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An Article from The New York Times
From Garry And Larry, Their Show Of Shows
By MARGO JEFFERSON
Published: June 19, 1997
If Johnny Carson hadn't retired, ''The Larry Sanders Show'' might not exist. While Johnny was there the rules of the game were set, and we had too much fun with him not to take his mystique seriously. Johnny was a world-class entertainer, impeccable, unflappable, inviolable and infinitely watchable. And like all world-class entertainers and deities, Johnny made each viewer feel that he (or she, but especially he) was attuned to some special pitch of Carson wit, some subtle reaction no one else was noticing.
Now, thanks to ''The Larry Sanders Show,'' the machinery of this institution, which is equal parts Elks Club, frat house, golf course, cocktail party, slumber party and nightclub floor show, can be laid bare. And at the same time, its pleasures can be perpetuated.
Did you glut yourself on HBO's marathon of ''Larry Sanders'' reruns last week? Did you tape them, as you have for several seasons now? Are you hoping they'll be replayed before the fall so you can catch those few you missed and pass them on to needy friends? Have you ever seen an episode you didn't like, one that didn't make you feel smarter and hipper because you liked it? Do you wish the show was on every night so you could be a television addict and critic simultaneously?
The style of ''The Larry Sanders Show'' seems pure nighttime: a constant give and take between put-downs and comebacks, mockery and sincerity, ingratiation and sly intimidation. The happy flow of curses and raunchy wisecracks is also something you can get only late at night, and it's just as surprising to hear on television as it is unsurprising to hear in any other part of one's life.
Actually, when it comes to the plot lines, the creators and writers of ''Larry Sanders'' have learned plenty from daytime television. Whether in a soap opera or a soap talk show, daytime television always prefers melodrama to irony, and always censors profanity in favor of headline-grabbing topicality and psychological extremities.
Faced with the galleys of his blithely self-serving autobiography, Larry (played by Garry Shandling) has an acute crisis of self-loathing. (The self-loathing is always there, but his success usually keeps it at a low, diffident whine.) Hank, the earnestly fatuous sidekick (Jeffrey Tambor), devotes the same emotional intensity to buying Elvis Costello's Jaguar that he does to exploring his Jewish identity. Beverly (Penny Johnson), realizing that she's the only black on Larry's staff, tries her best to mesh race and family loyalties with job and work affinities. Brian (Scott Thompson), the only openly gay man on the staff, walks the line between being the office mascot and shrewd outsider; Phil (Wallace Langham), the geekily hip comedy writer, turns into a monster brat when Larry hires a woman who might be just as funny as he is. And Artie (Rip Torn), the show's sublimely sleazy producer, goes his way rejoicing, telling empty war stories about the golden age of television, conning guests and executives, playing father, mother and housekeeper to Larry, bullying and toadying right, left and center.
Sex and sexual anxiety are everywhere. (And how refreshing that no one necessarily becomes sexier when they've had sex, or duller when they haven't.) Ambition is everywhere too, likewise the awful specter of failure or (just as bad ) second-stringdom.
''Larry Sanders'' is right in line with television's emphasis on stories that feature work, friends and lovers, rather than home, parents and children. But shows like ''Friends'' still take some simulated version of ordinary life as their text. And though ''Seinfeld'' is a billion times cleverer than ''Friends,'' it plays things much safer than ''Larry Sanders.'' What a cute, quirky little band we are, its characters announce with every antic or encounter.
The text of ''Larry Sanders'' is everyday life as show business and perpetual simulation. The entertainment industry, its stars, flacks and workers are as essential to our identities as suburban homes, families and crises were to audiences of the 1950's and 60's. Show business is a way of life and a world view. And it can accommodate class and ethnicity in all sorts of ways, which I hope ''Larry Sanders'' will do even more of because show business is always trying to exploit or evade class and ethnicity.
HBO doesn't have to observe the same marketing and censorship rules as network television, but ''Larry Sanders'' is still television comedy, and that means it has to strike the palatable and saleable balance between risk and reassurance. All comedy does to one degree or another, but the typical sitcom does it ruthlessly. The big picture is just fine, says the sitcom. What's a situation, after all, but something you can get out of? And it takes the same amount of time and the same bag of tricks each week.
''The Larry Sanders Show'' insists (hilariously) on some basic, even toxic flaws in the big picture. (Just because you can live with it doesn't mean it's not toxic.) It's a comedy of circumstance, and circumstances aren't so easy to change or escape. Even the pacing varies from show to show and from scene to scene. A half-hour can whip by or, as in Larry's suicide crisis, can stretch out unnervingly. Surely the absence of ads helps as much as the presence of crack writers, directors and actors. Fixed types are necessary to television comedy, but these give us a sense of claustrophobia, the kind we get when we turn off the set and get back to the question of just who in our lives (ourselves included) is likely to change for the better anytime soon.
Those continuing comic gags aren't just visual; they're psychological, too. As are the snazzy Pirandello tricks: the show-within-the show, the sendups of television conventions; all the cast members in ''real people'' drag, the guest appearances by stars (Ellen DeGeneres, Angie Dickinson, David Duchovny and Mr. Costello) playing some skewed version of themselves. Literature and movies have been self-referential for so long that the device seems old-hat now, but when television does it, it still feels fresh. No other medium manipulates us in quite such an up-close and personal way. After all, the set's right there with you, in the living room, the bedroom or the kitchen. So to come clean and still manipulate is to give us a double dose of satisfaction. It's as if the medium were admitting that like the rest of us, it has an unconscious, capable of any trick or treachery.
An Article From The New York Times
Garry Shandling Goes Dark
By LYNN HIRSCHBERG
Published: May 31, 1998
It's around 2 on a Wednesday in late April and Garry Shandling is studying the screen of an editing terminal upstairs from what used to be his office at ''The Larry Sanders Show.'' The offices are empty now, furniture upended, ready for storage. ''The Larry Sanders Show,'' a brilliant, lacerating situation comedy about a fictitious late-night talk-show host and the complications, both emotional and professional, of his show-biz life, filmed its last episode, the one Shandling is now editing, a month ago. The key to ''Sanders,'' which completes its sixth season on HBO tonight, has been tension and longing, the way the characters bumped up against one another in their quest for some sort of intangible sense of acceptance and glory. The show was born out of the Leno-Letterman, man-who-would-be-Johnny talk-show wars, and Shandling, a stand-up comedian who had been a guest host for Carson during the mid-80's, saw the backstage whirl as emblematic of larger desires in American culture. ''The whole world is show business now,'' he explains, still concentrating on the editing terminal. ''Everyone wants to be famous. They think being famous will change their life. I'm here to tell them that it doesn't.''
Shandling, who is wearing jeans, an untucked sky-blue work shirt and untied hiking boots, always planned for this to be his last season. As executive producer, writer, star and sometime director, he had become overwhelmed by the ''Sanders'' workload. Maintaining the quality of any show year in, year out is extremely difficult, and ''Sanders,'' while not a ratings success (cable is, still, cable), is arguably the most critically acclaimed comedy on television.
''I had a deal with Jerry,'' Shandling jokes about his good friend Jerry Seinfeld. ''When he quits, I quit.'' The timing is fitting: in many ways, ''The Larry Sanders Show'' is the evil twin of ''Seinfeld.'' Both shows revolve around a comedian and his loyal and peculiar friends, but where Seinfeld is the calm center of his universe, Shandling is the edgiest person in his. '''Larry Sanders' is my favorite sitcom-type show on TV,'' Seinfeld says. ''Garry Shandling is my hero.''
This season, the fictitious talk-show host decided to quit before being replaced by a younger man, played by the onetime real-life talk-show host Jon Stewart. ''We'd done all the stories,'' Shandling explains. ''And Larry getting pushed off his own show is very Johnny.'' The final hour extravaganza will include such disparate guest stars as Warren Beatty, David Duchovny, Carol Burnett, Tom Petty, Jim Carrey and Ellen DeGeneres. ''I think the show should be 50 minutes,'' Shandling says, watching the man he often calls Mr. Beatty on the monitor. ''I feel that everything I do in my life I can do in a shorter time than most men can. It's the quality, not the quantity.''
Shandling, who tends to punctuate his jokes with a kind of wince-smile, actually laughs at his remark. The two editors just nod -- Shandling is not really kidding -- but he is always joking. ''I learned most of my comedy at a French cooking school,'' he'll say. ''Hence, the heavy use of butter. All I know for sure is, there's a very, very, very bitter aftertaste.'' Or: ''I give 109 percent. I've never given 110. If I was really honest, I know that it's 108.'' And now, staring at Beatty on the monitor, ''You know, Warren never appears on television, but I have a hunch that if you study 'The Golddiggers' you can see him in the background.'' This finally cracks the editors up, and Shandling continues to go. ''I keep my scrapbooks in the car,'' he says. ''When I come to a stoplight, I start looking through my past. Sometimes I wish the red lights were longer.''
Shandling wince-smiles. ''Garry is so highly developed creatively,'' Seinfeld says. ''Comedians all wait around to hear things that they can use. With Garry, it's like being in a boat with a guy who's constantly reeling in fish.'' Most of Shandling's act, both on and off camera, consists of self-deprecating humor that paints him as a neurotic, self-obsessed, lovelorn mess. ''I am interested in how human beings react to crisis and conflict,'' Shandling explains, as the Beatty scene ends. ''That's what the show is -- an exploration of how to remain human in an inhumane world.''
The editors cue up a scene from the last show that features Sean Penn. Sanders is interviewing Penn, who is talking about ''Hurlyburly,'' his latest film. When they cut to a commercial, Penn leans over to Sanders and begins slagging Garry Shandling, who is also in ''Hurlyburly.'' ''He's the most insecure man I've ever met in my life,'' Penn confides to Shandling as Sanders. ''Garry Shandling was constantly hitting on my wife, trying to get in her trailer. And the first day on the set, he had so many acting coaches, I thought they were extras.'' In this meta-universe, Sanders looks intrigued and rather pleased; a classic moment of show-biz Schadenfreude. In real life, Shandling is laughing at this scene of self-annihilation. ''This is the first and only time we ever made a reference to Garry on 'Larry,''' Shandling says, as Penn further insults Shandling's acting. ''I wrote all these jokes,'' he explains. ''Nobody can write better jokes putting me down than me.'' The scene ends. ''I know how to destroy myself,'' he continues. ''I'm very good at it.''
One of the central themes of ''The Larry Sanders Show'' is trust and betrayal, especially in Hollywood. Sanders truly believes in only one man, his producer, Artie, played by Rip Torn, who won an Emmy in 1996 for his performance. Gruff and opinionated, Artie is also fiercely loyal. ''I want Artie in my life,'' Seinfeld says. ''Everyone should have an Artie.''
In a way, Shandling had his own Artie in the form of Brad Grey, his manager of 18 years and an executive producer and co-owner of ''The Larry Sanders Show.'' Last year, Shandling and Grey, who owns Brillstein-Grey, a powerful management-production company boasting clients like Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage and many of the top TV writers in Hollywood, fell out over a series of business disputes. In January, those disputes prompted Shandling to file a $100 million lawsuit against his former manager, which prompted Grey to file a $10 million countersuit in March.
Both suits hinge on trust and the tricky nature of partnerships -- especially the tangled manager-client relationship in Hollywood. Shandling's suit claims that Grey took advantage of him, gave him bad advice and offered Shandling's services to make mega-TV deals not benefiting Shandling. Grey claims that Shandling's increasingly erratic and irresponsible behavior on ''Sanders'' cost Grey's production company vast sums of money.
At the heart of the lawsuits is a larger issue involving the rights of managers. Unlike agents, who are restricted from producing their clients' work, managers can ''package'' a project starring their client or written by their writer and demand a producing fee and credit. This was once true for agents as well, but in 1962 Attorney General Robert Kennedy led an antitrust action that forced Lew Wasserman, president of MCA, a talent agency, and Revue, a TV production company, to choose one or the other. He chose the production company, which went on to engulf Universal Pictures. Unlike Wasserman, who is the hero of all ambitious Hollywood executives, Grey has not had to choose. And yet, controlling both the talent and the production company presents an array of conflicts of interest.
''Hopefully, Shandling's suit will change the way managers are allowed to conduct business,'' says one network executive who, typically, wishes to remain anonymous so as not to rankle Grey, whose panoply of clients is crucial to his business. ''In general, the manager adds no value to the project and they demand a huge fee per episode. It's blackmail -- if you want the client, you have to take the manager.''
Shandling, however, is not interested in the larger ramifications of the suit. He is focused on his specific issues. Meanwhile, Grey, who appears to have a strong legal case, seems to be fixated on Shandling's character. Or, rather, some amalgam of Shandling and Sanders. Although Bert Fields, Grey's lawyer, refutes the facts of Shandling's case, the Grey forces seem united in a less-legal battle that eerily mirrors the Sanders show: using the press to reduce Garry Shandling to a jealous, petty (although talented) man of questionable sanity. ''He is difficult,'' says one prominent agent who had several clients on ''Sanders.'' ''Garry's not exactly a sane guy, but I defy you to find a sane guy who could do his show as well as he does it. Garry's biggest problem is, he falls in and out of love with people all the time. He was in love with Brad longer than anyone. But the end was inevitable. With Garry, there is always going to be an end.''
When an actor or comedian plays a character that incorporates much of the darker side of his life, the line between reality and fiction gets blurry. It's easy to cast Shandling in the role of Sanders; the actor lapses into the character constantly. For instance, there's the hair. Shandling is obsessed with his hair. Or he's faux-obsessed, for comedy's sake, but either way he talks about his hair, asks about his hair, even called his company How's My Hair?
''I used to purely think that my appearance was all based on my hair and how it came out that day,'' he maintains. ''But not really. But I went out on stage one day and said, 'How's my hair today?' When I kind of noticed that I was concerned how my hair looked, I was able to objectively say, 'Wow -- that's a little neurotic attitude.' And I explored that onstage and it became part of the act. It was all based on something real and then exaggerated for humor.'' Shandling pauses. ''But tell me, how do you think my hair looks today?'' He smiles that slightly wincey smile. The joke has become the truth.
It's noon in Shandling's soon-to-be-vacated office. Pinned to a bulletin board along one wall are 3-by-5 cards listing rejected ''Sanders'' story ideas (David Copperfield comes on the show and Sanders's wallet disappears), and there's a large, unopened bouquet of flowers on a bookshelf. Shandling is sitting in an oversize beige armchair dialing his home phone number. ''I'm checking my messages to see if I've called to say hi,'' he deadpans. ''I rarely have any messages. I'm supposed to be listed under Garry Shandling, Comedian. And in the Yellow Pages as well, under Comedy and Cable Programming. I should check to see if both listings are still there.''
Shandling hangs up the phone. No messages. He seems a little relieved. He has used it as material, but there is a solitariness to Shandling that is striking. ''I am afraid of many things,'' he says, ''but I force myself to do them. I went to Magic Mountain, and I looked at the bungee jump and I thought, This is the devil's work. I did think for a moment, I should do it, it will make me more courageous. But no. There's a line. The roller coasters scare me, too. As does dating. It's those three things: bungee jumping, roller coasters and dating. And the idea of dating with my hands up in the air is the ultimate frightening experience.''
Many in Hollywood feel that Shandling's lawsuit is an act of mad audacity, a kind of career free fall. ''It's unprecedented,'' Seinfeld says, sounding a little amazed. But in an odd way, the lawsuit, while illogical from a business perspective, seems to have something to do with Shandling's quest for the truth. ''People cover who they are,'' Shandling says. ''They cover their real selves to get what they want. It's part of human nature. For instance, there's nothing really interesting about a man and a woman on a first date, leaning across the table and saying: 'I like you. I'm interested in having a relationship with you.' The scene is really the difficulty in expressing that and then each trying to get what they want through other behavior. That's the key to my work, and the show. People don't say what they mean, and it becomes interesting to watch.''
Growing up in Tucson, Ariz., Shandling, who is 48, was captivated by Woody Allen (''I thought he was everything'') and George Carlin (''the single-most underrated stand-up comedian of our time''). Shandling's father, Irving, was a successful entrepreneur, and his mother, Muriel, runs a pet store. When Shandling was 10, his older brother, Barry, who had cystic fibrosis, died. ''His death had a huge impact on my life,'' Shandling says. Always a mix of shy and funny, Shandling dropped out of the University of Arizona, where he was studying electrical engineering, in 1975 to seek his fortune in the entertainment business in Los Angeles.
By 1977, he was writing for shows like ''Welcome Back, Kotter'' and ''Sanford and Son.'' ''I did not love it,'' he claims. One rainy day, he was driving into Beverly Hills to get his hair cut (''I did that every day'') and he got into a severe accident that ruptured his spleen and smashed his intestines. ''I was rushed into surgery,'' he says. ''I was in a hospital for two weeks, and I had many experiences that led me to realize life is short and one should attempt to fulfill real, true goals even if they feel like dreams that could never happen.''
Shandling began doing stand-up. Actually, he started in the emergency room. ''As they strapped the oxygen mask to my face, I lifted it up and said, 'Don't trim my hair too short in the back,''' he says, laughing at the memory. ''It's a cliche, but there's a very thin line between comedy and tragedy. I know that line in my professional life. I'm not so sure I know it in my personal life.''
As a stand-up, he wasn't an instant success. But gradually, he honed his act and began appearing regularly at the Comedy Store, and then on ''The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.''
Shandling met Brad Grey in 1979 through Bob Saget, another comedian. Grey was pudgy and favored satin baseball jackets, but he had been reading Billboard and Variety since he was a kid and was enthusiastic about comedians. He also had good timing: in the early 80's, there was a boom in stand-up. As Grey's future partner, Bernie Brillstein, once said, you could pick any five guys at a comedy club and you'd probably get lucky with one of them. By lucky, Brillstein meant a sitcom or ''Saturday Night Live'' or maybe a movie. Grey had larger ambitions: he recognized that with the right clients a manager could basically have his own mini-studio.
But that wasn't his plan in the early 80's. Yet. Then he was just a manager -- his clients came first and all and only. Grey and Shandling quickly became best friends. They vacationed together in Hawaii, confided in each other. By 1986, Shandling, who had become a regular guest host on ''The Tonight Show,'' developed a sitcom, inspired by the old Jack Benny show. Benny played himself, a comedian, who spoke directly to the camera from a set that looked like his house. Shandling's first show was a heightened version of his real life as a stand-up. He pitched the show to the networks, which were not interested, and wound up developing ''It's Garry Shandling's Show'' for Showtime.
Grey was an executive producer of ''It's Garry Shandling's Show'' and was active in running it. ''Brad was good taste,'' says John Ziffren, who produced ''Larry Sanders'' for five seasons before leaving last year. Grey couldn't write, but he was Shandling's first audience. Shandling asked Grey about casting, script ideas, production problems. ''He was very involved back then,'' says an agent who had writers on both of Shandling's shows. ''Brad was Garry's partner, but the bigger Brad's business grew, the less time he had for Garry.''
Shandling has always been notoriously exacting and tough on his writers, many of whom have become Brillstein-Grey clients. ''He has a very high standard,'' says Judd Apatow, the co-executive producer of ''Sanders'' this season and not a Brillstein-Grey client. ''This is a show that's created and produced in Garry's vision. The whole show is about being in Garry's head.''
That can apparently be a difficult place to be. ''I think Garry is a brilliant guy,'' Ziffren says. ''But I think everyone in Garry's life ends up disappointing him in one way or another. Everyone.''
''It's Garry Shandling's Show,'' a critical success, ran on Showtime for four years and on Fox as well for its last two seasons. On one episode, Shandling as Shandling went on a talk show and realized that the drama backstage might make an interesting premise for a sitcom. After his first show went off the air, both cable and the networks sought out Shandling. Michael Fuchs, then at HBO, signed on to the idea for ''Larry Sanders.'' The show was instantly heralded as the best comedy on television.
Initially, Grey was very involved with the production of ''Larry Sanders,'' but his role diminished. By the end of last year, Shandling and Grey were barely speaking. Former ''Sanders'' writers like Paul Simms and Steve Levitan had gone on to create, respectively, the television comedies ''News Radio'' and ''Just Shoot Me'' for Brillstein-Grey. Grey was busy with these and other production ventures. ''Garry wanted a manager,'' says one former ''Sanders'' writer, ''which is what Brad was, and Brad wanted to be a mogul. They were out of sync.''
Because of the lawsuits, Shandling will not really comment on his relationship with Grey, but he does make vague philosophical remarks that seem to be aimed in Grey's general direction. ''There are people who seek truth, and there are people who manipulate truth for their own good,'' he says. ''That's the conflict in life. That's the conflict in Hollywood. That's the conflict that's depicted on this show.'' Shandling pauses. ''It's a wonderful, sad reality.'' He pauses again. ''I'd rather watch it on TV than live it.''
It is April 29, Jerry Seinfeld's birthday, and Shandling is driving his black Porsche across the Studio City lot where ''Larry Sanders'' is filmed to the ''Seinfeld'' offices, which are part of the same complex of sound stages and bungalows. Like Shandling, Seinfeld is editing his last episode, but unlike Seinfeld's, Shandling's last show is not shrouded in secrecy. ''It's hard to be as famous as Jerry,'' he says, as he walks up the steps to Seinfeld's office. ''It's hard to remain unaffected when you have an enormous amount of success. I don't know how I would handle it. I can't even imagine the stress.''
Seinfeld is summoned from the editing room. He is wearing Levi's and an untucked polo shirt, and he and Shandling embrace. ''We are fraternal twins born on 'The Tonight Show' three weeks apart,'' Seinfeld says later. The year they got their stand-up spots was 1981. ''We were the first two new guys to do it in a long time. We had been through the same mill, and it brought us together.''
A few months ago, Seinfeld and Shandling drove out to Malibu to have dinner with Johnny Carson. They wanted to say thank you, to express their gratitude. ''Johnny Carson was my comedy universe,'' Shandling recalls. ''Being on that show for the first time was quite an experience, much like a dream. I had several years to work on that five minutes, much like my first date.''
Seinfeld goes back to his top-secret editing, and Shandling, having said happy birthday, returns to his boxed-up office. It is a particularly non-''Sanders'' moment, devoid of envy or anxiety. Seinfeld is the bigger deal, but Shandling doesn't seem to mind. ''He may envy the money,'' Seinfeld said earlier. ''But envy is healthy. He's not jealous. Garry isn't competitive in that way.''
As Shandling leaves, Seinfeld calls out, ''Don't forget the boat ride.'' Shandling beams. ''We're going out on Carson's boat,'' he explains. ''Johnny loves retirement. He seems very happy.'' Shandling pauses. ''I haven't heard from him since that dinner,'' he continues, heading to his car. ''And I'm not taking it personally. Although I would be hurt if Jerry heard from him when I did not.'' Shandling pauses again. Is this a joke, or not? ''It's a joke and not,'' Shandling says.
At the first script reading of the sixth season of ''The Larry Sanders Show'' last November, Shandling and Grey did not speak. There had been tension for at least six months, maybe longer. Some say it grew out of Grey's change in status -- in the last 10 years, he had reinvented himself in the image of power guys like Michael Ovitz. Grey lost weight, donned Armani head to toe and perfected a sort of strong-but-silent approach to business. ''It's a 'Godfather' thing with Brad,'' says a client, not without admiration. ''He does this Michael Corleone/Al Pacino don't-mess-with-me-or-else thing. It works on people, especially in small doses.''
Grey is a gifted protege, collecting information and technique from mentors like Bernie Brillstein, whose partner he became in 1991; Ovitz, who advised him on deals and was the agent for a $100 million 1994 venture with Brillstein-Grey and Cap Cities/ABC, and, lately, David Geffen. Grey is a genius of osmosis -- he knows how to observe and absorb. He is also a skilled manager of big personalities, instinctively knowing when to soothe, to flatter, to act tough. ''Brad is a great manager,'' says one network executive. ''The only problem is, he didn't want to be a manager.''
Around 1992 or so, Grey became restless. Like Ovitz, who grew bored with being an agent at Creative Artists Agency, Grey was tired of the subordinate part that managers play in their clients' lives. ''He was sick of the 2 A.M. calls from some unhappy comedian,'' says one network executive. ''He wanted a different role in life.'' He wanted to produce TV shows and movies starring his company's clients, which was the idea behind the Cap Cities/ABC deal -- ABC would invest $100 million in Brillstein-Grey to develop shows for the network.
Despite the fact that the Cap Cities/ABC deal was not successful and was dissolved a year early, Grey was still able to negotiate a $90 million deal with Universal Studios in 1996. ''Brad is a good salesman,'' says one network executive. ''Brillstein-Grey was valued at no more than $15 million and Universal paid 90. I thought, Brad rolled another drunk.''
By the time of that deal. Shandling was beginning to doubt Grey's dedication. Shandling began questioning certain business practices, and he claims that he asked Grey why he did not have separate legal representation from his manager. ''Don't you trust me?'' Grey reportedly said. ''Do you think I'm going to [expletive] you?''
Grey denies that the conversation took place, denies that Shandling did not have independent counsel, but in 1997, Shandling contacted a lawyer, Barry Hirsch, who began requesting documents from Grey. He had trouble retrieving them and then, according to Shandling, was alarmed by what he saw. Among other things, says Jonathan Schiller, Shandling's lead trial attorney, Shandling's lawsuit accuses Grey of ''double dipping,'' taking both a fee as executive producer of ''The Larry Sanders Show'' and commissions on Shandling's compensation for the show.
Grey denies taking commissions on Shandling's episodic fees (basically, it's safe to say that each side denies every claim made by the other), but Shandling felt horribly betrayed. ''Just because I was naive,'' he told friends, ''doesn't mean I deserve to be cheated.''
Many in Hollywood, even those who question or dislike Grey, feel that he fought very hard for Shandling. ''He was a great manager for a long time,'' says a prominent agent who insisted on anonymity for fear of alienating Grey. (''I see him at Lakers games every week, for Christ's sake.'') ''But it's hard to hang out with a guy who wants to run the world. Shandling stopped being as important as an individual. He was worth more to Brad as an entity.''
Friends of both men were stunned by the lawsuit. ''Of all the people who disappointed Garry,'' says the producer John Ziffren, ''I never thought it would get to that point with Brad.'' Shandling knew that once he filed, Grey would retaliate by trying to impugn his character. Grey's mentors, past and present, gave interviews singing his praises and questioning the sanity of a man who would proceed with this suit. Former writers, most of whom are Brillstein-Grey clients, denounced Shandling as difficult. No one contested the brilliance of Shandling's work, but then no one mentioned it. He was just crazy, irrational Garry, heartbroken over the loss of his Brad.
''I was warned,'' Shandling says, sounding calm. ''In fact, the vehemence of the defamatory campaign is a cliche that was predicted to me. I think it's immoral. It's untrue. And in court, Brad Grey's P.R. people will not be allowed to speak. The facts will speak for themselves.''
Bert Fields, Grey's lawyer, speaks quite convincingly on the facts, and Grey now claims that he, too, is interested only in the facts. ''I was very emotional in the beginning,'' Grey says. ''But I'm less emotional now. I've really decided to let the lawyers handle it.'' Grey says he has no plans to settle the lawsuit. ''His case doesn't look like a case to me,'' he says. ''This will take its course.''
The town is not completely convinced. Many feel that Shandling's case, if it goes to trial, will have lasting implications for managers. They believe that Shandling has documentation that Grey took financial advantage of him. ''Once the books are open,'' says one network executive, ''Brad will settle. It happens every time. No one knows what a jury will think. Shandling has emotion on his side.''
The attacks on Shandling have also had an impact on other performers. ''They are trying to sully Garry's reputation,'' Seinfeld says, ''and I don't know another comedian that's more generous. Look who wants to do his show. Everyone respects him.''
The complications of the lawsuits -- who profited from whom, who used whom, how many millions were offered or gained or denied -- are difficult to sort out, but the personal dynamic of a case like this, with two longtime best friends and business partners breaking up, is easy to understand. ''I had other interests, other things that I wanted to do with my time,'' Grey explains. ''And that changed the scenario.'' Shandling, according to friends, felt used and pushed aside. ''Personally,'' Fields says, ''I think it's all emotional. But in today's world, the way you hurt someone is to take money from them.''
In december 1996 at the end of the the fifth season of ''The Larry Sanders Show,'' Shandling, who was, as he put it at the time, ''blotto,'' walked off the set before the final scenes were to be filmed. He told one of his producers to write him out of the last three scenes, said, 'I'm tired, I'm gone,' and flew off to Hawaii and Fiji, where he spent three weeks recuperating.
For Grey, this was the beginning of the end, and the incident has become the centerpiece of the ''Isn't Garry crazy?'' talk. Shandling felt that Grey, as his manager, should have protected and coddled him; Grey felt that Shandling was acting unprofessionally. Months later, Grey and Shandling met again, but the fissure could not be repaired.
More than a year later, Shandling has still never really explained his early departure last season. ''Listen,'' says Judd Apatow, ''Jackie Gleason used to light the scripts on fire. I've never seen Garry raise his voice. What he will do is take your script away from you and rewrite it himself. Garry isn't crazy -- he's just funnier than anyone he could ever hire, and some people find that painful to acknowledge. He's going through a creative process, digging the show out of his bone marrow, and his criticisms, however frank, are always in the service of the work.''
Shandling doesn't seem much bothered by the memory of his walkout (''I was tired''), preferring instead to focus on the show at hand. ''I am moved by the last episode,'' he says, staring at an image of himself on the monitor. ''And that's everything to me.''
He doesn't seem saddened that ''Sanders'' is coming to an end. ''It was a tremendous amount of pressure,'' he explains. ''It takes over your life.'' Now Shandling plans to return to a script he has been writing for some time about an alien who arrives on earth to impregnate a woman. ''It's more difficult than he imagined because human emotion gets in the way,'' Shandling explains. The alien impregnates a woman, goes back to his planet and finds he misses her. ''He misses the conflict of the human condition,'' Shandling says, without wanting to give too much away. ''He comes back and he has to tell the truth. He learns that what's important is knowing who you are.''
Shandling plans to star in his movie, which is being developed at Columbia Pictures, and he views the character as a departure from Larry Sanders. ''Oh, Larry is an alien, too,'' Shandling jokes, ''but Larry just wants to be loved. He doesn't walk around saying, 'I want to be loved.' He walks around saying, 'I want to be funny.'''
The two editors cue up a scene for Shandling's perusal. It starts on the ''Sanders'' set, when Garry as Larry introduces Jim Carrey as his next guest. One of the plot points is how every guest wants to be Bette Midler on Johnny Carson's last regular show. She sang ''Here's That Rainy Day'' with him, and it was as live and raw a performance as TV has had. Sanders wants that emotional moment, that Carson-tinged high. He wants someone to cry.
When Carrey appears, the studio audience bursts into applause. He mock-weeps and then begins singing ''And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going,'' the Jennifer Holliday show-stopper from ''Dream Girls.'' Carrey has rewritten the words and is emoting wildly, climbing into the audience, stepping onto Sanders's desk as he wails: ''I'm tellllling you, you're not leaving. You're the best host I've ever had.. . .''
It is riveting -- hilarious and extreme -- and, simultaneously, a parody and celebration of all things show biz. Carrey's performance epitomizes ''The Larry Sanders Show'' -- it both deconstructs and glorifies. ''I've never seen that kind of power before,'' Shandling says, staring at Carrey on the screen. ''When he was done, I said, 'Should I quit the business?' There didn't seem to be any point in going on.''
Shandling smiles. ''It cost us $19 million to get him on the show,'' he says. ''Because Jim's a friend of mine, he gave me a $1 million discount.'' Shandling laughs. He looks pleased. He knows he has the best performance of the year on his final episode. It's the perfect antidote to Brad Grey and lawsuits and questions about his mental health. ''All I really care about is the work,'' he says. ''Should we watch it again? This time, I'm going to concentrate on Larry.'' Shandling laughs. ''I'll be the only one.''
Here is Garry Shandling's Obituary from USA TODAY
Comedian Garry Shandling dies at 66
Maria Puente, USA TODAY Published 4:57 p.m. ET March 24, 2016
Comedian Garry Shandling, who amused millions of Americans on his faux talk show, The Larry Sanders Show, in the 1990s, died Thursday. He was 66.
he news was confirmed to USA TODAY by Los Angeles Police Officer Rosario Herrera. The cause was undisclosed.
TMZ was first with the news, reporting Thursday there was a 911 call for an medical emergency from Shandling's Los Angeles home and he was transported to a hospital where he died.
Police said they will conduct a death investigation.
Shandling's last tweet (he had nearly 600,000 followers and nearly 7,000 tweets) was March 20 and featured him with fellow comedian Kathy Griffin.
He was fully engaged until just days before his death, tweeting jokes about Kanye West and Mitt Romney and the Republican presidential contest.
Shandling was a comedian, an actor, producer, even a director, according to his Internet Movie Database page, but he's best known as "Larry Sanders," the anxiety-ridden talk-show host whose hilarious foibles made entertaining fun of the talk-show genre from 1992 to 1998. He was the creator, the writer and the star.
His Larry Sanders co-star was Jeffrey Tambor, the star of Amazon's award-winning Transparent in which Tambor is playing a transgender woman.)
The convention-bending Sanders series also opened the door to other such TV fare, breaking decades-old molds and making possible such popular behind-the-showbiz-scenes comedies as Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Colbert Report and 30 Rock.
The reaction from his friends and fans was shock.
Originally from Chicago, Shandling started out in advertising before moving to comedy writing and standup. In the 1980s he launched his first series, It's Garry Shandling's Show, a Showtime sitcom that called attention to its artificial nature with the actors routinely breaking the fourth wall.
In 1992, he began to tinker with TV comedy with The Larry Sanders Show, which starred him as an egomaniacal late-night TV host with an anxiety-ridden show-biz life behind the scenes.
Contributing: The Associated Press
To read another article about The Larry sanders Show go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=wWVBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GqkMAAAAIBAJ&dq=the%20larry%20sanders%20show&pg=6376%2C4104490
To watch some clips from The Larry Sanders Show go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=larry+sanders+show+episodes&aq=f
For HBO's Official Larry Sanders Show Page go to https://web.archive.org/web/19970317180502/http://www.hbo.com/larry/
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20020207012427/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/larrysanders.html
For a website dedicated to the Larry sanders Show go to https://web.archive.org/web/20020126120915/http://www.larrysanders.co.uk:80/larrysanders.htm
For some Larry sanders Show-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/larry-sanders-show
For a Review of The Larry Sanders Show go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080514070755/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/larrysanders.htm
� Date: Sun January 22, 2006 � Filesize: 11.9kb � Dimensions: 265 x 328 �
Keywords: Garry Shandling (Links Updated 7/30/18)