Garry Shandling, comedian who ose influential career spanned decades, died last Thu ursday at 66.
GARRY Shandling, who died of a heart attack last Thursday at age 66, was among a generation of comics who helped revolutionise TV comedy by casting aside the setup- punchline mechanics of the traditional network sitcom and exploring characterisation more deeply.
Like his contemporary David Letterman, Shandling had little patience for show business conventions, which he found worthy of ridicule. Unlike Letterman, he never earned the brass ring of his own network talk show, even though he was a frequent guest host on The Tonight Show and was at one time, along with Letterman and Joan Rivers, a leading contender to replace Johnny Carson, who retired in 1992. That job ultimately went to Jay Leno.
Instead, Shandling reached his greatest career pinnacle as Larry Sanders, a fake host of a fictional talk show who was caught in an awkward, passive- aggressive dance with everyone in his sphere, including his on- air sidekick Hank “Hey Now” Kingsley ( Jeffrey Tambor). The Larry Sanders Show, which aired on HBO from 1992 to 1998, pushed the boundaries by featuring real celebrities in sometimes less- than- flattering cameos ( often discussing real projects), having Shandling directly address the audience and refer not- so- subtly to his own problems, and – especially controversial at the time – doing away with a laugh track.
Such features are now commonplace in recent sitcoms such as The Office, 30 Rock, and Modern Family, but they were ground breaking at the time, with Larry Sanders winning numerous awards, including three Primetime Emmys.
Shandling died Thursday in Los Angeles after being rushed to the hospital after an unspecified medical emergency, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Shandling never married and appeared to have no close survivors.
Perhaps because he was a self- described neurotic himself, Shandling was sensitive about satirising people in the entertainment industry, first on his late- 1980s Showtime series It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and then on Larry Sanders.
“It’s an extremely delicate process because no one wants to be made fun of, and I try to be really protective of that,” Shandling explained to the Los Angeles Times in 1995, speaking of Larry Sanders. “I do not think this is a mean- spirited show in any way. There’s a level of satire in which, if one gets it, then they’re willing to play with that. This show allows an opportunity for some people to play themselves in a way that they haven’t been able to do before.”
After Larry Sanders wrapped up, Shandling became an in- demand emcee, hosting the Emmys in 2000 and 2004. But his career suffered in later years. An attempt to break out as a leading movie star in the 2000 fantasy What Planet Are You From? fizzled with critics and audiences. TV roles grew scarce.
He had endured a public falling- out with his one- time manager, Brad Grey, now the powerful chief of Paramount Pictures. Shandling claimed that he had been the target of a “smear campaign” directed by Grey and private investigator Anthony Pellicano after a series of business disagreements. Shandling testified in 2008 at Pellicano’s trial for wiretapping and conspiracy; Grey denied Shandling’s charges of a secret campaign.
Shandling was born Nov 29, 1949. When he was young, his parents, who ran small businesses, moved the family from Chicago to Arizona to seek treatment for Garry’s older brother Barry, who suffered from cystic fibrosis. Barry died at age 10.
Shandling moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s to pursue a career in comedy writing. He started out writing ad copy before eventually landing staff writing jobs on sitcoms such as Sanford And Son and Welcome Back, Kotter.
After a serious car accident in Beverly Hills when he was 27, Shandling decided to focus on building a career as a stand- up comedian. He landed gigs at the Comedy Store in LA and cultivated a stage persona that played up his real- life neuroses.
He booked a coveted spot on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1981 and became a regular guest on the show. Carson, whose favour was highly soug ght after by young comics, tapped him as a permanent guest host until 1987.
By 1986, he h had created his own sitcom for Showtime, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. The series, co- created by Alan Zweibel, ran until 1990.
More recently, Shandling joined Jerry Seinfeld on his Web series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee in an episode this season with the eerily foreboding title It’s Great That Garry Shandling Is Still Alive.
In the episode, the comedy pals tour their old stomping grounds of the Comedy Store, and talk about their career pat ths. During their drive, Shandling mentioned he had a hyper parathyroid gland what was undiagnosed because, as Shandling put it, “the symptoms mirror the exact same symptoms an older Jewish man would have. Which is, you know, lethargic,, you get puffy, you get heavy, you kind of feel like you want a divorce but you’re thinking you’re not married.”
The pair also chat about deaths, particularly those of fellow comedians Robin Williams and David Brenner, and th he legacy of their work. Shandling said material “is purely a vehiclee for you to express your spirit. And your soul, and your being” before expressing in his droll way what he’d want his end to be like.
“What I want at my funeral is an actual boxing referee to do a count. And at five, just wave it off and say, ‘ He’s not getting up,’” Shandling joked. – Los Ang geles Times/ Tribune News Service
Garry Shandling 1950- 2016