoia; that’s where Xanax comes in.

Her other fears include but are not limited to: Showering with the bathroom door locked — she could slip and fall and no one would save her. Showering with the bathroom door unlocked — someone could sneak in and murder her. Her father dying. Getting surgery. Not checking her phone. Flying. Having a wedding. Spending time alone. Leaving the house. Being compared to Olive Oyl.

Like her dad, famous for skewering his own neuroses on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” David is now also trying to tackle her consternation with humor. Out next week is her first collection of essays, “No One Asked for This.” The book is a treatise on both the vagaries of being a young woman in 2020 — talking men into wearing condoms, comparing oneself to Bella Hadid on Instagram, answering a FaceTime call without makeup — and the very specific experience of being a celebrity’s privileged child.

Cazzie David and her father, Larry David,  in 2017.
Cazzie David and her father, Larry David, attend the premiere of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in 2017.
(Charles Sykes / Invision)

David’s feelings about her upbringing are as complicated as the rest of her neuroses, and she handles them the same way: She addresses her issues (from stints in mental health facilities to her breakup with comedian Pete Davidson) so honestly, agonizingly and excessively that external criticism would seem cruel — not to mention useless.

She writes that she would rather “die a violent death than be a Golden Globe Ambassador [the child of a celeb who walks the other celebs off the stage].” But when her mother suggested she take a job at Starbucks after graduating from Emerson College, David refused, telling her dad she wanted a job on “Curb.” She was made a production assistant, but she was miserable; she felt everyone on set hated her for being the boss’ daughter.

“The worst thing about being privileged is that people just genuinely hate you for it. It’s a really good burn. It totally shuts you up. Yeah, I am. I f— suck,” she says with complete sincerity. “I always apologize to my dad, like, ‘I’m so sorry. This is so embarrassing that I’m someone we would make fun of.’”

Her father, for the record, insists that “Cazzie is the one who’s mortified that she grew up in a famous family.” But he understands: “It’s a difficult thing to be in her position and still want to be taken seriously.”

There is little that David doesn’t find mortifying. Sitting outside at the Brentwood Country Mart — a few miles from where she is temporarily living with her mom in West L.A. — her eyes dart around constantly, as if someone might be listening in on the interview. When a trio of teenage boys walk by blasting a boombox, her shudder is visceral: “That’s something I would be way too embarrassed to do.”

Humiliation, in fact, nearly threw her off the idea of being a writer altogether. At age 19, she scored an internship at Vanity Fair; editor-in-chief Graydon Carter was a family friend. Her first assignment was to review the 2013 film “Lovelace,” about the “Deep Throat” star.

“After it was published, there was an article about the nepotism of me being able to publish this piece, and it totally wrecked me,” she recalls. “It made me feel so awful. But it didn’t stop me, it seems.”

Carter, however, says he “absolutely loved” the review. He later hired David as one of the writers for Air Mail, his weekly newsletter. “We saw Cazzie as a Nora [Ephron] for a new generation,” he writes in an email. “Right off the bat I thought Cazzie was going to be a star. She’s got her father’s DNA in her writing and her mother’s energy in her spirit.” (Laurie David, who divorced Larry in 2007, has produced documentaries including “An Inconvenient Truth.”)

Cazzie David.
David talks about her anxiety and being the child of a celebrity in her new book.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Kate Napolitano also invoked Ephron when she told her bosses at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that she wanted to bid on David’s book proposal. The senior editor responded to a fledgling writer who was “observant about the world around her but also neurotic.” But when she walked into a pitch meeting with David and her agent, Napolitano didn’t mince words.

“I threw down my coat and said, ‘I’d love to work with you if you’re interested in the craft of writing. But if you’re interested in putting out a book that would be part of a brand, then I don’t give a f—,’” remembers Napolitano. “It was kind of a bold move, but ... I knew that she didn’t want to ride the coattails of her father’s fame.”

It worked: David turned down multiple offers to publish with Napolitano. Together, they set out with a shared goal, says the editor: “making sure this book was discussing mental health in a way that felt unvarnished, and that’s not always pretty.”

For David, writing came more easily when she imagined herself as a character — a girl with so much self-loathing, anxiety and depression that she “can’t handle the things that other people can deal with effortlessly.” The idea of that girl was funny, she thought, and certainly more palatable than the “unsettling, icky” reality.

To be fair, the reality seeps into the book. It opens with a copy of a neuropsychological evaluation she received in 2007, when she was 12. (A move reminiscent of another iconic essayist, Joan Didion.) According to the report, she “almost always is negative about things, is easily upset; often is sad, changes moods quickly; complains about being teased, says no one understands her, says she hates herself, says she wants to kill herself, says she wishes she were dead, seems lonely, says no one likes her...” It goes on for a while longer.

David says she has since learned how to manage her anxiety, though it hasn’t lessened. She’s tried Zoloft and therapy, and she even spent time at in-patient mental health facilities.

He’s interviewed Neko Case, Jeff Tweedy and Maria Bamford about depression. With his new memoir, “The Hilarious World of Depression,” John Moe looks inward.

“I give people this anxiety test as a joke, because anxiety has become such a trend, and it deeply annoys me,” she says, tucking her hands inside the sleeves of her sweater. “I ask them if they had anxiety when Clinton or Obama was president. Have you taken a nap in the last two years? Do you like roller coasters? Do you like scary movies? There’s a difference between having stress and having an anxiety disorder, and that’s never feeling safe or comfortable or like the rug is gonna be pulled out from under you at any second.”

She pauses, taking in what she’s just said, and laughs to fill the silence. “It just got dark for a second.”

Being tremendously candid and then proceeding to freak out over how much she’s shared — that’s David’s modus operandi. But of all the personal things she reveals in “No One Asked for This,” the essay she’s unquestionably the most nervous about concerns Davidson.

Pete Davidson and Cazzie David arrive at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2017.
(Jordan Strauss / Invision)

If you google David, this is likely what you’ll read about: In 2018, after the two dated for 2½ years, the “Saturday Night Live” comedian ended their relationship and got engaged to Ariana Grande within weeks. The actual story, as David writes, was more complicated. She and Davidson were infatuated. He got a tattoo of her cartoon likeness on his arm, a tattoo of her name on his ring finger and a tattoo of her favorite emoji. But she says she struggled to convince him that she really loved him, and she was fearful of ending things, because “previously, self-harm and suicide threats had come about from trivial circumstances.” (Davidson, 26, has been transparent about his mental health struggles — he’s used hard drugs, cut himself and been diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorders.)

David did eventually build up the courage to initiate a break, only to call him back days later and say she’d made a mistake. But Davidson said he was “the happiest he had ever been,” and definitively dumped her two days later in a text message. The following day, she learned that he was with Grande. He’d uploaded images of himself to Instagram showing that he’d covered his Cazzie tattoos.

She was devastated. On the plane to her sister’s college graduation, David was held by her dad as she “shook uncontrollably in his arms for the entire flight.” She curled up in the hotel’s bathroom, crying and sucking on her weed pens. She woke up “screaming in agony,” her dad pulling her from the bed to stop her spiraling.

“CAZZIE, COME ON!” Larry David told her. “YOUR ANCESTORS SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST!”

Social media only compounded the pain. On Instagram, Grande’s fans wrote nasty messages — Davidson had upgraded from Walmart to Chanel. She struggled to stop the footage playing in her mind of Davidson and Grande “immediately falling in love, accompanied by audio of her baby voice whispering sweet nothings in his ear, dubbed over his past declarations of love and trust to me.”

“It was a really pivotal moment in my life,” she says now. “And writing about it has caused me a ton of anxiety, especially because I talk so much about hating the attention it brought me. Why would I bring more attention to myself by writing about it? But there’s nothing that’s gonna be worse than what I already experienced with that.”

Cazzie David.
David is anxious about sharing her thoughts on her breakup with Davidson, which she calls a “pivotal moment” in her life.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Davidson’s romance with Grande ended after five months. He and David are now friends again — she’s already shown him the essay — and he is thanked in the acknowledgments of her book. (“Pete. I love you ... Your bravery inspires me and your friendship means the world to me.”)

Napolitano thinks the Davidson chapter is one of the standouts in the book, allowing her to “take back some of the power” over a narrative she couldn’t control. The editor thinks David has “so many books in her.”

“Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson says he has hit rock bottom “a few times,” which has involved cutting his chest and scaring his friends with his behavior.

David does plan to continue writing essays, though she is also pursuing screenwriting. She is working on a script for HBO Max; last year, she shot a pilot for Amazon that ultimately wasn’t made. She’s also made a couple web series she stars in, and she’s not opposed to acting, as long as the character resembles her in some way.

“It’s hard for me to say something that other people might be comfortable saying, like, ‘You look so beautiful tonight,’” she says, disgusted. “I can’t disassociate and say something that’s so earnest like that.”

As for all her neuroses, Larry David continues to encourage her to embrace them. As Ephron said: “Everything is copy.”

“I don’t encourage her to get well. I don’t encourage her to like herself. I tell her: ‘Don’t change a thing,’” he says. “She’s already a better writer than me.”


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