Thursday, March 24, 2016

RIP Garry Shandling

I think like everybody, I'm in shock upon hearing of Garry Shandling's sudden death today.  He was 66.  I can't really write a long tribute because I didn't really know him.   We met on a few occasions.  I was with a group of people at a restaurant once and he joined us.  We stayed at the same hotel in Hawaii one year, and he worked out at my gym (although that was years ago). 

He was always friendly, a little shy.   I never worked with him so I can't really say how he was as a collaborator. 

But I always found him very funny and appreciated his willingness to stretch.  THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW remains one of my all-time favorite series.  Hilarious but so smart and real. 

He was taken from us way too soon. 

14 comments:

cd1515 said...

Ken-
I think Larry Sanders is the best TV show ever, would love it if you had time someday to go thru a script and break down what they did.

DrBOP said...

If you haven't seen this, you're in for a treat. If you have seen it, see if you remember the lines that cut a little close in relation to today's sad news. And that title....OY! :

http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/garry-shandling-its-great-that-garry-shandling-is-still-alive

Wonder if they will "he ain't gettin' up" ?

James said...

Funny. I was reading Alan Rafkin's autobiography and his comments about Garry Shandling just last night. Rafkin said he was the nicest, most self-centered person he ever met; and that normally you might think being self-centered would make you an asshole, but Garry married them together somehow. It made him unique.

That comment made me re-think the Larry Sanders character quite a bit. That would be a fair description.

Breadbaker said...

I was a huge fan of "It's Garry Shandling's Show". I loved the light humor and the self-reference.

Pete Grossman said...

The Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee episode, recently shot, is so unbelievably, prophetically, brilliant. Heart goes out to Jerry Seinfeld who had a close kinship with him. Such a damn bummer.

BA said...

"It's Garry Shandling's Show" was the program everyone talked about at the work, more than the later "Seinfeld". the Larry Sanders show was the best thing on HBO at the time. He was the greatest.

David Drakeford said...

Rest in Peace.

I remember stumbling across the Larry Sanders show in a late-night slot in England and thinking it was amazing. But talking about it to Americans, it seemed barely on their radar. Most under-appreciated at home comedy show ever?

Anyone know how I ask Ken a Friday question? Seems a bit gauche to do it here...

John Hammes said...

"It's Garry Shandling's Show" 1986-90, a joy to watch, hilariously inclusive (the audience was just as much a guest star as the random walk-on guest stars), an amazing example of what television could be. The show expanded on templates set earlier by George Burns, Jack Benny, Ernie Kovacs, etc. Shandling briefly - and eerily - channeled Ed Sullivan one opening, introducing The Turtles who somehow married the "Shandling's Show" theme to "Happy Together". Audience would clearly be cued to cheer or "awww..." on the occasional obvious point, allowing a character to look off to the distance as if to ask " ... where did THAT come from ... ? ". So many more absurd occurences, and even a sad one - Gilda Radner made her final television appearance here, this episode was re-run shortly after her passing.

Was very disappointed when this unique show ended, and kinda surprised that more in television did not pick up on this example. Maybe now they will. Either way, the important fact is "It's Garry Shandling's Show" still is and will always be around. Somebody will be watching. Somebody will pick up a pointer or two.


Charles H. Bryan said...

I loved both of the shows and his stand-up. I have the big box set for THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW and the extras are fantastic, including conversations with co-stars and an ex-girlfriend. That show was so well written and well cast. It's THE WIRE of comedy.

Jabroniville said...

It's really too bad. Sadly, I'm kind of the wrong age to have gotten into the Larry Sanders Show, so I missed out on it (it was a bit too cerebral for someone just in... late high school? College? Whenever it was). He hadn't done a lot of on-camera stuff since then, either, so he's kind of a comedy blank spot to me.

Johnny Walker said...

Extraordinarily sad. He was a big hero of mine. Everyone you ask who worked with him seems to share the same stories: Extremely difficult, very much like his characters, but also unbelievably talented and capable of producing astonishing work of brutal honesty. He seemed tortured by the idea that he could be a difficult person, and genuinely seemed to be constantly trying to improve himself. A complex individual if ever there was one, and one I wish I could have had the chance to meet.

It's Garry Shandling's Show was so effortlessly revolutionary at the time (it appeared effortless at least, Sam Simon indicated it was anything but, and some people apparently came away scarred, including the legendary Sam Denoff). It played with the sitcom format in a way that was so irreverent and fun, but also managed to tell good stories at the same time. It's aged less well than The Larry Sanders Show, I think partially because elements of what it did have been stolen so many times by later shows, so it appears less revolutionary now, but also because its central characters are broader (not untypical for sitcoms of the time, and likely a deliberate choice, reflecting the format).

Larry Sanders also played with the sitcom format in a way which has only been poorly mimicked since, but its razor sharp observations on life and people mean it holds up much better. The central characters are almost TOO realistic, it was painful to watch at times. People who didn't get it thought the central joke of the Larry Sanders Show was to cynically expose of celebrities, and a chance to see real celebrities make fun of themselves "in real life", but it was only ever really about the characters, their stories, and the difficult friendship they shared. The talk show format just opened the door for interesting situations. It would hugely inspire Ricky Gervais during the making of the UK Office, which was another show that revelled in showing humanity in all too painful clarity, but countless shows have since thought they could just show "behind the scenes" of a TV show and capture the same magic -- they couldn't.

Whatever you feel about both shows, they showed an amazing talent at work, and were revolutionary and hugely influential. Both were sort of like The Velvet Underground of comedy: The legendary debut album that not many people listened to, but which just about everyone who later created amazing music said they had been inspired by. It's only a shame we didn't get to see Shandling reinvent the form one last time. By rights we could have expected something else from him... 66 was just too young.

Caren Gordon said...

The pillowy lips, whiny voice, and neurotic noodge humor were a real turnoff. The gf he had seemed like a lovely person although I can't see her being with him for any reason but money. I know she sued him for sexual harassment and got $1,000,000. Good for her. He was just too creepy to watch and the self-deprecating jokes about his sexual haplessness were just just hackneyed, Woody Allen-esque, another perv. The mourning seems overblown, almost as if they're mourning for themselves.

Johnny Walker said...

Believe it or not, Caren, he was aware of his pilowy lips and whiny voice -- he hated them too. He was very self conscious about them his entire life.

Linda Doucett (who you insult as a gold digger one second, and then praise for suing for a million the next) is a lovely human being who doesn't deserve to have her life or relationships speculated on by someone who's only knowledge of them clearly comes from a cursory glance at Wikipedia.

Doucett and Shandling actually apparently remained on good terms -- or as good terms as painful exes can be. She didn't hate him, and he was actually the person she turned to for advice during the case against Brad Grey (the show's producer). Later she even tracked Shandling down while he was filming extras for the Larry Sanders DVD. From everything she's said publicly, it appears she loved him a great deal.

So if you're going to try and list Shandling's faults while his body is still warm, you should at least try harder than physical shortcomings or commenting on relationships you know nothing about.

Johnny Walker said...

For anyone who's actually interested in learning about Linda Doucett's and Garry's relationship, here's a brief interview with her about his death: http://www.intouchweekly.com/posts/garry-shandling-death-linda-doucett-95418.

They were still very much friends who spoke regularly. The only reason they broke up was because Shandling didn't want children. I wouldn't be surprised if Shandling helped her get the $1m settlement from the show (if that figure is even accurate - things tend to be inflated in the press), to be honest. He certainly didn't begrudge her for it: He invited her back in the final season.