Garry Shandling: His Life and Influence

Garry Shandling

Actor, writer, and comedian Garry Shandling died suddenly on Thursday, March 24, 2016. Shandling died at the age of 66 in Los Angeles, after living a remarkable life and leaving an unforgettable influence on the entertainment industry. The cause of his death is not yet known.

It has been rumored that the actor died of a sudden heart attack, however, in an interview with People, the Chief Coroner of Los Angeles County, Ed Winter, said the investigation into the cause of death was still ongoing. As a result, the former Hollywood icon has not yet received an official death certificate. Once a cause of death is determined, a doctor will be able to sign an official document.

Shandling was born on Nov. 29, 1949, in Chicago, Ill., to Irving and Muriel. His older brother, Barry, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and the family moved to Tucson, Ariz., in order to treat him. Sadly, his brother’s life was cut short, passing away at the age of 10.

The family decided to stay in Arizona and this was where Shandling grew up. Having completed high school, he was accepted to the University of Arizona, where he decided to study Electrical Engineering. After switching his major to Marketing, he was introduced to the comedy legend, George Carlin. The young college student gave the comedian some of his work and was told he needed to sharpen his skills.

Shandling fully committed to the comedian’s advice and moved to Los Angeles in the ’70s. He started working as a writer for the sitcoms Sanford and Son and Welcome Back, Kotter. He continued to work his way up the showbiz ladder and caught a break on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Once there, he became a frequent guest and, at one point, was in the running to replace Carson. The job, however, went to Jay Leno.

At this point in his life, Shandling was ready to exact his influence on Hollywood. In 1986, he received his own show, the autobiographical, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. Here is where he became an icon and influenced the future of television as well as movies.

In his show, he broke what is known as the “fourth wall” in the entertainment industry. Previous to his time, the industry standard was to never look into the camera. With his crafty wit and visionary ideas, he broke the fourth wall, looking directly into the camera. In doing so, he proved that this violation could be used as a comedic tool and gave a whole new depth to comedy.

His style went on to influence many major television shows. BBC News reports that Tina Fey’s 30 Rock and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, among others, attribute much of their influence to Shandling’s “self-aware brand of comedy.”

His comical wit gave him the opportunity to host several Grammy and Emmy Award ceremonies. Steve Martin even mentioned the comic’s contribution when Martin was nominated to host the Academy Awards.

Shandling has appeared in several movies as well. He starred as himself in Zoolander, played the voice Verne in Over the Hedge, and played Senator Stern in Iron Man 2. His most recent, and last film appearance, was also as Senator Stern in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Actors and actresses lit up social media sites with love and praise as they heard the news of his passing. Slate had pages upon pages of tweets from admirers of all sorts.

Comedian and actress Amy Schumer tweeted, “Goodbye Gary Shandling thank you for your kindness and your generosity and for making me laugh so damn much.”

Ricky Gervais tweeted, “RIP the great Garry Shandling. Surely, one of the most influential comedians of a generation.”

Conon O’Brien, in his Conan Monologue, on Thursday night’s show, said, “He was a masterful writer, a performer who went on to create an incredibly groundbreaking comedy show that inspired an entire generation of comedians, myself included.”

The comedic world has lost a shining star in the passing of Shandling. He was a man who profoundly influenced the world of television and comedy movies. His life was cut short on Thursday, March 24. What he did in this life has had a tremendous impact on the world of entertainment and those who watch. He will be missed.

By Harrison Baker
Edited by Leigh Haugh

BBC: Garry Shandling, US comedian and actor, dies aged 66
Biography: Garry Shandling
EW: Garry Shandling called 911 for help before death
Slate: Comedians Pay Tribute to Garry Shandling, Dead at Age 66
Image Courtesy of Alan Light’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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