Garry Shandling

Garry Shandling Biography

Garry Emmanuel Shandling (November 29, 1949 -March 24, 2016), was an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and director. He was best known for his work in It's Garry Shandling's Show and The Larry Sanders Show.

Shandling began his career writing for sitcoms such as Sanford and Son and Welcome Back, Kotter. He made a successful stand-up performance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and became a frequent guest-host on the show. Shandling was for a time considered the leading contender to replace Carson (other hopefuls were Joan Rivers, David Letterman and David Brenner). In 1986 he created It's Garry Shandling's Show, for the pay cable channel Showtime. It was nominated for four Emmy Awards (including one for Shandling) and lasted until 1990. His second show, The Larry Sanders Show, which began airing on HBO in 1992, was even more successful. Shandling was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards for the show and won in 1998, along with Peter Tolan, for writing the series finale.

During his three-decade career, Shandling was nominated for 19 Primetime Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards, along with many other awards and nominations.

Early life and career

Shandling was born in Chicago, Illinois, to a Jewish family. He grew up in Tucson, Arizona, the son of Muriel, a pet store proprietor, and Irving Shandling, a print shop owner. He had an older brother, Barry, who died of cystic fibrosis when Garry was 10. Shandling attended Palo Verde High School. After graduation, he attended the University of Arizona, at first majoring in electrical engineering, but eventually completing a degree in marketing and pursuing a year of postgraduate studies in creative writing.

In 1973, Shandling moved to Los Angeles, California. He worked at an advertising agency for a time, and then sold a script for the popular NBC sitcom Sanford and Son. Shandling's script became the November 21, 1975 episode titled "Sanford and the Rising Son," in which Ah Chew (played by Pat Morita) turned junkyard owner Fred Sanford's (played by Redd Foxx) house into a Japanese restaurant. Shandling also wrote the script for the Sanford and Son episode, "The Committee Man", in which Fred Sanford represents the community of Watts on the Los Angeles Mayor's Committee. In addition to Sanford and Son, Shandling wrote scripts for the sitcoms Welcome Back, Kotter and attended a story meeting for Three's Company.

In 1977, Shandling was involved in an auto accident in Beverly Hills that left him in critical condition for two days. He later turned the accident into part of his comedy.

Stand-up comedy

In an interview, he said that he became a stand-up comedian because he was frustrated by situation comedy's formulaic writing. In 1978, Shandling performed his first stand-up routine at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. A year later Shandling was one of the few performers to cross the picket line when a group of comedians organised a boycott against the Comedy Store, protesting owner Mitzi Shore's policy of not paying comedians to perform. According to William Knoedelseder, Shandling 'was the scion of a family with...decidedly antiunion views. He had not shared the struggling comic experience. He was a successful sitcom writer trying to break into stand-up, and prior to the strike, Shore had refused to put him in the regular lineup because she didn't think he was good enough. Of course, that changed the minute he crossed the picket line.'

His persona was an anxiety-ridden, grimacing, guarded, confused man on the verge of losing control. After a couple of years on the road, a talent scout from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson caught his act and booked him to appear as a guest on March 18, 1981. Shandling substituted for Carson on a regular basis until 1987 when he left to focus on his cable show leaving Jay Leno as permanent guest host and Carson's eventual successor.

In 1984, he performed his first stand-up special, Garry Shandling: Alone in Vegas, for Showtime, followed by a second televised special in 1986, The Garry Shandling Show: 25th Anniversary Special, also for Showtime. In 1991, a third special, Garry Shandling: Stand-Up, was part of the HBO Comedy Hour.

Some of his stand-up performances can be viewed on YouTube, including his first appearance on The Tonight Show and some of his Comic Relief act.

TV series

It's Garry Shandling's Show

Shandling and co-writer Alan Zweibel went on to create the surreal comedy series It's Garry Shandling's Show in 1985. It ran for 72 episodes on the Showtime cable television network through 1990. The edited reruns played on the Fox network beginning in 1988. Shandling wrote 15 episodes of the show.

The series subverted the standard sitcom format by having its characters openly acknowledge that they were all part of a TV show. Building on a concept that harked back to The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, in which George Burns would frequently break the "fourth wall" and speak directly to the audience, Shandling's show went so far as to incorporate the audience and elements of the studio itself into the storylines, calling attention to the artifice of the show.

The show was nominated for four Emmy awards including one for Shandling. He won an American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Performance in a Series, and won four CableACE awards, two for Best Comedy Series. The show also won an award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy in the Television Critics Association Awards.

On October 20, 2009, Shout! Factory released It's Garry Shandling's Show: The Complete Series on DVD. The 16-disc set features extensive bonus features including featurettes, commentaries and outtakes. The first season was released individually on April 15, 2010.

The Larry Sanders Show

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 through 1998 on the cable network HBO. It garnered 56 Emmy Award nominations and three wins. In an interview, he stated that he based the show on his experiences guest hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

The show was a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Larry Sanders, fictional host of a talk show entitled The Larry Sanders Show. It sardonically depicted the talk-show business as a den of vipers, with egomaniacal celebrities, clueless network executives, drug addiction, broken marriages, cutthroat competition and comedic camaraderie.

In 1993, NBC offered Shandling $5 million to take over the late-night talk show Late Night when host David Letterman announced his highly publicized move to CBS, but Shandling declined. He was subsequently offered The Late Late Show but also declined in favor of doing The Larry Sanders Show which at one point spoofed NBC's efforts to find a Letterman successor, making it appear to be Tom Snyder.

Shandling wrote 38 episodes of the show, and directed three in the show's final season. Shandling was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards for the show; five for acting, seven for writing and six for being co-executive producer with Brad Grey. He won one Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for the series finale "Flip". He has also been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) in 1994 and 1995. He won two American Comedy Awards for Funniest Male Performance in a Comedy Series, eight CableACE awards and a BAFTA Award.

It is the most successful show Shandling has created. The show also influenced other shows such as Entourage, 30 Rock, Extras and Curb Your Enthusiasm in which guest stars play themselves in episodes of the series.

In 2002, TV Guide named The Larry Sanders Show as 38th Greatest Show of All Time. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked the show the 28th Best Show of the past 25 years. It was also included on Time magazine's 100 Greatest Shows of All Time.

The first season was re-released in 2007 along with a Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show which are Shandling's pick of the best 23 episodes.

On November 2, 2010, Shout! Factory released The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series on DVD. The 17-disc set features extensive bonus features including featurettes, commentaries and outtakes.

In January 2015, Garry Shandling returned with fellow cast members from The Larry Sanders Show for Entertainment Weekly"?s Reunions issue. He was reunited with co-stars Rip Torn, Jeffrey Tambor, Sarah Silverman, Penny Johnson Jerald, Wallace Langham, and Mary Lynn Rajskub.

Other awards and nominations

He won two British Comedy Awards, eleven CableACE Awards (seven for The Larry Sanders Show and four for It's Garry Shandling's Show), a BAFTA Award and was nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards for The Larry Sanders Show. He has also received three American Comedy Awards, two Satellite Award nominations, and in 2004 he was presented with the Austin Film Festival's Outstanding Television Writer Award.

Other work

Shandling appeared occasionally in movies, beginning with a cameo as dental patient Mr. Vertisey in The Night We Never Met. He played supporting roles in the 1994 films Love Affair and Mixed Nuts, Dr. Dolittle (1998) as the voice of a live-action pigeon, the David Rabe play adaptation Hurlyburly (1998), and Trust the Man. Shandling wrote and starred in director Mike Nichols' What Planet Are You From? (2000), and co-starred with Warren Beatty and others in Town & Country. He also appeared in a brief cameo in the comedy film Zoolander (2001). Again voicing an animal, Shandling co-starred as Verne the turtle in the computer animated comic strip adaptation Over the Hedge (2006). He appeared in Iron Man 2 (2010) as Senator Stern and reprised the role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). He appears uncredited as a health inspector in The Dictator (2012).

Shandling hosted the Grammy Awards from 1990 to 1995, and the Emmy Awards in 2000 and 2004. At the first Emmy hosting job, Shandling cracked up the audience by saying "I auditioned to play the Vice President on The West Wing, but they said 'No, too Jewish'", a reference to real-life Vice Presidential candidate Senator Joe Lieberman during the 2000 Presidential campaign. He appeared in Caroline in the City in 1998.

In 2006, comedian Ricky Gervais interviewed Shandling for a British documentary, citing him as a comic influence. The reviews of British TV critics were mixed - one Guardian reviewer described it as "the uneasiest interview ever", another as Gervais' most interesting but the general consensus was that it felt "awkward", a hallmark of both the artists' comedic styles.

Shandling starred as himself representing Fox Mulder alongside Ta Leoni as Dana Scully in The X-Files season 7 spoof episode "Hollywood A.D."

Shandling, along with co-author David Rensin, wrote the book Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host: The Autobiography of Larry Sanders written in the voice of his alter ego, Larry Sanders.

Personal life

Shandling was never married and divulged little about his personal life. He shared an apartment with actress fiance and onetime Playboy model Linda Doucett from 1987 until 1994; on The Larry Sanders Show, Doucett portrayed Darlene, Hank Kingsley's doting assistant.

To promote Not Just the Best of The Larry Sanders Show, he appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, where he explained that he plays a lot of basketball and has just started boxing. He has also mentioned on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson that he had a pet snake. Shandling was one of only a few people to attend Farrah Fawcett's funeral. An avid boxing fan, Shandling co-owned the "Wildcard West Boxing Gym", along with director Peter Berg. Shandling was also a former amateur radio operator, at one time holding the callsign KD6OY.

Shandling died on March 24, 2016, after he suddenly collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.



Year Title Role Notes
1990 Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme Jack (of Jack and Jill) TV movie
1993 The Night We Never Met Mr. Vertisey Uncredited
1994 Love Affair Kip DeMay
1994 Mixed Nuts Stanley
1998 Dr. Dolittle Male Pigeon (voice)
1998 Hurlyburly Artie
2000 What Planet Are You From? Harold Anderson Also producer, writer
2001 Town & Country Griffin Morris
2001 Zoolander Himself
2002 Run Ronnie Run Himself
2005 Trust the Man Dr. Beekman
2006 Over the Hedge Verne (voice)
2006 Hammy's Boomerang Adventure Verne (voice) Short film
2010 Iron Man 2 Senator Stern
2011 The Brain Storm Garry Shandling Short film
2012 The Dictator Health inspector Uncredited
2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier Senator Stern


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Garry Shandling: Alone in Vegas Himself Stand-up special
1986-1990 It's Garry Shandling's Show Garry Shandling 72 episodes; also co-creator, executive producer, writer
1987 Saturday Night Live Himself (host) Episode: "Garry Shandling/Los Lobos"
1990 32nd Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) TV special
1991 33rd Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) TV special
1991 Garry Shandling: Stand-Up Himself Stand-up special
1992 The Ben Stiller Show Garry Shandling Episode: "With Garry Shandling"
1992-1998 The Larry Sanders Show Larry Sanders 89 episodes; also co-creator, executive producer, writer, director
1993 35th Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) TV special
1994 36th Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) TV special
1996 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Garry (voice) Episode: "Sticky Notes"
1998 Caroline in the City Steve Episode: "Caroline and the Marriage Counselor: Part 2"
2000 The X-Files Himself Episode: "Hollywood A.D."
2000 52nd Primetime Emmy Awards Himself (host) TV special
2002 My Adventures in Television Himself Episode: "Death Be Not Pre-Empted"
2003 55th Primetime Emmy Awards Himself (co-host) TV special
2004 56th Primetime Emmy Awards Himself (host) TV special
2006 Tom Goes to the Mayor Captain Pat Lewellen (voice) Episode: "Couple's Therapy"

As writer

Year Title Notes
1975-1976 Sanford and Son 4 episodes
1976 Welcome Back, Kotter Episode: "Horshack vs. Carvelli"

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