Shandling, Garry

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SHANDLING, GARRY (1949– ), U.S. comedian-actor. Shandling was born in Chicago, Ill., and moved with his family to Tucson, Arizona, for the health of his older brother Barry, who later died from cystic fibrosis. Growing up, Shandling was a fan of comedy, often watching The Tonight Show and Woody Allen films. After graduating from Palo Verde High School, Shandling went on to study electrical engineering and then marketing at the University of Arizona. However, he was more interested in writing jokes than taking notes in class. After completing his bachelor's degree, he remained at his alma mater for postgraduate work in creative writing. After meeting George Carlin following a Tucson performance and getting positive feedback from some material he had written, Shandling moved to Los Angeles in 1973. He wrote scripts for Sanford and Son (1972–77), Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–79) and Three's Company (1977–84). In 1977, a freak traffic accident left him with a crushed spleen and other serious injuries. As he recovered, he vowed to become a vegetarian, take up exercise, and try his hand at stand-up comedy. In 1978, he made his first stand-up appearance at a Comedy Store amateur night. He continued to work on his stand-up routine, which featured self-deprecating humor about his appearance and his inadequacies with women. On March 18, 1981, he made his first appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, a major break that aided his stand-up career. In 1984, Shandling wrote and starred in Garry Shandling Alone in Vegas for Showtime. Two years later, he had parlayed multiple appearances on The Tonight Show into a permanent guest host spot, but later turned it down to focus on his Showtime sitcom spoof, It's Garry Shandling's Show (1986–90), which was later rebroadcast on the fox network. Like his sitcom lampoon, his next series, hbo's popular The Larry Sanders Show (1992–98), ridiculed television talk shows. In 1993, Shandling turned down a $5 million offer from nbc to take over Late Night from David Letterman, who had moved to cbs. Shandling made his first feature film appearance with a cameo in The Night We Never Met (1993), which he followed with a supporting role in Love Affair (1994) and a dramatic part as a Hollywood producer in Hurlyburly (1998). He co-wrote and starred in the feature comedy What Planet Are You From? (2000), and in 2004 he hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2006, he joined an all-star cast to voice the animated film Over the Hedge.


"Shandling, Garry," in: Newsmakers, Issue 4 (1995); "Shandling, Garry," in: Contemporary Authors (2003); "What Planet Is Garry Shandling From?" in: Jewish Journal (March 3, 2000).

[Adam Wills (2nd ed.)]