March 24, 2016 just got a lot less humorous, as comedian Garry Shandling, the man behind two of the greatest television comedies in history, has passed away. The Larry Sanders Show star was 66 years old.
Garry Shandling’s death comes as quite a shock, as the writer and actor apparently hadn’t had any previously disclosed illnesses and was reportedly feeling fine and talking to people this morning, according to TMZ. THR reported that the LAPD confirmed the actor's death, and that the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a "medical emergency" call at his home around 10:40 a.m. He was then taken over to Santa Monica's Providence Saint John's Health Center, but a cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
Born November 29, 1949, Garry Shandling got himself attached to top-notch television from the very start of his career, writing scripts for Sanford and Son and Welcome Back, Kotter. But he wasn’t very happy with the state of sitcoms in the 1970s, which inspired Shandling to hit the stage as a stand-up comedian. With his trademark anxiousness and neuroses, Shandling soon became one of the most popular comedians in the 1980s, taping several televised specials, and this led to his first TV triumph.
Co-created by Shandling and Alan Zweibel, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was like nothing else on television when it hit Showtime in 1986. From it’s self-referencing theme song to the frequent fourth wall-breaking moments when Shandling would talk to the audience, the comedy broke all the sitcom rules, and its post-modern approach has inspired many an acclaimed series after it. It ran for four years and 72 episodes, never hitting any low points in that time, and pushed forward the careers of future Simpsons writers Sam Simon, Al Jean and Mike Reiss.
From one award-winning series to another Shandling went, next co-creating the late night talk show-centered The Larry Sanders Show with Dennis Klein. Arguably the better of the two, it was definitely the more high profile series, earning dozens of awards and many more nominations, and bringing in waves of celebrities and comedians during its six-season run on HBO. Larry Sanders gave the world Jeffrey Tambor’s Hank “Hey Now” Kingsley and Rip Torn’s Artie, and it brought Bob Odenkirk, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Jeremy Piven to the spotlight. But Shandling’s Sanders was the unwavering anchor behind all of the madness, turning the show into something of a character study on pop culture and the world of celebrities. As well, the wave of later comedies giving “behind the scenes” looks at shows-within-shows all have Larry Sanders to thank for being something to aspire to.
This scene should tug all the right heartstrings.
Garry Shandling could have been a legitimate talk show host, too, as he was offered Late Night after David Letterman left, but he turned it down. (He did guest host for The Tonight Show as well.) But he remained a fixture in entertainment over the next two decades, if not quite as prominently. He had quite the memorable appearance in the X-Files episode "Hollywood A.D." and somewhat inexplicably joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Iron Man 2 as Senator Stern, a role he reprised in Captain America: Winter Soldier.
We here at Cinema Blend send our thoughts and condolences to the friends and family of Garry Shandling in their time of mourning. You may now flip, you comedy genius, you.