Garry Shandling: The Fake-Host With the Most
What a crew: Rip Torn’s producer Artie, Jeffrey Tambor’s sidekick Hank, the then-barely-known Janeane Garofalo as the booker Paula. So many up and comers — Bob Odenkirk, Jeremy Piven, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle — passed through for high-visibility appearances, while future legends like Judd Apatow honed their chops behind the scenes.
The Hollywood windbag playing an exaggerated version of himself has always been a TV staple, from Jack Benny and George Burns to Larry David and Louis C.K. Shandling brought loathsomeness to the character, yet also vulnerability, because there’s a little (or a lot) of Larry in everyone. Larry wasn’t merely a demented egomaniac — he was the kind who was so good at it, he built himself a private world where everybody was a demented egomaniac, so he never had to come in contact with any normals ever, which meant in a sense that he’d found himself a home. The cultural context of Larry Sanders, which ran through 1998, was the Nineties late-night wars of Jay Leno vs. David Letterman vs. Arsenio Hall (vs. eventually Chevy Chase and Magic Johnson and Jon Stewart … there were lots of them). There was an unbelievably sacrosanct bubble of cultural hot air around the idea of the late-night chat-show host as some kind of cultural spokesman. Shandling took care of that.
In 1996 he appeared on the MTV Movie Awards, the year it was co-hosted by Janeane Garofalo, who became a star on The Larry Sanders Show. She introduced him simply with the words from an old song: “How do you thank someone for taking you from crayons to perfume? It isn’t easy, but I’ll try.” It was a genuinely poignant moment. And then Shandling came out and punctured it by presenting the award for Best Sandwich in a Movie. He announced, “I’m a little nervous because I had sex with the turkey club when it auditioned for The Larry Sanders Show.” Garry Shandling, ladies and gentleman. Goodbye to one of the true masters.Garry Shandling died on March 24, 2016. Watch his remembrance here.