There could be no better explainer of me or this blog than that sentence.
As a humorist, amateur improver, and a pop-culture and comedy fiend, I was late to the Shandling Train. I hopped a ride only after The Larry Sanders Show and his hosting the Grammys in 1991 (I think it was then) —when he made a joke during a time when gay acceptance was on the rise. “I’m thinking about removing the two Rs from my first name.”
He arrived on the showbiz scene as an unknown on The Tonight Show
carrying a stolen bank pen, but he leaves a giant among jokesters.
News spread quickly through the ranks of comedians who had been touched by not just his talent, but his humanity, too. Empathy was one of his signature traits, a fact not lost on Conan O’Brien—who dedicated his entire monologue to remembering Shandling. He recalled a surprise encounter with him in Hawaii after Conan lost The Tonight Show; Conan said he needed to do some soul searching while on holiday with his family, but ended up spending an entire day with Shandling, exploring caves and quoting Eckart Tolle. “I always thought the most romantic day would be with my wife, but it was with Garry.” Watch:
Social media lit up after Shandling’s passing, and plenty of folks have done round-ups of reactions on Twitter. In addition to Conan O’Brien’s dedicating his monologue, Bill Maher on Real Time was unusually emotional as he described Shandling’s impact.
“I hope he was happy in life,” Maher said of Shandling. “He always seemed restless and searching for something. he was deep. He was a very generous audience, and a very generous human being. Professionally I don’t know too many other people about whom it could be said they had the most influential TV shows in two different decades.”
If the comedy business is a notoriously cutthroat grind, Garry Shandling rose above it all, as evidenced by how much he changed his fellow comedians. He arrived on the showbiz scene as an unknown on The Tonight Show carrying a stolen bank pen, but he leaves a giant among jokesters.
This past Friday, Maher said of Shandling, “He was happy when the jokes were flying.” And so were we all. ❏