Comedy legend Garry Shandling, best known for his self-aware, witty, and highly influential sitcoms It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show, has died. Celebrity gossip site TMZ broke the news, saying that Shandling died earlier today at a Los Angeles hospital. No cause of death was listed. He was 66.
Born in Chicago, Shandling grew up in Tuscon, Arizona, and went to college there before moving to L.A. to pursue a career as a comedy writer. After a stint working in advertising, he sold his first script on spec to Sanford And Son; the episode, “Sanford And The Rising Son,” guest starred Pat Morita and aired in November 1975. During this period, Shandling also wrote scripts for Welcome Back Kotter, and began performing in stand-up clubs around L.A. By 1981, he was performing stand-up on The Tonight Show:
Shandling would eventually guest host the show, and was even considered as a possible replacement for Johnny Carson. That job ended up going to Jay Leno, of course, but Shandling had other projects in the works. In 1986, he created his own sitcom, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, for Showtime. That show ran until 1990, and in 1992, he created another show, The Larry Sanders Show, for HBO. Both shows were critical hits, and Shandling’s meta approach—he frequently broke the fourth wall on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and his talk-show host character “Larry Sanders” was a fictionalized version of Shandling himself—has proven highly influential in the decades since.
After The Larry Sanders Show ended in 1998, Shandling took on occasional acting and writing gigs, including writing the screenplay for Mike Nichols’ 2000 comedy What Planet Are You From?. He was more active as a stand-up, though, and in his role as an elder comedy statesman he occasionally appeared on talk shows like The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, The Late Show With David Letterman, and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. Back in January, he even appeared on an episode of his friend Jerry Seinfeld’s series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, in an episode now-poignantly titled “It’s Great That Garry Shandling Is Still Alive.”