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Garry Shandling's family, friends, and colleagues paint an affectionate portrait of a driven, introspective artist who had a hard time getting out of his own head.

Apatow (Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy, 2015, etc.) never thought his comedy mentor and buddy was the kind of guy who liked to hold on to things. After all, the self-deprecating comedian was a practicing Buddhist. Nevertheless, following Shandling’s 2016 death at age 66, Apatow discovered that his teacher and former boss had actually kept everything—including a revelatory trove of journal entries and personal notes stretching back decades. The discovery led to the HBO documentary The Zen Diaries of Gary Shandling. Here, Apatow uses those earnest entries in conjunction with additional interviews to further explore the legendary comedian’s often besieged psyche. Despite stellar successes that included two seminal TV series (It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show), Shandling could never shake the death of his older brother, Barry, who died from cystic fibrosis when Garry was just 10. Under that dark shroud, Shandling additionally obsessed about award show monologues, TV scripts, and his unrelenting ego. “He had rage,” notes Sarah Silverman. “He could really hold on to stuff and be troubled by things that to other people might seem small, but he was always working on that, always trying to process it and understand it." Throughout his professional life, that diligence both helped and hampered Shandling, whether he was writing TV scripts for Sanford & Son or breaking into the movies with the ill-fated What Planet Are You From? In the latter case, Shandling’s mix of insecurity and perfectionism proved too much for director Mike Nichols, and the film flopped. Professional highs and lows aside, Shandling is remembered as a man who spent his entire life seeking and generously giving of himself—even if that self was the cause of most of his woes.

Essential for Shandling fans and a good choice for readers interested in stand-up and comedy writing.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-525-51084-0
Page count: 472pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2019


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