Garry Shandling, the comedian best known for The Larry Sanders Show and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, died Thursday, as reported by Deadline. He was 66 years old.
The comedian, writer, actor, and producer moved to Los Angeles in 1973 and got his big break in 1975 with a script he wrote for the TV series Sanford and Son. He went on to write for Welcome Back Kotter and Three’s Company, before catching the attention of Johnny Carson in 1981, who invited him to appear on his late night talk show. Shandling was such success on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson that he became a regular guest host filling in for the late-night icon.
Shandling then got his own series for Showtime, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, where he played a character who knew he was a character in a TV show, frequently breaking the “fourth wall” to address the audience, which was a groundbreaking approach at the time to the sitcom format.
But Shandling really came into his own when he tapped into his time as guest host on The Tonight Show, inspiring the semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical series The Larry Sanders Show for HBO. It became one of HBO’s first original series in 1992, and the network went on to become a giant known for quality original programming. The Larry Sanders Show also broke new ground in television by forgoing the laugh tracks so common in sitcoms of the time, opting for a more deadpan style of humor. It also featured celebrities appearing as themselves, to parody real life.
The Larry Sanders Show was such a success that Shandling declined NBC’s offer to take over Late Night, preferring to poke fun at the politics and egos of late-night TV, including a parity over the drama surrounding the replacement of David Letterman. Much like The Tonight Show, Shandling used The Larry Sanders Show‘s 89-episode run as a launchpad for young talent, including comedians Janeane Garofalo and Bob Odenkirk, who currently stars in the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul.
Shandling seemed fine to friends and family up until his death, and just Sunday, he appeared in a photo with Odenkirk and comedienne Kathy Griffin that she posted on her Twitter then, and retweeted today as a tribute to the late comedian.
Sunday, my longtime friend Garry Shandling was here, making every1 laugh. I loved him. I’ll miss our talks the most. pic.twitter.com/Ud8AQXNBXN
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) March 24, 2016
The Larry Sanders Show was nominated for 56 Emmy Awards, and won three, including one for writing, one for directing, and an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor for Rip Torn. In addition, the show took home five CableACE Awards, a BAFTA, and was recently named No. 20 on WGA’s “101 Best Written TV Series” of all time.
As word spread of Shandling’s passing, other celebrities chimed in to pay tribute to the comedy legend, such as Zach Braff, Amy Schumer, Richard Belzer, Lewis Black, and Bette Midler.
Gary Shandling was a comedy hero of mine. He once sent me a thank you note that read, “Thanks for nothing.” RIP https://t.co/DmCy2JZcGj
— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) March 24, 2016
Goodbye Gary Shandling thank you for your kindness and your generosity and for making me laugh so damn much
— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) March 24, 2016
My friend Gary Shandling is gone?!?! He will be more than missed…Genius at comedy and decency Good night sweet prince
— Richard Belzer (@MRbelzer) March 24, 2016
And now we lose Gary Shandling another brilliant comic mind. I didn’t know him well but his work was inspired and he was gifted. Too sad.
— Lewis Black (@TheLewisBlack) March 24, 2016
One of the funniest of all, the beloved and very complicated Gary Shandling has died.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) March 24, 2016
Although some media outlets, such as the Daily Mail, are reporting Shandling suffered a “massive heart attack,” his cause of death has not been determined at this time.
[Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images]