Skip to main content

Garry Shandling’s death marks the passing of a true comedy trailblazer

Comedian and actor Garry Shandling has died today, as first reported by TMZ, passing on at a local Los Angeles hospital due to a massive heart attack. The loss of the pioneering performer is a monumental moment in the world of comedy, even if many younger viewers don’t know it.

While Shandling was resigned to fill short roles as a crotchety politician in his later years in movies such as Iron Man 2, as well as in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, most fans will likely remember him best for his brilliant ’90s HBO series, The Larry Sanders Show.

Pulling a relatively short run of just six seasons from 1992 to 1998, the hilarious insider series about a diva talk show host represents a watershed moment in comedy history, setting the blueprint for multiple series to follow, including everything from Curb Your Enthusiasm to 30 Rock, and dozens of other meta-style comedies in between.


Shandling entered the comedy scene in earnest in the late ’70s, reportedly after he experienced a near-death experience in the form of a car accident at the age of 27 (via The Hollywood Reporter), which prompted the then-writer to try his hand as a full-time performer. He made a name for himself on the circuit, performing at LA hotspots like the Comedy Store. Over the years he worked his way up the ladder, eventually becoming a stand-in for Johnny Carson, as well as the star of his own meta sitcom on Showtime, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.

But it was Shandling’s knockout performance as the flawed host of a fake late-night talk show that propelled him into the halls of comedy legends. The hilarious ensemble for the show included brilliant performers like Rip Torn as Sanders’ producer/handler, Arthur; Jeffrey Tambor as his Ed McMahon-esque sidekick, Hank “Hey Now” Kingsley; as well as a litany of other performers from Janeane Garofalo to Jeremy Piven. In its six-year run, the show broke new ground on a regular basis.


Along with its regular players, the series was famous for hosting a revolving door of A-list celebrity guest stars appearing on the “show within the show,” including big actors of the age like Sharon Stone, Roseanne Barr, and even David Letterman. But it was what happened behind the scenes of the Hollywood farce that made the show a true classic.

Episodes included all the debauchery you might expect from an inside look at a celebrity with major Hollywood clout (and serious narcissism), with meta-moments galore as Sanders tried to sleep with his guests, settle petty scores with other celebrities and staff, and attempt to top “rivals” such as Letterman and Jay Leno. There was even an entire episode following Sanders’ desperate (and constantly thwarted) attempts to relieve himself between commercial breaks on his talk show — to no avail.

While meta comedy; inside explorations into the world of show business; and crass, dark humor are as commonplace today as laugh tracks and multicamera sitcoms were in the early days of television, it was Shandling and his brilliant writers, co-stars, and producers that helped to blaze that path.

Today the world mourns the loss of a visionary comedian, and a damned funny guy. Safe travels, Mr. Shandling. And “no flipping!”

Updated 3/25/2016: It has reportedly been determined that Shandling died of a massive heart attack.

Editors' Recommendations

Ryan Waniata
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Waniata is a multi-year veteran of the digital media industry, a lover of all things tech, audio, and TV, and a…
Robert Rodriguez on Hypnotic and the 25th anniversary of his cult hit The Faculty
Ben Affleck and Robert Rodriguez pose for a photo.

Robert Rodriguez is a director who can't easily be placed in a specific category or box. He's made family-friendly films like Spy Kids, noir crime thrillers like Sin City, and blockbuster action movies like Alita: Battle Angel. His newest film, the sci-fi thriller Hypnotic, just had its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and is now available on-demand in the U.S.

In the movie, Ben Affleck plays a detective who suffers from grief and trauma over his missing daughter. However, a mysterious clue left behind at a bank heist sends him on a cat-and-mouse chase with the man he believes has his daughter. But with mind control and false realities all in play, nothing in Hypnotic is as it seems. Halfway through the film, a major twist completely changes everything the audience thinks they know and alters the entire trajectory of the story.

Read more
What’s new on Tubi in June 2023
Keanu Reeves looks at the camera in John Wick 2.

Have you heard of Tubi? The upstart streamer has tens of thousands of new and old TV shows from every decade and every genre imaginable. Want to watch the hottest series that aired on HBO Max? Tubi has it. Are you feeling nostalgic about that old TV show you used to watch as a kid in the '80s or '90s? Chances are, Tubi has it.

Tubi has so much content that it can be hard to choose which shows are worth your time. Digital Trends is here to help you sort out which ones are worth your time. Even though the streaming service is free, time is valuable, and no one wants to waste it watching subpar content.

Read more
The Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion live stream: where to watch for free
The Real housewives pose for a photo in a promotional image for the series.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey aired the season finale for season 13 on May 23. Yet, the real drama has only just begun when the cast sits down for a three-part reunion. It wouldn't be a Bravo reunion without scandalous allegations, dramatic confrontations, and a lot of dirty laundry.

If the trailer is a taste of what's to come, the cast does not hold back with vicious insults and damaging accusations. The reunion cast includes Teresa Giudice, Melissa Gorga, Dolores Catania, Jackie Goldschneider, Margaret Josephs, Jennifer Aydin, Danielle Cabral, and Rachel Fuda. Don't miss the tumultuous three-part reunion, so scroll below to find out where to watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion.
Watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey season 13 reunion on Bravo

Read more