Friday, March 25, 2016

This Was Garry Shandling

Garry Shandling has died.  Quite a shock.  He's been one of those guys doing great work for so long that it's hard to believe he's gone.  He wasn't that old either.

I remember the first time I saw him, along with millions of others, on The Tonight Show.  He came out and said he looked like a cross between David Brenner and Jimmy Carter.  In fact, I remember quite a few of his jokes, even though I haven't heard them in decades.

For instance (I'm paraphrasing, but I think you'll get the point), he had a date with Miss Maryland, which was fine except when they drove to the restaurant she stood up through the sun roof and waved at people.  Then there's that awkward moment at the end of the date when you're wondering who'll pick up the check.  Another woman asked how long was his foreplay, and he wanted to know if that included driving to her house.  After they did it he asked if it was good for her and she said that wasn't good for anyone.  Then there was the time he told his doctor his penis was burning and the doctor said that's because someone is talking about it.

Shandling was also great on panel.  He had a really good story, for instance, about being invited to the White House by George H. W. Bush.  I still use a line from it whenever I can--he was brought into the Oval Office, which he noted, by the way, is not perfectly round.

It turned out he had quite a story before even becoming a stand-up.  In his mid-20s he sold some scripts to Sanford And Son.  Only then did he seek out an agent.  The agent asked him what he had and he mentioned the scripts which the agent figured were specs, not sold and aired.  Shandling was so new to the business he didn't know how unusual that was.

But he felt hemmed in as a sitcom writer.  Lying in the hospital after a near-fatal car accident, he decided he wanted something else, and worked his way up through the ranks as a stand-up.  He was big enough by the mid-80s to get his own program on Showtime, the wonderful It's Garry Shandlng's Show--a self-referential sitcom where he played (a version of ) himself and was aware he was in a show.

When that ended, he topped it with The Larry Sanders Show, which ran for six seasons on HBO.  Shandling had guest-hosted The Tonight Show and many thought he should have his own talk show. Instead, Sanders was a backstager about the goings-on of a fictional talk show.  Shandling was arguably playing another version of himself, but his Larry Sanders was a deep comic creation--Shandling could act.  (And he was generous, allowing other characters, especially Jeffrey Tambor's Hank Kingsley and Rip Torn's Artie, to shine.)  If he's remembered for anything, it'll be this show.

Larry Sanders ended in the late 90s, and Shandling turned to movies.  His biggest role was in a Mike Nichols' comedy from 2000, What Planet Are You From?  Shandling, who co-wrote the film, plays an alien who comes to Earth to impregnate a woman.  The film flopped, however, so Shandling's film career never took off.

He's probably best known to young people today, ironically, for action films--he's the nasty Senator Stern who's in both an Iron Man and a Captain America.  But in the world of comedy, he was known as, and will be remembered as, one of the greats.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing with us.

5:13 AM, March 25, 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No flipping.

10:11 AM, March 25, 2016  
Blogger prokopowicz said...

I think it was on Letterman where he said

"Last weekend I made love to my wife for an hour and 10 minutes ..."

Audience goes wild ...

That was the weekend we moved the clocks ahead an hour

9:59 AM, April 08, 2016  
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