Conan O’Brien abandoned his monologue on Thursday night to give a touching tribute to late comedian Garry Shandling.
O’Brien described Shandling’s death as a “devastating shock.” He went on to say how Shandling helped him through one of his lowest points in 2009, when O’Brien was reeling from losing his job hosting The Tonight Show.
“I woke up the next morning and I had no job, and I had no idea what I was going to do… I was just shell shocked, and I was a complete zombie.”
According to DailyMail, O’Brien said that Shandling had met up with him in Hawaii, where he happened to be staying in the same hotel. O’Brien had taken his family on a vacation to help him recover. Shandling, O’Brien said, “just magically appeared” at a time when O’Brien most needed a friend.
“Conan. It’s Garry. I’m staying three doors down. We’re on an island. There’s no avoiding me.”
That day, Shandling spent an afternoon with Conan, walking on the beach in an attempt to cheer him up.
“He counseled me, he cheered me up, he told me jokes, he talked to me about philosophy.”
O’Brien said he and Shandling sprawled together on the beach to watch the sunset.
“I turned to Garry and I said, ‘This is the most romantic moment of my life and it’s with you.’”
O’Brien described Shandling as not only a “masterful writer” and “complicated” but as someone who had “a ton of empathy for other people.”
That is a quality, O’Brien said, which is very rare.
Many other comedians chimed in about the loss of Garry, and the impact he had on their lives and the industry.
Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars series is superb.. especially this one with the brilliant Garry Shandling: https://t.co/5DEpKr1YMK
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) March 25, 2016
Sanders’ co-star on the The Larry Sanders Show, Jeffrey Tambor, wrote, “Garry was/always will be my teacher.”
“He redesigned the wheel of comedy and was the kindest and funniest of geniuses. Will miss him so much.”
Seth Meyers, despite having never met Shandling, paid tribute to him as well.
“He did the Larry Sanders Show, which was completely groundbreaking… Watching Larry Sanders made me think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to host a talk show!’”
He added that the character Larry Sanders was very neurotic, and had a catch phrase, “Not the best of Larry.”
Meyers said that the phrase still occurs to him on occasions when things don’t go the way he had planned.
Rolling Stone noted that Judd Apatow, who was one of the writers on The Larry Sanders Show, commented that he was “too sad” to make a creative statement about Shandling, who had “taught him everything.”
“Garry would see the ridiculousness of me being asked to sum up his life five minutes after being told of his passing. It is a perfect, ridiculous Larry Sanders moment.”
A photo posted by Judd Apatow (@juddapatow) on
Kathy Griffin had a selfie taken with Garry the Sunday before he died.
Richard Lewis spoke of the fellowship he had with Shandling.
“Every comedy generation has a few artists who make a mark forever. Gary was surely one. His standup and Tonight Show hostings were effortlessly hilarious. His neurosis made me feel human. His first series was sensational, but the second is one for the ages. We worked together on our projects, but for me our mutual respect and laughs for our low-self esteem was magical.”
Shandling, who started out as a standup comic, became a writer for shows like Sanford and Son and Welcome Back, Kotter.
He went on to create The Larry Sanders Show, which aired on HBO for four years during the 90s.
Shandling, 66, called a doctor friend to come over to his house on Wednesday, complaining of pain and shortness of breath. The friend told him that if he wasn’t feeling better by the next day, he should get to a hospital. Shandling called the 911 emergency phone line on Thursday morning, but lost consciousness before even finishing the call to the dispatcher. The Los Angeles Fire Department kicked his door down when no one answered. Shandling died later on Thursday of a massive heart attack.
[Image via John Shearer/Invision for David Lynch Foundation/AP Images]