Garry Shandling

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Garry Shandling
Shandling at the Night of Comedy 9 benefit in Beverly Hills, California on April 30, 2011
Birth name Garry Emmanuel Shandling
Born (1949-11-29)November 29, 1949
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died March 24, 2016(2016-03-24) (aged 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Nationality American
Years active 1975–2016
Genres Observational comedy, satire, cringe comedy
Subject(s) Self-deprecation, human interaction, everyday life
Influences Woody Allen, Johnny Carson, George Carlin
Influenced Ricky Gervais, Judd Apatow, Jon Stewart, Louis C.K., Jerry Seinfeld

Garry Emmanuel Shandling (November 29, 1949 – March 24, 2016) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, director, writer, and producer. He is 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 Showtime. It was nominated for four Emmy Awards (including one for Shandling) and lasted until 1990. His second show titled 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 the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 1998, along with Peter Tolan, for writing the series finale. In film, he had a recurring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing in Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He also lent his voice to Verne in DreamWorks Animation's Over the Hedge (2006) and Ikki in Disney's The Jungle Book (2016), the latter of which was released shortly after his death.

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. He served as host of the Grammy Awards four times and as host of the Emmy Awards three times.

Early life[edit]

Garry Emmanuel Shandling was born on November 29, 1949,[1] in Chicago, Illinois,[2] to a Jewish family. He was one of three sons of Muriel Estelle (née Singer), a pet store proprietor, and Irving Shandling, a print shop owner.[3][4]

During his early years, Shandling's family moved to Tucson, Arizona, so that Garry's older brother Barry could receive treatment for cystic fibrosis.[2] Barry died when Garry was ten.[5] Shandling attended Palo Verde High School.


After graduating from Palo Verde High School, Shandling 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.[6]

In 1973, Shandling moved to Los Angeles. He worked at an advertising agency for a time, and then sold a script for the popular NBC sitcom Sanford and Son.[7] In addition to Sanford and Son, Shandling wrote scripts for the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter and attended a story meeting for Three's Company.[8]

Stand-up comedy[edit]

Shandling became a stand-up comedian because he was frustrated by situation comedy's "formulaic writing".[7] 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 organized 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 manufacturing holdings and 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."[9]

Shandling's 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 booked him to appear as a guest in 1981. Shandling substituted for Carson on a regular basis until 1987,[7] when he left to focus on his cable show, leaving Jay Leno as the permanent guest host and Carson's eventual successor.[10]

In 1984, Shandling performed his first stand-up special, Garry Shandling: Alone in Vegas, for Showtime,[11] followed by a second televised special in 1986, The Garry Shandling Show: 25th Anniversary Special, also for Showtime.[12] In 1991, a third special, Garry Shandling: Stand-Up, was part of the HBO Comedy Hour.[13]

TV series[edit]

It's Garry Shandling's Show[edit]

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.[14] 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.[6][14]

The show was nominated for four Emmy Awards,[6] 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 from the Television Critics Association.[15]

The Larry Sanders Show[edit]

Shandling during the 1994 Emmy Awards rehearsals

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 to 1998 on the cable network HBO. It garnered 56 Emmy Award nominations and three wins. Shandling based the series on his experiences guest hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[16]

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.[6][17] He was subsequently offered The Late Late Show but also declined in favor of doing The Larry Sanders Show.[6]

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;[6] 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.[7] The show also influenced other shows, such as Entourage, 30 Rock, and Curb Your Enthusiasm in which guest stars play themselves in episodes of the series.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]

In January 2015, 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.[21]

Other work[edit]

Shandling at the 1992 Emmy Awards

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.[6] He appeared occasionally in movies, beginning with a cameo as dental patient Mr. Vertisey in The Night We Never Met. He played supporting roles in 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 (2001). Shandling wrote and starred in director Mike Nichols' What Planet Are You From? (2000), and co-starred with Warren Beatty in Town & Country (2001).

He also appeared in a brief cameo in Zoolander (2001). Again voicing an animal, Shandling co-starred as Verne in Over the Hedge (2006).[22] 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).

In 2006, Ricky Gervais interviewed Shandling for a British documentary, citing him as a comic influence.[23] The reviews of British TV critics were mixed – one Guardian reviewer described it as "the uneasiest interview ever",[24] another as Gervais' most interesting[25] but the general consensus was that it felt "awkward",[26][27][28] due to both men's different comedic styles.[29][30]

Shandling starred as himself representing Fox Mulder alongside Téa Leoni as Dana Scully in The X-Files season 7 spoof episode "Hollywood A.D."[31]

Shandling, along with co-author David Rensin, wrote Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host: The Autobiography of Larry Sanders written in the voice of his alter ego, Larry Sanders.[32]

In January 2016, Shandling was the featured guest on two different online shows. On January 13, Shandling appeared on episode 299 of the podcast You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes,[33] which ran for over 2 hours and displayed many deeper, spiritual sides to Shandling along with much spontaneous humor.[original research?] Just a week later, on January 20, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld debuted the now-poignantly titled episode "It's Great That Garry Shandling Is Still Alive."[34]

His final appearance was voicing the porcupine Ikki in Jon Favreau's 2016 film The Jungle Book.[35]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Shandling won two British Comedy Awards,[36] twelve CableACE Awards[37] (including eight for The Larry Sanders Show and four for It's Garry Shandling's Show), a BAFTA Award[36] and was nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards for The Larry Sanders Show. He received three American Comedy Awards,[37] two Satellite Award nominations,[38] and in 2004 he was presented with the Austin Film Festival's Outstanding Television Writer Award.[39]

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1977, Shandling was involved in an auto accident in Beverly Hills that left him in critical condition for two days and hospitalized for two weeks with a crushed spleen.[2] The accident inspired him to pursue a career in comedy,[40] and he later turned the accident into part of his comedy.[5] He never married and had no children.[41] Shandling revealed little about his personal life. He shared an apartment with his fiancée, actress and onetime Playboy model Linda Doucett, from 1987 until 1994; on The Larry Sanders Show, Doucett portrayed Darlene, Hank Kingsley's doting assistant.[42] In 1994, when their relationship ended, Shandling had her dismissed from The Larry Sanders Show. Doucett filed a lawsuit against Shandling and Grey's production company, Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. The case was settled out of court in 1997 for $1 million.[43]

Shandling played basketball and boxed four times per week.[18] An avid boxing fan, he owned the Wildcard West Boxing Gym in Santa Monica, California,[7] along with director Peter Berg.[44] He was also a former amateur radio operator, at one time holding the callsign KD6OY.[45] Shandling also used KQ6KA, issued to the pseudonym Dave Waddell.[46]

Shandling was a devout Buddhist and had been practicing since his twenties. Before his death he arranged his funeral, which included his posthumous ordination as a Buddhist monk.[47][48]

On March 24, 2016, Shandling died in Los Angeles, California at age 66. The Los Angeles Police Department reported that he suddenly collapsed in his home and was rushed to a hospital, suffering from an apparent medical emergency. He later died in the hospital.[6] Shandling suffered from hyperparathyroidism.[49]

Prior to his death, Shandling reflected on lost friends, such as Robin Williams, by commenting, "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.'" This prompted Matt Roush of TV Guide to remark following Shandling's death, "Seriously, who wouldn't want to go a few more rounds with the great Garry Shandling?"[50]



Shandling at the 39th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1987
Year Title Role Notes
1993 The Night We Never Met Mr. Vertisey Uncredited cameo[51]
1994 Love Affair Kip DeMay [52][53]
1994 Mixed Nuts Stanley [54]
1998 Dr. Dolittle Male Pigeon (voice)
1998 Hurlyburly Artie [56]
2000 What Planet Are You From? Harold Anderson Also writer and producer[57]
2001 Town & Country Griffin Morris [58]
2001 Zoolander Himself Cameo[59]
2002 Run Ronnie Run! Himself Cameo[60]
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 cameo
2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier Senator Stern
2016 The Jungle Book[61] Ikki (voice) Posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
1975–1976 Sanford and Son Writer
1976 Welcome Back, Kotter Writer
1984 Garry Shandling: Alone in Vegas Himself Stand-up special
1986 The Garry Shandling Show: 25th Anniversary Special Garry Shandling Television special
1986–1987 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Himself (guest host) 7 episodes
1986–1990 It's Garry Shandling's Show Garry Shandling 72 episodes; also co-creator, executive producer and writer
1987 Saturday Night Live Himself (host) Episode: "Garry Shandling/Los Lobos"
1990 Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme Jack Television film
1990 32nd Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) Television special
1991 33rd Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) Television 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 and director
1993 35th Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) Television special
1994 36th Annual Grammy Awards Himself (host) Television 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) Television special
2002 My Adventures in Television Himself Episode: "Death Be Not Pre-Empted"
2003 55th Primetime Emmy Awards Himself (co-host) Television special
2004 56th Primetime Emmy Awards Himself (host) Television special
2006 Tom Goes to the Mayor Captain Pat Lewellen (voice) Episode: "Couple's Therapy"


  • Confessions of a Late-night Talk-show Host: The Autobiography of Larry Sanders was written in-character as Larry Sanders by Shandling with David Rensin.[62] It was released October 4, 1999 and was the topic of season five's episode "The Book".


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