Thursday, February 23, 2012

"The 'Larry Sanders' Experience"

A while back, a reader inquired about my experience on Garry Shandling’s revered and respected The Larry Sanders Show. I will begin my response to that inquiry by inviting you to take this short test.

Who said (or did) this – Garry Shandling or “Larry Sanders”?

a) Arriving at a breakfast meeting, he immediately apologizes for being “a little down”; he has broken up with his girlfriend. When asked “When did it happen?”, he replies, “Nine months ago.”

b) After completing his memoirs, he becomes severely depressed over how little he has accomplished in his life.

c) Required to leave an important “rewrite meeting” for a pre-arranged massage, he waffles back and forth over whether he should continue working, or keep his massage appointment – “I should really stay and help you guys” - “But she came such a long way to give me this massage”, before finally exiting for his massage.

d) On the phone to his financial adviser, he furtively inquires, “How much do I have all together?”

The answers below.

The secret to the incomparable wonderfulness of The Larry Sanders Show is that the distinction inherent in the foregoing test is virtually impossible to make. The real Garry Shandling could have said (and done) any of those things. Conversely, any of them could fit seamlessly into an episode of The Larry Sanders Show.

As I read or heard somewhere – and have repeated to you ad pretty close to nauseum – comedy is reality, plus ten per cent (for exaggeration.) Garry Shandling’s magnificent gift is that, in his highly specialized and microscopically scrutinized universe, comedy is reality. And that’s it.

Shandling is an expert on the emotional workings of the modern Homo Neuroticus, particularly subgenus Show Biznicus. Here’s a story that may have appeared on the show, or if it didn’t, it could have.

David Duchovny calls to invite Larry to an “A-List” event at which supermodels will be in attendance, in particular the hottest supermodel of the moment, of whom Larry has a particular interest, having just glimpsed her less than fully clad body gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Shortly thereafter, Duchovny calls back, with apologies. He has to cancel the invitation, having discovered a conflict on his calendar, making it impossible for him to attend the event.

Larry subsequently discovers that Duchovny did indeed attend the event, but, instead of taking Larry as promised, Duchovny dumped Larry in favor attending in the company of (the hottest male superstar of the moment.)

Shortly thereafter, Duchovny is a guest on The Larry Sanders Show, at which time, while acting overtly gracious and polite, Larry surreptitiously tears Duchovny to pieces.

And now, the answers to the quiz:

a) Garry.

b) “Larry.” But for all I know, it could have been biographical, and it could also be Garry.

c) Garry.

d) Garry.

In the “c” example – at which I was present – after a prolonged self-flagellation over whether to keep working or leave for his massage and finally opting for the massage, I recall my voice saying, “Thank you for sharing your insincerity with us.”

To no reaction whatsoever.

Weeks later, I submitted three jokes for “Larry” to perform during the monolog part of the show. Joke writing is not my forte – I am primarily a “Story Man” – but the jokes came to me, and I thought I had nothing to lose by passing them along.

Instead of perusing my three-joke submission, Garry elected to read them out loud in front of the writing staff, in a flat and word-fumbling manner that showed them to less than their best advantage. The jokes fell flat.

Feeling insecure about my one-liner-writing abilities, I reflexively assumed that my jokes were not funny, and dutifully took my beating. It was only today, while assembling this post, that it struck me that I myself had been unblinkingly “Duchovny-ed.”

(For saying. “Thank you for sharing you insecurity with us.”)

Real life, and the TV show. For the great Garry Shandling, they were one and the same.


Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; do you think saying, "thanks for sharing your indecision with us," would have changed the outcome?


pumpkinhead said...

That was a really interesting post. Most interesting I think is that despite the bit of character analysis you went through, I can't really tell from it what you think of Garry Shandling.

Okay, here we go, I'm going to try the captcha thing. Let's see if I can decipher it.

Johnny Walker said...

Wow, that's amazing. Thanks so much (it was I who asked for this post).

It's all very human and all very flawed. Which is very much the same thing, I guess.

I'm sure Garry didn't really think he was being insincere, however silly his dichotomy sounds to the rest of us. He was probably also thinking, "if I get this massage, I'll be better on the show" or something like that.

Anyways, thanks for sharing, especially the painful moments.