Kathy Griffin Recalls the Night She Went on a Date With Garry Shandling

Kathy Griffin and Garry Shandling attend HBO's 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards-Getty-H 2016
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The late power agent Sue Mengers tried to fix up the two comedians, but the meeting took an unexpected turn.

Sue Mengers, the living legend, power agent, called me — I think it was 2010 — and she said, "You are going to marry Garry Shandling." I loved Sue, and I've loved Garry since I've known him, and I said, "You know, Sue, thank you so much for a future lover, boyfriend, whatever, but I have known Garry for a long time. We're like brother and sister." But she said, "I've been thinking about it and you're perfect for each other. I've invited him to dinner for your first date." I go, "What? Did you tell Garry you're fixing us up?" And she said no. And I go, "Oh my God, OK, well the good news is that I am happy to spend any time with Garry."

I went to that dinner, and I brought my friend Megan Mullally. I would always try to be over-the-top funny to make Sue amused, and yet Garry's going to be there so he gets to be the funniest guy in the room because he is. Finally Garry walked in, and I remember thinking like, "Oh gosh, I have to somehow message to him this isn't a date for me. Don't worry, I'm not stalking you." He wedged himself right next to me on the sofa, and I was like, "OK, he gets it. That's cool." And I was in the middle of busting this [other] guy's balls because, as you know, that's my thing. I pick a handsome, powerful man and just really at random bust his balls. [That guy was Shandling's ex-manager Brad Grey, whom he had sued in a $100 million conflict-of-interest suit in 1998.] Then Garry starts, and as long as I've known Garry, there are times when he feels like being really, really on, and there are times when he doesn't. That night, Garry was maybe the funniest I've ever seen him. He reaches next to me and gently holds my hands. This is the older Garry; this isn't swinging '70s Garry, right? I was like, "OK, something's up."

The next time I saw Garry, it was at an HBO Emmy party. And he said, "You don't know how much that night meant to me because that was the first time I'd seen Brad Grey since the lawsuit." And I went, "Oh, shit!" Ever since Garry told me that, I read up on the lawsuit and then every time I would see Garry, he would say, "You know, running into Brad Grey was obviously something that I had put a lot of thought into." And I said, "Well, you surely must have run into him before that dinner." He said, "No, that's why I grabbed your hand. It was just touching to me."

So when I think about Garry, I think about him as a friend and a comedian and a mentor and a mensch.