Hollywood is shocked by the sudden passing of comic, Garry Shandling at age 66. The police received a call from his home stating there was a medical emergency. He was taken to a Los Angeles hospital where later, he died. He had been in good health so this was unexpected, and his friends are reeling. The police received a call from his home. We may come to learn more as Hollywood mourns another creative genius.
What many don’t know is that Shandling got his start in West Hollywood in an Improv group headed by Second city trained Dee Marcus. The group met in the second floor dancehall of a building on Fairfax off Santa Monica Bl. Garry took improvisation with another prominent show business icon, Robin Williams. Both would come for Improv sessions on Saturdays and Sundays. Andy Goldberg, Wendy Cutler, Judy Peoli, Joey Magidow, Chris Thompson, and myself were some of the fellow improv students. Both Garry and Robin would put their time in doing the Second City techniques and then leave for the Comedy Store. Garry asked for class members to come support him. He was afraid the tough audience might throw tomatoes. Garry worked and worked until he honed a perfect set. One had to admire how hard he worked. When Chris went on to become head writer on “Bosom Buddies” and later when he was story editor, he tried to bring Garry on as an actor. Garry wanted no part of being a regular actor. He set his sights on doing stand up and being a one-man show.
He has a serious auto accident when a car ran into him when he was standing behind his trunk. Miraculously, he was not killed, but that accident spurned him on even harder to do stand-up. He worked very hard. He got better and better. He perfected his craft. And, he succeeded.
In 1986, he created his sit-com starring himself in “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” with his own brand of comedy which broke the fourth wall. He had his own brand of wit in which he was a character who had a neurotic outlook especially when it came to his romantic relationships. He would break the fourth wall and go and speak to the audience. He co-created his show with Alan Zweibel and they were nominated for four Emmys. In 1986, Shandling went on to co-create “The Larry Sanders Show,” which ran from 1992 to 1998 which won Emmys for original show.
He was born in Chicago but grew up in Tucson, Arizona where he majored in electrical engineering. Hardly a background for a stand-up comic or the writer of award winning shows. He got a degree from the University of Arizona in marketing and came to California. He sold a script to “Sanford and Son,” and others to “welcome Back Kotter.”
Shandling was a guest host for Johnny Carson for “The Tonight Show” and in 1993 he was offered 5 million to take over “The Show” and later “The Late Night Show.” He turned both down to do his ‘the Larry Sanders Show.”
He had a career in film and voice over with “Iron Man,” “Captain America,” Dolittle,” “Zoolander,” and in recent years coached and worked with Judd Apatow and Sacha Baron Cohen. He also served as a host for the Grammys and Emmys. Garry Shandling was an inventive, unique, one of a kind talent. He will be greatly missed.