Garry Shandling

Comedian and actor Garry Shandling was best known as the star of HBO’s ‘The Larry Sanders Show,’ an award-winning parody of a late-night talk show.


Born in 1949 in Chicago, Illinois, Garry Shandling began his entertainment career as a comedy writer. After recovering from a serious car accident, he became a successful stand-up comedian. He starred in It's Garry Shandling's Show for four seasons, followed by six seasons of the award-winning The Larry Sanders Show. The comedian also hosted the Emmy and Grammy Awards and appeared in several feature films. He died of a heart attack on March 24, 2016 at the age of 66.

Early Years

Garry Emmanuel Shandling was born on November 29, 1949, in Chicago, Illinois, to parents Irving and Muriel. When he was young, his family moved to Tucson, Arizona, to help treat older brother Barry's cystic fibrosis, though Barry passed away at 10 years old.

Shandling enrolled at the University of Arizona to study electrical engineering, eventually switching his major to marketing. He had developed an interest in comedy writing, and while still a college student he tracked down stand-up comedian George Carlin at a Phoenix nightclub. Carlin looked over some of Shandling's material, and encouraged him to continue honing his craft. 

Writer to TV Star 

After moving to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, Garry Shandling began his career in entertainment as a comedy writer for such sitcoms as Sanford and Son and Welcome Back Kotter. Upon recovering from a 1977 automobile accident that left him in critical condition, he made the decision to forge a career in stand-up comedy. 

Shandling got his big break by landing an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1981. He went on to become a popular guest, and was rumored to be a candidate to take over as host of the late-night showcase upon Carson's retirement.   

In 1986, the comedian began work on his first TV program, the heavily autobiographical It's Garry Shandling's Show. Airing on Showtime and then FOX until 1990, the goofy program often featured the comedian breaking the fourth wall to look at the camera and converse with the audience. However, it was his top-rated, award-winning The Larry Sanders Show, which ran on HBO 1992 to 1998, for which he is best known. With his trademark jokes about his big hair, Shandling parodied the trials, tribulations and double dealing that goes on behind the scenes of a late-night talk show. Much of the material was drawn from Shandling's experiences on The Tonight Show. 

Outside of working on his program, Shandling hosted the Grammy Awards four times between 1990 and 1994. He also played supporting roles in several feature films, including Love Affair (1994) and Hurlyburly (1998).  

Shandling lived with his sometimes co-star, Linda Doucett, from 1987-1994. Let go from The Larry Sanders Show after their relationship ended, she sued Shandling for sexual harassment and wrongful termination, with the lawsuit eventually settled out of court. 

Later Career 

After the end of his celebrated show's run, Garry Shandling hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2000, 2003 and 2004. He also returned to feature film work, earning prominent roles in Town & Country (2001) and the animated Over the Hedge (2006). 

The comedian gradually drifted out of the public eye as he immersed himself in his devotion to Zen Buddhism. He surfaced for a cameo in The Dictator (2012), and small parts in the Marvel superhero movies Iron Man 2 (2010) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), but otherwise mainly served as a mentor for younger Hollywood comedians.

Shandling died of heart attack at a Los Angeles hospital on March 24, 2016 at the age of 66. He was remembered by fellow entertainers as one of the most influential comedians of his generation.

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