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More Shandling


A few more Garry Shandling related links.

One might forget how great the writing on The Larry Sanders Show was. So great. So hilarious. Thanks to Tom Till for the link.

Conan O’Brien’s remembrance of Shandling was rather touching.

And Zoller Seitz:

The Larry Sanders Show — which holds the personal distinction of being the series that made me order cable for the first time — felt in some ways like an inversion of his Showtime classic, or maybe a Cubist splintering of it. Shandling played the title character, a Johnny Carson–like talk-show legend who was perpetually terrified that he wasn’t getting the best guests, that his “best friends” in showbiz didn’t even like him and only hung around him because he was a star, and that his co-workers only put up with his crap because he was paying them. On some level, all of these fears proved accurate, and on another they weren’t true at all. All the other recurring characters and guest stars on the show were just as screwed up as Larry — they just didn’t usually have his wealth and power, so they had to suffer indignities without recourse. The “backstage” scenes were shot on film, in the graceful yet spontaneous manner of a low-budget indie comedy, while the talk-show segments were represented by cutting between brighter, grainier videotape (representing what the camera sees, and what the audience at home experiences) and filmed images of his staff and crew and backstage acquaintances reacting to his performance. That these textural (and textual) distinctions immediately started to seem arbitrary was part of the show’s point, and part of its philosophical richness. Life was all one big show here, and nobody had the script.

Few lead characters in TV comedies were as pathetic and needy and sleazy and manipulative as Larry. He took his wife for granted until she finally divorced him. He hit on every halfway-attractive woman who crossed his path (and a few of them went home with him, not because they really liked him, but because he was Larry). He’d bring dates home with him from dinner and then make them watch the broadcast of that day’s show with him, solicit compliments on his excellent work, and feel genuinely hurt when he had to coax the praise out of them. Larry was a great performer, and it’s a testament to Shandling’s physical and verbal skill as a performer that you could watch Larry interact spontaneously with guests in barely scripted “segments” and think, Carson could not have done that any better. But he was a terrible boss, petty and entitled, casually sexist and racist and homophobic, though often not as crude about it as some other people in Hollywood, which allowed him to congratulate himself on being oh-so-very liberal. (Except for Albert Brooks, few filmmakers skewered this aspect of showbiz delusion with such precision.) We should have hated him, but we couldn’t because, like The Office’s David Brent and his counterpart on the American Office, Michael Scott, we saw how lonely he was, how miserable he was in his own skin, and thought: That poor bastard. I’m glad I’m not him.

But you were, though. Shandling knew it, and you knew it. And that’s what gave The Larry Sanders Show and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show their slow-motion, train-wreck fascination.

What a huge loss. At least Shandling is being properly remembered at the genius and good person that he was.

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  • Every Man Jack of Yinz
  • No flipping!

  • I was just watching some of those, and I thought Conan’s eulogy was filled with warmth and class- I was also touched.

    • Barry Freed

      Yes, it was very moving. Thanks for posting it.

  • paul1970

    Zoller has it exactly right here. Yet it was so funny for all the pathos. A sad loss.

  • The Temporary Name

    Pretty soon after Sanders he did Hurly Burly, which was not as good but certainly as bitter about Hollywood. An interesting choice.

    • Dennis Orphen

      An interesting choice

      What’s that code for? I don’t understand the codes around here.

  • Mike Furlan

    “…pathetic and needy and sleazy and manipulative…” So he is Trump or Ted Cruz? But he is ours? So tribalism rules?

    • Wasn’t running for Prez, ‘though I’d still have trusted him over those two w/ the launch codes.

  • ThresherK (KadeKo)

    First, I didn’t order cable to watch this, so even though I consider myself a comedy nerd, and a fan of cringe comedy since before The Office UK, I’m behind the curve on Shandling. I have some bingewatching to do.

    Second, didn’t know Henry Winkler was on it. How many other Arrested Development folks can we see there?

    Think The Larry Sanders Show will appeal to us Sammy Maudlin fans?

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      * Jeffrey Tambor (George Bluth & his twin on AD) was Larry’s sidekick Hank “Hey Now!” Kingsley
      * Bob Odenkirk (a minor character on AD – Tobias’ therapist) played Larry’s scummy agent Stevie Grant. It was the first time Odenkirk got recognition for his acting
      * I suspect (but am too lazy to look up) that a lot of the frequent guest stars on each show may have overlapped – David Duchovny, Liza Minelli, Martin Short, Bob “Super Dave Osborne” Einstein

      • waspuppet

        It fell right in the decade and a half I essentially didn’t watch TV, but I’ve been watching clips for the past couple of days and love it. Is it on Amazon/Netflix/Hulu/something like that?

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Not for free streaming. But the entire series is available on DVD from Amazon for $20….though it’s back-ordered.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I’ll post this the next time I do a link roundup, but apparently Shandling negotiated to get it put on HBO Go before he passed away.

          • Allow me. Saw this while cleaning out the news aggregator.

            Now, Shandling’s masterpiece is coming back to TV: HBO confirms that the comedian closed a deal before his death for the cable platform to exclusively air and stream Larry Sanders.

            The Larry Sanders Show originally aired on HBO, where it ran for six seasons from 1992 to 1998.

            “I loved Garry. We were fulfilling his wishes to see the show move to HBO,” Sony Pictures Television chairman Steve Mosko said. Until recently, the series was streaming on Crackle, and is still available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

            Damnit. I didn’t think there was anything else on Crackle once I’d watched all the crummy Godzilla movies there.

            May be a while, per the Bible.

  • eh

    Anybody who says “Ricky Gervais Meets Garry Shandling” was anything other than a put-on doesn’t like comedy.

  • Avattoir

    Do you think they had toasts at the Last Supper?

    This is from the Gospel of Mark, from the version many of us know best, the King James version, 14:12-26:

    12 And on the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?

    13 And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.

    14 And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

    15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

    16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

    17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.

    I’ll skip the part about the betrayal prediction – except for one bit: when was asked who would be the betrayer:

    It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. It was all very communal, all dipping from the same dish – a communion. And we know the Last Supper as the entire basis for Christian communion, from this next part:

    22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and break it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

    23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

    This is before we knew about germs, of course; things weren’t all that hygenic.

    24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

    25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

    That’s explicit: they were drinking wine.

    26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

    So, once they had wine, they broke into song … maybe got a bit loud or even rowdy; and it could be they were asked to leave.

    What else did they have at the Last Supper?

    The Last Supper was held during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So flat bread would have been served, that’s easy. Besides, that’s for all the “dipping”.

    It’s likely that meat was served. We know from the Jewish Torah that it’s within the tradition of the Festival of Unleavened Bread to sacrifice a spring lamb, and serve it with a fish sauce, something like a Worstershire sauce or HP. And again, Mark specifically refers, twice, to the “passover”, which the Torah is also specific about: the sacrifice and eating of spring lamb, to mark the arrival of spring.

    That’s all from the Bible, but the rest is left to archeologists to fill in. And archeologists have looked into this: they’ve said that the other food on the table would have included cholent, a slow-cooked stew made from beans cooked on low heat, olives with hyssop, a staple of all meals in those days, hyssop being an herb that gives off a taste sort of like mint, bitter herbs with pistachios, and a charoset: a kind of paste made from pounded dates and nuts.

    Anyway, we have sound bases for figuring what was served at the Last Supper, and that they drank wine, and that they sung, and that after they wandered off up into the olive groves … maybe to sleep it off.

    It MAKES SENSE that they could have made toasts at the Last Supper.

    So it’s a few days late, but the holiday’s still going, so I want to offer a toast, because it’s a reasonable extrapolation from Scripture, backed up by science, and because it’s only right.

    His faith was not necessarily our faith. He was born a Jew, born into humble circumstances, and raised in obscurity. And before he came to our notice, he emerged mysteriously out of the desert.

    That mystery deepens because, from what little we know of him, he didn’t start out to be what he became. He didn’t start out to be beloved
    and revered by the masses, to make the mark he ended up making. He grew up, again: humbly, in a small family, just he, his brother and his parents. And they were always together, his father was always present, always right there where he could see his father working.

    He was trained to do something most of us can identify with: he was trained to work with tools, to study and work with materials, to build THINGS. Not deeply human thoughts that dealt with profound human feelings feelings of being alone, simple yet grand ideas, such as caring for each other, to wear the love that’s in our hearts on our sleeves, out in the open, to be seen and experienced by our fellow humans, to use the pop phrase: to be actualized within our daily lives.

    No, his training was in how THINGS worked, and how to make THINGS, practical things we identify with in our daily lives, that we identify with civilization, with what it means to live as a person, not a lowly animal.

    At this time of the year, this time THIS YEAR, we can recognize a vital and important connection between, on the one hand, that practical training he received early on in life – in the solving of practical problems, in the making of things – and on the other hand, that for which he ended up becoming most famous – the close observation and study of human bonds, and the building of human connections, towards the actualization of compassion for each other.

    We don’t actually know what happened to change all that for him – what moment or whatever it was that turned this humble person, living in obscurity in the desert, to leave his family, to leave the desert, and head out to where the masses lived. And we don’t know what revelation came to him that inspired him to be able to do what we all know he did next. Whatever it was – whatever it was that turned him into someone with the courage to stand up, all alone, or with a few companions, and speak publicly, from the heart before the assembled masses.

    That’s PART of the fascination of course, the MYSTERY in how all that happened – the myster of what, or WHO inspired that in him:
    the courage to speak out. But I think also what makes this time of year important to our shared cultural memory of him – a compelling part of our attraction to his story, and why his memory SHOULD endure – is we can all accept that death came to him when he was too young.

    In the end, death comes to all of us. But some endure for so long, and what they said, what they stood up to say, has become so broadly repeated and well-known, that it’s come to form a part of our consciousness, of our hopes and dreams, and ideals, that, to us, it’s like he must have been singled out by – we really don’t know exactly what to call it, what name to put to it – universe, nature, destiny, zeitgeist, God – to actually be immune from death.

    So when someone like that dies, and especially SO young, even that death becomes more than a thing: it becomes a SYMBOL, a thing that represents something more solid and reliable and dependable and practical and MEANINGFUL to each of us – and an enduring permanent testimony and monument to the human spirit.

    I think it’s only right that we celebrate that: to Garry Shandling.

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