Garry Shandling, the renowned comedian, writer, and actor who created and starred in HBO’s critically lauded The Larry Sanders Show for six seasons, and had numerous roles in films and TV shows, like The Ben Stiller Show, The X-Files, Zoolander, Iron Man 2, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier passed away unexpectedly at the age of 66.
Shandling was reportedly in fine health, but according to a spokesperson from the LAPD, a 911 call from his home was placed earlier today with claims of the comedian suffering from a medical emergency. Shandling was taken to a Los Angeles hospital where he later passed away. It was reported a short time later that Shandling had suffered a heart attack. TMZ first reported the news and confirmed the cause of death.
The renowned comedian began his career in entertainment in 1975 after selling a script to NBC for the Redd Foxx-led sitcom Sanford and Son. Shandling wrote several episodes for the series and later transitioned to other network sitcoms, such as Welcome Back, Kotter and The Harvey Korman Show. Reportedly unfulfilled with the kind of writing he was doing for television networks, Shandling made the transition to stand-up comedy, where his unique, influential brand of observational humor gradually garnered him more and more attention. After several years of performing comedy, Shandling was asked to do a set on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1981. His routine struck a chord and led to the comedian being asked to sub in for Carson numerous times until leaving to produce his own television series, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.
The series ran for four seasons on Showtime from 1986-1990 and was recognized for its somewhat surreal nature, wherein Shandling played himself and frequently broke the fourth wall to address the audience (both at home and in the studio) directly. While the show was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, and demonstrated Shandling’s idiosyncratic outlook on life and acerbic sense of humor – especially as it pertained to the entertainment industry – it was Shandling’s next series, The Larry Sanders Show that won him his greatest acclaim.
Shandling drew from his experiences guest hosting The Tonight Show in creating what would become his seminal work. The series set a standard for cable television shows and played a significant role in establishing the reputation for quality television that HBO still enjoys to this day. Co-starring Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn, the series centered on a fictional late-night talk show and was celebrated for its biting satire that, although fictional, blurred the lines of reality by frequently welcoming celebrity guest stars who played slightly skewed versions of themselves. Perhaps most notably was David Duchovny, who Sanders (Shandling) suspected had feelings of a sexual nature for him.
The series aired on HBO from 1992-1998 and is considered to be one of the greatest modern television comedies, earning 46 awards and 137 nominations and the 38th spot on TV Guide’s Greatest TV Shows of All-Time. Now, TVLine reports that although the series is currently unavailable on any format other than DVD, a deal between the network and Shandling to make the series available on its streaming service was completed shortly before his death.
When not creating and starring in highly influential cable sitcoms, Shandling was a peerless award show host. He took on hosting duties for the Grammy Awards in ’90, ’91, ’93, and ’94, before hosting the Emmy Awards twice in 2000 and 2004. And while Shandling was in front of the camera infrequently in recent years, he was reportedly working with fellow comedians, such as Judd Apatow and Sacha Baron Cohen, using his considerable talents to help refine their work.
And so, it’s with great sadness that we learn such a celebrated comedian, writer, and actor has passed away. His work will no doubt continue to influence and entertain others, both in and out of the entertainment industry, for years to come.
Shandling was never married and did not have any children.