Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This is the Garry Shandling post about Garry Shandling

I watched The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling last week on HBO. Let me clarify. I caught parts of Part 2 of the documentary and went back recorded both episodes. I still haven't finished the 4 hour long tribute to Garry.

Let me also just state, I feel oddly connected to this man.

In more ways than one.

Years ago, when I was a short order cook/bartender at a local nightclub, we had Comedian's Night. Gary took the stage and as comedians say, "killed." His performance stuck with me.

Not long after that I found myself on a plane going from Newark to LAX. Garry, still in the economical stages of his career, took a seat right next to me. Right next to the toilets in the bumpy section of the plane.

We started chatting. He couldn't have been nicer. And I looked forward to talking to him for five hours, hoping to pry out some wisdom and perhaps a connection that would aid my fledgling writing career.

But it was not to be.

He soon spotted a cute blonde in her twenties a few rows up from us. And the seat next to her remained empty as the flight attendants closed the doors (this was a different time in flying, kids.)

"Hey, nice talking to you. watch this."

He sauntered over to the young lady. Introduced himself. Sat down. And immediately began the charm offensive. Later on in the flight, he got up to go to the bathroom. As he walked by I asked him how it was going?

"Oh, it's going."

And it did. After we touched down, and through a thick cloud of cigarette smoke by the baggage claim area, I saw him get in a cab with the young woman. Well played, Garry, well played.

My connection didn't end there.

In 1999, Rob Schwartz and I were writing spec scripts. We wrote everything: Frasier, Cheers, Drew Carey, Coach, etc. we wrote so many, because, kids, it takes a long time and practice to get good at anything. When we finally had some proficiency at the craft, we decided to take on the more challenging single camera comedy and wrote a spec script for the Larry Sanders Show.

It was easily our best. Less set-up/joke, set-up/joke, and more about the interplay of characters. It was about the last airing of the Larry Sanders Show and his special guest that night was Garry Shandling.

It was meta, wrapped inside meta and then smothered with more meta.

We couldn't get the script into Garry's hands but our generally worthless agent did manage to get the script to Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein from THE SIMPSONS. And based on the strength of that one script (and possibly the press from my ABC  campaign) actually hired us. That's a whole other story.

In any case, Rob and I, and millions of others, loved Garry. He was brave. He was iconic. And he brought an unprecedented level of intellect to a genre that had very little. Moreover, he was always biting the hand (Hollywood) that fed him.

Now, after watching The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, I impossibly love him even more. Because in addition to being incredibly funny, talented, famous and wealthy, I learned he was incredibly pained.

You know, like the rest of us.

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