Shandling, who started his career as a TV writer on "Sanford and Son" and "Welcome Back, Kotter," was best known for "The Larry Sanders Show," which ran on HBO from 1992 to 1998. He was nominated for two Golden Globes for his acting on the show and won an Emmy for writing, which he shared with Peter Tolan. The comedy followed the backstage antics of Sanders, a late-night talk show host played by Shandling.
When the showbiz satire went off the air, critic Tom Shales wrote, "Series finale? Already? And so soon after suffering through the departure of 'Seinfeld'? The two best comedies on American television were actually shot on sound stages barely yards apart on the same lot in Los Angeles, and now both those sound stages are dark. Oh, agony. Is there no God?"
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Shandling also starred on the Showtime series "It's Garry Shandling's Show" from 1986 to 1990. The actor played a version of himself on the half-hour comedy, during which he often broke the fourth wall, letting the audience know that he was aware he was starring in a sitcom. Even the show's theme song was self-referential.
Before that, the comedian often guest-hosted for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show," leading to speculation that he might one day take over hosting duties. He was also reportedly considered to replace David Letterman on NBC's late-night spot in 1993.
"There was a time in my career around '83, '84, when I was just starting to guest-host 'The Tonight Show,' that I thought that might really be something I'd like to do," Shandling told Tom Shales for a 1992 profile. "And then when I hosted it for a week at a time several times, I started to wonder, because I found it incredibly draining and somewhat limiting in the sense that you're really forced to talk to people that you would never talk to, or want to talk to, in real life."
More recently, Shandling starred on Jerry Seinfeld's Crackle series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," in which the two talked about their beginnings in stand-up while riding in a 1979 Porsche 930. Following reports of Shandling's death, fans were quick to reference the episode, titled "It's Great That Garry Shandling is Alive." A good deal of Shandling and Seinfeld's conversation dealt with death. The friends visited "The Comedy Store," a famous Hollywood venue. "It's like every other person has passed away," Shandling said while looking at photos on the wall. The two also discussed the shocking 2014 suicide of Robin Williams.
Shandling had a major influence on television comedy, especially with the rise of stars playing themselves, which blurred the line between reality and fiction, and characters breaking the fourth wall.
RIP the great Garry Shandling. Surely, one of the most influential comedians of a generation.— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 24, 2016
Garry Shandling was as kind and generous as he was funny and that is saying a lot.— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) March 24, 2016
R.I.P. Garry Shandling. I am so saddened to hear this. Brilliantly funny and such a great guy. He will be so missed.— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) March 24, 2016
Rest in Peace, Garry Shandling. His work, including the Larry Sanders Show, was an enormous influence.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) March 24, 2016