Shandling on 'The Tonight Show' (1981)
In 1978, after a stint writing for sitcoms like Sanford and Son and Welcome Back, Kotter, a frustrated Shandling turned to standup comedy, determined to break free of the formulas he thought were killing comedy. He focused instead on the maddening minutiae of everyday life – today, we call it "observational humor" – and developed an arsenal of acrid asides that would become his calling card.
Three years later, he was making his debut on The Tonight Show, where his grimacing gimmick was on full display as he rattled off a list of annoyances as only he could ("I ate dinner last night at a friend of mine's house and he has – what do you call those things? A Baby.") In short, he could hardly hide his contempt, though you could tell Carson loved it … soon, Shandling was serving as a guest host for Johnny. And, as you probably know, he'd use those experiences to create a rather infamous chat show of his own. JM