- 25 Mar 16
A one-of-a-kind talent, the creator of The Larry Sanders Show is mourned by fans and friends all over the globe
The world of comedy is in shock today following the news of legendary comic Garry Shandling’s passing. A spokesman for the LAPD said they received a 911 call from Shandling’s home on Thursday, where he was said to be suffering from a “medical emergency”. He later died at an LA hospital.
The comic was known to be suffering from any illnesses, and had recently tweeted a picture of himself with fellow comedy performers Kathy Griffin and Bob Odenkirk. Having latterly found fame on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Odenkirk was among the numerous talents who first came to prominence on The Larry Sanders Show, Shandling’s groundbreaking series about a fictional talk show.
A gifted stand-up and comedy writer, Shandling first came to widespread attention as the creator of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, a postmodern sitcom that became a substantial cult hit in the US. However, it was The Larry Sanders Show which sealed his status as one of the greatest comedic talents of his generation.
Focusing on life backstage at an LA talk show – a milieu Shandling had extensive experience of, having stood in for Johnny Carson on numerous occasions, and even turned down an offer to replace David Letterman at NBC – the show brilliantly skewered the vanities and egotism of Hollywood, while also articulating the neuroses of modern life.
Frequently described as having the kind of psychological insight and character nuance more common to a drama, The Larry Sanders Show was, first and foremost, hilariously funny. It also had its fair share of cameos from musicians, including Elvis Costello (with whom Larry’s sidekick, Hank Kingsley, became enraged after the musician sold him a substandard used car), Beck (described by the show’s producer Arty as “a hillbilly from space”), Butthole Surfers, T Bone Burnett and Wu Tang Clan (of whom Hank asked the immortal question, “Hey – where’s Dirty Old Bitch?”)
Alongside Seinfeld – whose titular star was a close friend of Shandling’s – The Larry Sanders Show was frequently cited as one of the best US comedies of the ’90s, and both have joined the pantheon of all-time classic American sitcoms. In addition, the unvarnished realism and cynical edge of The Larry Sanders Show was cited by The Sopranos creator David Chase as his main reason for wanting to work at HBO, thus setting in train a revolution in television which has continued to the present day.
Needless to say, there’s been a massive reaction to his death with Father Ted co-creator Graham Linehan messaging last night: “Fuck this news. Fuck fuck fuck fuck this news.”
Reflecting on Shandling’s work, he added: “Something so magical about the switch from film to video in Larry Sanders. Sold the reality of the show so beautifully.”
He also quoted his favourite Larry Sanders exchange:
"What about the time I chipped my tooth on a bathroom urinal. What the FUCK was so funny about that?"
"It was a back tooth, Hank."
Samuel L. Jackson describes him as “a monumental talent that will be missed”; “A great American satirical artist,” is Michael Moore’s verdict, and “Goodbye Gary Shandling, thank you for your kindness and your generosity and for making me laugh so damn much,” is the word from Amy Schumer.
“One of the funniest of all, the beloved and very complicated Garry Shandling has died,” observes Bette Middle, while Conan O’Brien says: “Garry just magically appeared. He had a ton of empathy for other people. That is something in this business — in comedy — that is very rare. He really did care about other people.”
“The great Garry Shandling's work is such a touchstone for me that I was actually discussing him moments before I heard the sad news,” rues Stephen Merchant while his pal Ricky Gervais nails it with: “Surely, one of the most influential comedians of a generation.”