It’s been a truly rotten year for the untimely passing of outrageous talents within the entertainment industry, and we haven’t even reached April. Added to the sad roll-call of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey and Terry Wogan, is the comedy genius that was Garry Shandling (1949 – 2016).
As someone who got into comedy far quicker than music, films and radio and chat shows, it’s also the one that hit among the hardest. Even before I knew how much he influenced the comedic landscape that followed, I simply loved The Larry Sanders Show, the comedic masterpiece he co-created, wrote and starred in.
Having first heard about it through one of the countdown lists about the best sitcoms ever, I was curious. And I was hooked straight away into the world of Larry Sanders and his chat show of famous guests. Larry with his fake sincerity and fragile ego, his sidekick Hank with his burning ambition and semi-simmering resentment and their producer Artie, who was all smiles even when his job was at its ugliest.
The difference in chaos of egos and insecurities that was different in front and behind the screen was exploited in a way I’d never seen before. Especially as celebrities were on board, happy to blur the lines between fact and fiction. And boy, was it sharp, insightful and funny.
It has been easy to see how much between that show, and his previous one (It’s Garry Shandling’s Show) changed so much of comedy that followed. As well as commentary on fame and celebrities themselves, there was his breaking of the fourth wall, lack of a laughter track, using both videotape and film to showcase the live and behind the scenes footage, the “walk and talk” through long corridors and overall post-modern tone. This means that every show from The West Wing, Modern Family, Arrested Development, Community, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, The Thick of It and The Office owes a big debt of gratitude.
As do we all. Farewell Garry Shandling. Thank you for what you left us behind.