Remembering Garry Shandling: 1949 -2016

By Scott Kurland

It’s always heartbreaking when a comedian dies. It’s like a clown dying at someone's birthday party. Yesterday, March 24th, comedian and actor Garry Shandling died during the course of a medical emergency. Although it appears to be reported by TMZ as a massive heart attack, the cause is still undetermined. We won't know until the coroner's report comes back in a few days. 

This is a hard blow for me, especially since I just watched his “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee;” a web series unfortunately titled “It’s Great That Garry Shandling is Still Alive”. Shandling was one of those comedians who, much like Jerry Seinfeld, had a dry wit but understood the humor in everything. He based his entire career on the idea that it's funny to watch people tense up when confronted. Boy was Shandling right. Shows like "The Office", "Parks &Recreation", and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" exist on that idea.

Shandling was a pioneer in television. He’s best known for the “The Larry Sanders Show”. I use to sneak out of bed, go downstairs and watch “Larry Sanders” on HBO and I would laugh, despite the fact that didn't quite understand the jokes. What Shandling did with “The Larry Sanders Show” was something that we hadn’t really seen before. We saw into the world of late night on a fictional talk show; something that had never really been done before. Shandling was very believable and likable as Larry Sanders. Occasionally, Shandling had to be brash and a bit off putting, but he always made you feel for him. 

Shandling eventually transitioned into films like “Mixed Nuts” and “What Planet Are You From?”, but it was his cameos in the Marvel films that really stand out. Shandling’s Senator Stearns from “Iron Man 2” was like an extended version of Larry Sanders. Then, he shocked everyone in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” when you learned that he wasn’t a good guy, but a Hydra supporter….mind blowing. 

No matter what he did, Shandling was an innovator. His career paved the way for the Ricky Gervais', Tina Feys, and Larry Davids of the world. Without “The Larry Sanders Show” we wouldn’t have gotten “Curb Your Enthusiasm," “30 Rock," or even the new “Muppets” show. Shandling showed the world that there is an audience for fictional shows about fictional shows. Shandling was way ahead of the curve when it came to this genre of television.

Garry Shandling was on my list of actors I desperately wanted to meet, and sadly, that will never happen. Whether you loved him on “The Larry Sanders Show,” “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show," or his appearances on “The X-Files” and the Marvel films, you know he’ll be missed. There are very few comedians out there that truly understand how funny it is to sometimes be the guy who can’t catch a break. Shandling was a legend when it came to playing such a role, and for that I will forever miss the great Shandling. 

Garry Shandling was 66 years old, and it’s a true shame we keep losing talented actors like this. First it was Bowie, then Alan Rickman, and now one of the funniest men to help save HBO. The world needs less loss and more gain. We need more men like Garry Shandling to reinvent the sitcom genre and voice neurotically Jewish turtles in DreamWorks films like “Over The Hedge”. I will be eternally grateful for Shandling’s contribution to the entertainment industry, and I will miss him terribly when I watch old episodes of “The Larry Sanders Show” or his appearances on “The Tonight Show.” Rest well Garry, you are very much missed.
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