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Awkward TV characters ranked before Curb Your Enthusiasm season finale

HBO's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' which features Larry David as a misanthropic version of himself, ends its 10th season on March 22.

As the 10th season of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” closes Sunday, it seems like the perfect time to celebrate TV’s comedic masters of embarrassment, unease and annoyance.

And that’s meant entirely as a compliment.

As “Curb” curmudgeon Larry David, a heightened, misanthropic version of star Larry David, finishes up a season centered on creating “a spite store” to irritate a neighboring coffee shop owner, we rank TV’s titans of tension, the comedic characters who make us laugh nervously and knowingly as we go into the fetal position.

Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), right, often embarrasses his family, including wife Claire (Julie Bowen), with what he says and does on ABC's 'Modern Family.'

10. Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), “Modern Family” (ABC: 2009-20)

The desperate need to be a cool dad results in awkward comments, odd magic tricks and dumb stunts that lead to personal embarrassment and occasional injury to this well-meaning but often unaware family man. We laugh until he hurts. (Series finale: April 8). 

9. Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow), “The Comeback” (HBO: 2005, 2014)

Former sitcom star Valerie’s unquenchable desire for stardom means there’s no bar too low to crawl under – Hello, reality TV! – in her pursuit of the dimming glow of fame. That puts her into plenty of cringe-inducing situations.

Delusions of grandeur, anyone? Ben Chang (Ken Jeong) after his takeover of Greendale Community College in the Season 3 'Community' episode, 'The First Chang Dynasty.'

8. Ben Chang (Ken Jeong), “Community” (NBC, 2009-14; Yahoo! Screen, 2015) 

Benjamin Franklin Chang, aka Senor Chang, El Tigre Chino and Kevin, is an unstable  Spanish teacher – and later, a student, after discovery of his fake credentials – who veers from delusions of grandeur to bouts of self-pity. He’s known for his unbridled ego: “I am a Spanish genius!” A role Jeong was born to play!

Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), right, leads blindfolded colleague Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) during an episode of NBC's '30 Rock.'

7. Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), “30 Rock” (NBC, 2006-13)

Fading star Jenna would do anything, no matter how embarrassing, to hold on to what remains of her fame. Along the way, the blissfully ignorant actress created more than her share of PR crises with her politically incorrect statements.

6. Dave (Dave Burd), “Dave” (FXX: 2020- )

In the series premiere of FXX’s “Dave,” the neurotic title character, portrayed by star and executive producer Dave Burd, aka rapper Lil Dicky, raises a urologist visit to a new level of wincing and is so sure of future rap stardom that he impulsively invests $10,000 in bar mitzvah money before realizing he may have been scammed.

Dave’s awkward mix of grandiose, TMI candor and self-obsessed uncertainty might make him the Typhoid Mary of unease, passing it to others as he remains happily unaware. “Dave” has impressive discomfort DNA: Executive producer Jeff Schaffer has the same title on “Curb” and is a “Seinfeld” alumnus.

Even a dog can smell the fear on Dave (Dave Burd), left, as he hopes to impress a rapper and his entourage as friend GaTa (GaTa) looks on in the series premiere of FXX's

5. Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling), “The Larry Sanders Show” (HBO, 1992-98)

Late-night talk host Sanders was the piece de resistance of showbiz insecurity. Larry’s vain obsession with everything from his star wattage to whether he looked fat might have paralyzed him emotionally, but it left viewers rolling on the floor laughing. 

Physics genius Sheldon combined intellectual arrogance and social obtuseness to insult – both intentionally and unintentionally – his inferiors, (i.e., everyone who came into his enclosed, ritual-obsessed world). He exasperated his friends, but they factored in his rudeness and still loved him.

The behavior of Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) could be maddening, but his friends on

3. George Costanza (Jason Alexander), “Seinfeld” (NBC: 1989-1998)

On a sitcom famed for graceless behavior, George was the prince of pettiness, a character whose eagerness to lie and embellish in the most trivial of matters almost always ended with deep personal embarrassment – and a bushel of belly laughs.

Needy Michael Scott was a human resource department's nightmare in HBO's

2. Michael Scott (Steve Carell), “The Office” (NBC: 2005-13)

Mid-level manager Michael takes Phil Dunphy’s emotional neediness to a higher and more offensive level, with inappropriate comments and all manner of political incorrectness as he begs for the love of Dunder-Mifflin employees. The squirm quotient might even have been higher for David Brent (Ricky Gervais), his oily predecessor on the original British edition of the series.

Larry David is a master of personal offense, often but not always unintentional as a heightened version of himself on HBO's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'

1. Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO, 2000- )

“Seinfeld” co-creator David, the inspiration for Costanza on “Seinfeld,” cuts out the middle man as an exaggerated version of himself – we’re not sure how much – in this Olympic Games of personal offense. Besides the coffee wars, Larry’s transgressions this season include misusing a disabled friend’s parking permit and hitting on a widow at her husband’s funeral. While many TV characters are unaware of their annoying behavior, David positively revels in effrontery.

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