It’s A Post About Garry Shandling.

As a kid I watched a lot of sitcoms even though I felt like they insulted my intelligence. And, let’s face it, most of them, even the smart ones, did. The idea that the same group of usually “average” people would spend most of their time in one location, usually a living room, making witty remarks at each other is pretty ridiculous. Even the smart ones required a pretty large helping of suspended disbelief because the cast and crew know the biggest joke is the one in plain sight: the idea that this spectacle is supposed to be real. And then one night I tuned into a sitcom that took a sledgehammer to the fourth wall. Actors spoke into the camera and there were even cutaways to the audience. It was one of the rare times I could watch a sitcom knowing the laughter wasn’t canned. With It’s Garry Shandling’s Show Garry Shandling was a sitcom emperor who came out saying, “Yeah, I know I’m not wearing ‘new clothes’. I’m naked,” and invited everyone to laugh.

Some other comedians or actors couldn’t pull it off. They’d either be too sharply sarcastic to sustain the joke or they’d fall prey to the cheap sentimentality that got into other sitcoms. Shandling was a comedic alchemist who could be sharply satirical but likable at the same time. My favorite moment of the show was when Jeff Goldblum was the guest star. Shandling says his “neighbor’s son” is such a huge Goldblum fan “he’s seen The Big Chill fifteen times, he’s seen The Fly seventeen times, and he’s seen almost all of Transylvania 6-5000.” It was hilarious and I’m also pretty sure it was improvised because Goldblum seemed genuinely surprised.

It’s that same alchemy that I think makes Shandling’s film What Planet Are You From? an underappreciated romantic comedy classic. He took an overwrought comedy cliché—the differences between men and women—and broke it down. If you really think it’s as simple as men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Shandling seemed to be saying, you must not be from this planet. Roger Ebert called it “an exercise in feel-good smut” but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Shandling was trying to elevate the most lowbrow kind of humor. Some other comedians wouldn’t have been able to pull off the gag of a hyperactive alien penis, but I think he succeeded because of his comedic alchemy which was so unique I have to wonder, what planet was he from?

Hail and farewell Garry Shandling.

13 Comments

  1. Chuck Baudelaire

    “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” just blew me away when it was on, and if Netflix doesn’t make the entire series available for streaming very soon, there should be violence in the streets. RIP. 🙁

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The show was a riot so it’s fitting its absence should cause riots.

      Reply
  2. halfa1000miles

    My comment is not directly about GS. I just have to comment on how weirdly and often your mind and mine cross. Sometimes I think I am copying you before I am even aware of you posting something. It’s odd. You have Baader-Meinhoffed me over and over and over. I can be thinking of something, or even have a post in draft and then you post something eerily similar (the subject itself — or an odd phrase, not the content). Just yesterday, I bought tickets to see a friend compete in an improv comedy contest. The contest is at a place called “Alchemy Comedy”. I couldn’t put those two words together in my head and had to go look that phrase up. Today, here it is on your post. This is not the first or second time. Get out of my head Chrissipoo.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I swear it’s all a coincidence and has to do with my inability to focus on any one thing so my mind ranges all over the place. Seriously, my mind wanders so much it shouldn’t be surprising it’s bumped into yours and said, “Oh, hey, funny meeting you here” at least half a dozen times.
      That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it, unlike the time I was in an improv comedy class and we were going around introducing ourselves. One guy three people down from me said, “I’m Doug, I’m a waiter and I also sell drugs.” And then it got to me and I said, “I’m Chris, and I’m an undercover cop who’s been tailing Doug.” And he thought I was serious so I had to quickly explain that I was just there for the comedy.

      Reply
      1. halfa1000miles

        Sounds like you might have gotten an ass-kicking from Doug for being so quick-witted. It’s a curse, man.

        I got a Liebster today. Can I give you one? I don’t want to give them to people who don’t want the obligation of them, or don’t consider them an honor (I do). Let me know…I would like to keep them within my tribe if possible.

        Reply
        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          Wow, getting a Leibster would be kind of cool. I don’t think there’s that much obligation. I prefer mine steamed with drawn butter and if you want to throw in some corn on the cob and those little red potatoes that would be good too.
          Seriously it would be great because I’ve got a million things I could say about how I Liebster but never flounder.

          Reply
          1. halfa1000miles

            See what I’m saying? In my post, which is in draft waiting on your response, is the Liebster Award pic, and I added the words to it “not a Lobster”.

  3. mydangblog

    I’m going to have that song in my head all day–but that’s a good thing. He was a brilliant comedian.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      He was, and it was a brilliant theme song. And he seemed like a genuinely nice guy too.

      Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    It’s a wonderful post about Garry Shandling. Thanks to you, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you for offering your own tribute here too.

      Reply
  5. Michelle

    Oh no! I didn’t actually know that he had passed away until the last line of your post. I never saw his sitcom but I was happy to see him pop up in The Winter Soldier and I remember the alien penis movie (“Anal probes – how primitive is THAT? ‘Hi, we’ve come 6 trillion miles to study your ass!? We’re proctologists from space!'”) RIP Garry.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s really a terrible loss and he also seemed like a genuinely nice person. And thank you so much–I’d completely forgotten the anal probes joke.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge
%d bloggers like this: