From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Believe it: Larry David—that griping, grumbling grump capable of making Oscar the Grouch look cuddlier than a Care Bear—has a soft side. Or at least he did, until his environmentalist wife, Laurie, started buying eco-friendly toilet paper, which she concedes "is rough on the tush." Grouses Larry: "I am having a lot of trouble sitting because of that [paper]."

Of course, the TP tiff is but a minor sore spot in the 12-year marriage of Laurie, 47, a comedy manager turned anti-global-warming activist, and Larry, 58, a comedian best known for re-cycling his own life into laughs, first as a co-creator of Seinfeld and currently on his semi-autobiographical HBO show Curb Your Enthusiasm (which starts its fifth season Sept. 25). The couple, who share their Los Angeles home with their two daughters, ages 9 and 11, "have a great deal of mutual respect," says Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a close friend. "It is a very good yin and yang."

In other words, she's a tree-hugging optimist who yells at strangers in Hummers for their gas-guzzling ways; he's a no-hugging pessimist who avoids contact with strangers at all costs. But—don't tell—he's also "the best father in the world," says Laurie, who met the then-struggling stand-up comic in the mid-'80s, when she was working as a talent booker for Late Night with David Letterman. After a quick engagement, "It took him three years to marry me," says Laurie. "I think he felt if he was happy, he wouldn't be funny anymore." Finally, "I gave him a martini, we got on a plane, we went to Las Vegas and got married that same day.... And it was true love! It was before the success." Her husband's take? "She got me to get married the same way she gets people to donate money [to environmental groups]. She's charming and slightly intimidating all at once."

That combo has served her well in her current work, which she says was ignited by the mid-'90s mushrooming of SUVs. For his part, Larry has helped boost his wife's cause by driving an eco-friendly hybrid car on Curb and making his fictional spouse (played by Cheryl Hines) an environmentalist as well. The couple also are teaming up on Earth to America, a comedy special set to air on TBS Nov. 20 for which Laurie has cajoled A-listers like Tom Hanks and Cameron Diaz to appear. "She knows how to make things happen better than anybody I've ever met," says fellow activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Last April she launched stopglobalwarming.org, a virtual "march" on Washington to spread awareness of what she calls "the mother of all issues."

Thanks to his wife's zeal, "I would never drive a big car now," says Larry. Still, he wishes she would sometimes, y'know, curb her enthusiasm. "She's almost gotten me hit a couple times because she'll say something to a Hummer driver," he says. "I'll just stand behind her and make the cuckoo sign." True love.

  • Contributors:
  • Cynthia Wang.