Garry Shandling
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Garry Shandling

Garry Shandling
Shandling smiling
Shandling at the 39th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1987
Garry Emmanuel Shandling

(1949-11-29)November 29, 1949
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMarch 24, 2016(2016-03-24) (aged 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Arizona[1]
Years active1975-2016
Linda Doucett (1987-1994)
Comedy career
MediumStand-up, film, television
GenresObservational comedy, satire, cringe comedy
Subject(s)Self-deprecation, human interaction, everyday life
Notable works and rolesIt's Garry Shandling's Show
The Larry Sanders Show

Garry Emmanuel Shandling (November 29, 1949 - March 24, 2016) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, director, writer, and producer. 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 where he became a frequent guest-host. Shandling was for a time considered the leading contender to replace Johnny 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 the turtle in Over the Hedge. Shandling's final performance was as the voice of Ikki in the live-action remake of The Jungle Book.

During his four-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

Garry Emmanuel Shandling was born in Chicago, Illinois,[2] on November 29, 1949[3] to a Jewish family. He grew up in Tucson, Arizona, one of two sons of Irving Shandling (1919-1985), who owned Shandling Lithographic, an art and academic print shop,[4][5][6] and Muriel Estelle (née Singer) (1922-2011), proprietor of Muriel Shandling's Animal Fair, a pet store,[7][8][9][10][11][12] with paternal grandparents Jacob Shandling, Anna Dodge from Russia and maternal grandparents Charles Singer from New York, and Aida Goovitsh from London.

The Shandling family moved to Tucson so that Garry's older brother, Barry Philip (1947-1960),[13][14][15] could receive treatment for cystic fibrosis and the hot dry air.[16][2] Barry died of the disease when Garry was 10.[17] Shandling first obtained a ham radio license at age 13[16] holding the callsigns W7BKG,[18] WN7BKG,[19] and WA7BKG (in 1969),[20][21][21] belonging to Old Pueblo Radio Club, [22]The Rag Chewers Club,[23]American Radio Relay League, and sent QSL cards;[24] later holding the call sign KD6OY[25][26] and apparently let his license lapse some time in the 1990s.[19] Shandling attended Palo Verde High School, sometimes reading his humorous class essays to classes.[16]


After graduation from Palo Verde High School,[9] he attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, majoring in electrical engineering for three years. One day after leaving a laboratory class for a drink of water, he couldn't bear rejoining the class.[27][16] He eventually completed a degree in marketing and pursued a year of postgraduate studies in creative writing,[28] and contributed humorous articles to small magazines.[16]

At 19, he drove two hours to a club in Phoenix, where he showed some jokes to George Carlin, who was appearing. The next day, on a repeat round-trip, Carlin told him that he had funny stuff on every page and should keep at it.[29][16][30][31]

In 1973, Shandling moved to Los Angeles. He worked at an advertising agency for a time, took a script-writing class, wrote a speculative script with the son of a script writer, and then sold a script for the popular NBC sitcom Sanford and Son.[32] In addition to Sanford and Son, Shandling wrote scripts for the sitcoms Welcome Back, Kotter and attended a story meeting for Three's Company.[33]

In the late 1970s, Shandling was in an improv group with Paul Willson.[34][16]

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] During his hospital stay he had a life-changing near-death experience. Shandling stated, "I had a vivid near-death experience that involved a voice asking, "Do you want to continue leading Garry Shandling's life?" Without thinking, I said, "Yes." Since then, I've been stuck living in the physical world while knowing, without a doubt, that there's something much more meaningful within it all. That realization is what drives my life and work."[35] That accident inspired him to pursue a career as a comedian,[36] and he later turned the accident into part of his comedy.[17]

Stand-up comedy

Shandling became a stand-up comedian because, one day at a story meeting for Three's Company, one of the producers complained, "Well, Chrissie wouldn't say that."[37][38]

I just locked, I said, 'I don't think I can do this.' And I stopped right there and went on to perform.

-- -Shandling[39]

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 ... 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."[40]

His persona was an anxiety-ridden, grimacing, guarded, confused man on the verge of losing control.[41] 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,[32] when he left to focus on his cable show leaving Jay Leno as permanent guest host and Carson's eventual successor.[]

In 1984, Shandling performed his first stand-up special Garry Shandling: Alone in Vegas for Showtime,[42] followed by a second televised special in 1986 titled The Garry Shandling Show: 25th Anniversary Special, also for Showtime.[43] In 1991, a third special titled Garry Shandling: Stand-Up was part of the HBO Comedy Hour.[44]

Television series

It's Garry Shandling's Show

In 1985, Shandling and Alan Zweibel went on to create It's Garry Shandling's Show. Through 1990, it ran for 72 episodes on Showtime. The edited reruns played on the Fox network beginning in 1988.[45] Shandling wrote 15 episodes of the series.

The series subverted the standard sitcom format by having its characters openly acknowledge that they were all part of a television series. 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 series 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.[28][45][46]

The series was nominated for four Emmy Awards,[28] 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.[47]

The Larry Sanders Show

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 was inspired by the second episode of the fourth season of "It's Garry Shandling's Show", "Take My Wife, for Example".[16] It ran for 89 episodes through to 1998 on 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.[48]

In 1993, NBC offered Shandling $5 million to take over Late Night when David Letterman announced his highly publicized move to CBS, but Shandling declined.[28][49] He was subsequently offered The Late Late Show, but also declined in favor of continuing The Larry Sanders Show.[28]

Shandling wrote 38 episodes of the series and directed three in the series' final season. He was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards for the series;[28] five for acting, seven for writing, and six for being co-executive producer with Brad Grey.[36] 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.[32] The series also influenced other shows, such as Entourage, 30 Rock, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which guest stars portray themselves in episodes of the series.[50]

In 2002, TV Guide named The Larry Sanders Show as 38th Greatest Show of All Time. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked the series 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 were Shandling's pick of the best 23 episodes.[51]

In October 2012, 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.[52]

Other work

Shandling at the 1992 Emmy Awards

Shandling hosted the Grammy Awards in 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1994.[53] He hosted the Emmy Awards in 2000 and 2004, and co-hosted (giving the opening monologue) in 2003.[28] He appeared occasionally in films, beginning with a cameo as Mr. Vertisey in The Night We Never Met. He portrayed 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 Mike Nichols's What Planet Are You From? (2000), and co-starred with Warren Beatty and others in Town & Country (2001).

In October 1999, Shandling, along with David Rensin, published Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host: The Autobiography of Larry Sanders, written in the voice of his alter-ego Larry Sanders.[54]

He also appeared in a brief cameo in Zoolander (2001). Again voicing an animal, Shandling co-starred as Verne in Over the Hedge (2006), which went on to become one of his best known roles.[55] He appeared in Iron Man 2 (2010) as Senator Stern and reprised the role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). He appeared in an uncredited cameo as a health inspector in The Dictator (2012).

In late 2006, Ricky Gervais interviewed Shandling[56][57][58] for Ricky Gervais Meets ... , a British documentary series,[59][60] citing him as a comic influence.[61] The reviews of British TV critics were mixed - one Guardian reviewer described it as "the uneasiest interview ever,"[62][63][64][65][66][67][68][69][70][71] another as Gervais's most interesting,[72][73] but the general consensus was that it felt "awkward"[74][75][76] due to both men's different comedic styles.[77][78]

In May 2011, Shandling was the featured guest on WTF with Marc Maron.[79][80]

He starred as himself representing Fox Mulder, alongside Téa Leoni as Dana Scully in The X-Files season 7 spoof episode "Hollywood A.D."[81]

In February 2010, Shandling was staying at the same Waipio Valley hotel that Conan O'Brien checked in to after his departure from The Tonight Show and spent the entire vacation together, Shandling helping to rehabilitate O'Brien.[82][83][84][85][86]

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,[87] 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."[88][89]

Personal life

Shandling never married and had no children.[90] He revealed little about his personal life. He shared an apartment with his fiancée Linda Doucett from 1987 until 1994; on The Larry Sanders Show, Doucett portrayed Darlene, Hank Kingsley's doting assistant.[91] Shandling dated Sharon Stone[92] and reportedly dated Calista Flockhart.[93][94][95]

Shandling was a Buddhist[96][97][98][99][100] who meditated, played a lot of basketball[101][102] and boxed four times per week.[50] Introduced to boxing by David Duchovny,[103][104] Shandling owned a boxing gym, TSB 44 (Tough Strong Bold No. 44)[105][106][107][108][109] in Santa Monica, California,[32] along with Peter Berg[110] and boxing trainer David Paul, which in 2013 was renamed Wild Card West Boxing Club.[111][112]

On February 4, 2019, Shandling's estate bestowed $15.2 million to benefit medical research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. His gift will establish and endow the Garry Shandling Endocrine Surgery Research Fund, the Garry Shandling Infectious Diseases Innovation Fund and the Garry Shandling Pancreatic Diseases Fund. The remainder of the bequest will establish the Garry Shandling Medical Research Fund, which will operate under the direction of the medical school's dean. In his honor, UCLA also has named the Garry Shandling Learning Studio, a 6,400-square-foot (590 m2) multipurpose space located in Geffen Hall, the school's medical education building.[113]

Sexual harassment allegations

In 1994, when Shandling and his fiancée Linda Doucett ended their relationship, Shandling had her dismissed from The Larry Sanders Show. Doucett filed a lawsuit against Shandling and Brad Grey's production company, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. The case was settled out of court in 1997 for $1 million.[114][115]

In October 2017, television writer Janis Hirsch, who wrote for It's Garry Shandling's Show, alleged that another actor put his genitals on her shoulder in front of Shandling while in his office and did so with impunity. Of Shandling, Hirsch wrote "Garry presided over a misogynistic writers' room, where women (well, woman: it was just me) were called slits".[116][117]

Awards and nominations

Shandling won two British Comedy Awards,[118] twelve CableACE Awards[119] (including eight for The Larry Sanders Show and four for It's Garry Shandling's Show), a BAFTA Award[118] and was nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards for The Larry Sanders Show. He received three American Comedy Awards,[119] two Satellite Award nominations,[120] and in 2004, he was presented with the Austin Film Festival's Outstanding Television Writer Award.[121]


Shandling suffered from hyperparathyroidism, a condition that can be fatal.[122][123]

On March 24, 2016, Shandling died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California at age 66.[124][125][126] The Los Angeles Police Department reported that he suddenly collapsed in his home and was rushed to a hospital,[127][128] suffering from an apparent medical emergency. By the time the paramedics arrived, Shandling was unconscious. The autopsy showed that he died from a pulmonary embolism.[129]



Year Title Role Notes
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 Cameo
2002 Run Ronnie Run! Himself Cameo
2002 The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch Himself
2005 Trust the Man Dr. Beekman
2006 Over the Hedge Verne Voice
2006 Hammy's Boomerang Adventure Verne Voice, Short
2010 Iron Man 2 Senator Stern
2011 The Brain Storm Garry Shandling Short
2012 The Dictator Health Inspector Uncredited cameo
2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier Senator Stern
2016 The Jungle Book[130] Ikki Voice, Posthumous release (final film role)
2016 Dying Laughing Himself Posthumous release (final film appearance)
2018 The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling Himself Posthumous release (documentary)


Year Title Role Notes
1979 Make Me Laugh[131][132][133][134][135][27] Himself Comedy game show
1984 Garry Shandling: Alone in Vegas Himself Stand-up special
1985 Michael Nesmith in Television Parts Himself Skits in 2 episodes
1986 The Garry Shandling Show: 25th Anniversary Special Garry Shandling Parody of a The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson-type anniversary
1986-1987 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Himself (guest host) 7 episodes; June and October 1986, January and September 1987
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 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, 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"
2004 56th Primetime Emmy Awards Himself (host) Television special
2006 Tom Goes to the Mayor Captain Pat Lewellen Voice, Episode: "Couple's Therapy"
2016 Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Himself Episode: "It's Great That Garry Shandling Is Still Alive"

As writer


  • 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.[137] It was released October 4, 1999 and was the topic of season five's episode "The Book".
  • Apatow, Judd, ed. (2019). It's Garry Shandling's Book. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780525510840. OCLC 1085226166.


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