3:59pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
Garry Shandling: An Appreciation in Clips
The passing of the late Garry Shandling, who died on Thursday at the age of 66, has left me wandering through YouTube looking for clips that capture how funny, but also how profoundly influential Shandling has been in the comic direction of the past 30 years.
Shandling made his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1981 and considered Johnny Carson a mentor, but he was a favorite guest to anybody who ever sat behind a late-night desk. This clip from Late Night is a reminder of why I always associated Shandling's wry, often ironic, often needy and neurotic style with Letterman:
If you watched premium cable in the '80s and '90s, it seemed like Shandling was constantly doing stand-up, whether he was appearing on Comic Relief or in the endless re-airings of the 1984 Showtime special Garry Shandling: Alone in Las Vegas, memorably odd for its 15-minute journey to Vegas, non-stop Shandling patter before he began his actual stand-up, somewhere in the middle of this clip:
Shandling stayed with Showtime for the 1986 launch of It's Garry Shandling's Show, a way-ahead-of-its-time series, featured a writing staff including future The Simpsons standouts Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Matt Pross, Tom Gammill and Sam Simon. This is just a taste, because this show is woefully poorly represented online:
It was HBO's Larry Sanders Show, though, that took its place as one of Hollywood's classic satires of Hollywood, with a cast of scene-stealing supporting players that's virtually unrivaled and a writing staff that would go on to create and populate many or most of the key comedies of the past 25 years.
Here's a clip of Alec Baldwin from the show, a reminder of how funny Shandling was on the show, but also his consistent willingness to let the spectacular ensemble get the last laugh:
And here's a Larry Sanders scene showcasing the crackling chemistry between Larry and David Duchovny:
And then there's this. If "Hail Hydra" can somehow introduce a younger generation to Shandling, I guess we can take it:
Shandling's appearance on Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee included everything from the personal (Shandling shared all of recent ailments, in detail), to the deep (the two chat about the Dalai Lama and Einstein) to both of their long-running careers in comedy.
Perhaps the most poignant clip I can provide in tribute is one in which you don't hear him at all. It is, of course, Bill Haverchuck's evening at home alone from the "Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers" episode of Freaks & Geeks, an episode co-written and directed by Larry Sanders veteran Judd Apatow. Accompanied by The Who's "I'm One" and a solitary dinner, Bill roars in appreciation at Shandling's stand-up in a moment of necessary kinship and recognition. It's a moment of blissful mirth that Shandling gave so many viewers, freaks and geeks alike: