If you are in your mid-twenties like I am, there’s a good chance you don’t know who Garry Shandling is. And that’s okay. This article isn’t about his life or trying to get you to care about him.
What we’re here to talk about is the role he was best known for — as the main character of The Larry Sanders Show (which aired between 1992-1998) on HBO — and the place in life I found myself when I saw the show for the first time.
Back then, everything felt like the end of the world. One night I came in from getting super baked, and my dad happened to be watching TLSS. It wasn’t my normal procedure to volunteer my time to my dad to watch TV with him, but this was before he was unbearable to be around. If I was in the right mood — or if I was high enough, I guess — everything was tolerable. Even him. Even with all the passive-aggressive shit between he and my mom that was constantly left on the back-burner.
So I laid down in the couch across from him, and we watched The Larry Sanders Show. Almost immediately, I understood it was for me. It had to be. A bunch of conflicted characters, a dark, dry, witty dialogue. And everyone was dressed like it was the middle of the fucking 90’s (because it was). Here I was watching a 20 year-old show to help me better understand the shit I was dealing with in the present.
I was 21 then, unemployed and going to dealer school, living with my parents again. Over the horizon I could picture some positives, but I was still hung up over my ex and wasn’t getting any immediate satisfaction anywhere.
The Larry Sanders Show is where it all finally clicked. I began asking myself how I could possibly be so selfish. For a time I felt like the unhappiest guy in the world, using all sorts of drugs to cope with the simple reality I had yet to find: That everyone hurts. Everyone is dealing with something.
Yes, it took a show on HBO to teach me that. It was Garry Shandling’s show. He did that. For all the times it made me burst into uncontrollable laughter, TLSS had equal cringe-worthy reality checks. Sometimes it was about love, other times drugs, but it got me. The show knew how to communicate with me.
It was the last real project my dad and I ever shared. Almost nightly, when he wasn’t working, we would hammer out five or six episodes. That was like our thing for a while.
I didn’t know about Garry Shandling until about five years ago, from all the nights of hanging out with my dad in the living room at my parents’ house. I wish I could go back, just for a little bit, just to see what kind of minor bullshit I had on my plate that was making me so sad. It wasn’t a show that single-handedly brought me back to earth, but the experience of seeing something that seemed so old at the time, and how it was so accurate… it was real. The show was fiction, but the lessons couldn’t have been more true.
For someone like me, who doesn’t look for the attention from positing “RIP” on social media, this post is outside my usual lane. I don’t idolize anyone and I’m not living and breathing to be anybody’s fucking fan.
But Shandling is worth it. And if I can persuade even one person who reads this to watch The Larry Sanders Show, then that is worth it, too.
And who knows, maybe you’ll learn something about yourself.