Garry Shandling would have been 70

Zen Diaries

Garry Shandling
per UCLA
In the 2016 article, Why Garry Shandling Was One of the Greatest Jewish Comedians Ever, Jason Diamond noted, “His persona was an anxiety-ridden, grimacing, guarded, confused man on the verge of losing control.” I think I related to that.

Though his two signature shows were initially on premium cable, I managed to see many episodes of each of them. It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, which he co-created with Alan Zweibel, ran from 1985 to 1990 on Showtime. The edited reruns started playing on FOX, which I watched regularly, starting in 1988.

Like The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show decades earlier, the series frequently broke the “fourth wall” and spoke directly to the audience There were 72 episodes, and it began with the intentionally silly theme.

No flipping

His experience as the frequent guest host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson led to his next series. “In 1992, Shandling launched another critical and commercial success by creating the mock behind-the-scenes talk show sitcom The Larry Sanders Show… It ran for 89 episodes… on HBO.”

It featured Jeffrey Tambor as sidekick Hank Kingsley, Wallace Langham as Phil, and the late Rip Torn, who died in July 2019, as Artie, “the foul-mouthed, dyspeptic talk show producer.”

I don’t think I subscribed to Home Box Office regularly, yet somehow I managed to view several episodes. The finale was titled “Flip,” a reference to Sanders saying to TV audience, “no flipping.” I watched it in a Boston hotel either the day I taped my JEOPARDY! episodes or the night before, in September 1998.

He even co-wrote with David Rensin Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host: The Autobiography of Larry Sanders in the voice of his alter-ego, published in 1999. Ken Levine wants you to meet comedian/writer Jeff Cesario– He was also a writer/producer on THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW.

Back when I used to watch those things, “Shandling hosted the Grammy Awards in 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1994. He hosted the Emmy Awards in 2000 and 2004 and co-hosted (giving the opening monologue) in 2003.

Dead at age 66

“Shandling suffered from hyperparathyroidism, a condition that can be fatal. On March 24, 2016, Shandling died at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California at age 66… The autopsy showed that he died from a pulmonary embolism… On February 4, 2019, Shandling’s estate bestowed $15.2 million to benefit medical research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.”

In The New Yorker, Naomi Fry describes Judd Apatow’s four-hour documentary for HBO, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. Janis Hirsch briefly worked on the first series, where she had a less-than-positive experience. Nevertheless, she recommended the study.

Both Naomi Fry and Jason Diamond noted “the scene in the ‘Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers’ episode of ‘Freaks and Geeks.’ Specifically, the part where Martin Starr’s Bill comes home to an empty house, fixes himself a snack and watches one of Shandling’s sets…

“It’s the connection, those few moments removed from the real world that Bill gets, that makes that scene so easy to relate to. The lonely kid doesn’t feel so alone for a few minutes.” That was a gift of Garry Shandling for many, including his peers.

Garry Shandling would have been 70 on November 29.