If there’s one aspect of Larry Sanders creator and legendary stand-up Garry Shandling that set him apart from his comedy peers, it was his spirituality. EP and director Judd Apatow of the upcoming HBO doc The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling emphasized that today at the movie’s TCA session, going so far to say how the former fill-in Tonight Show hosts had an inspiration on a young Apatow in regards to Buddism.
“My parents didn’t believe in God,” said Apatow mentioning that he never had a Bar Mitzvah growing up.
Couple Shandling’s inner philosophy with the themes of The Larry Sanders Show —which doted on the follies of egomaniacs and as Apatow says “was about people who loved each other, but show business got in the way” — and one wonders how Shandling’s $100M lawsuit with late manager and friend Brad Grey rattled his world. Shandling at the time accused that Grey was double-dipping, taking fees from HBO both as Shandling’s manager and as the EP of The Larry Sanders Show; that Grey made lucrative TV deals by trading on his relationship with the stand-up without cutting his client in; and inveigled writers from Larry Sanders to create other shows for Grey’s television studio. Grey denied the allegations and counter-sued for $10M. Both Grey and Shandling settled out of court in July 1999 for undisclosed terms. During the course of this melee, it was reported that Grey hired private investigator Anthony Pellicano to tap Shandling’s phones among many others.
Said Apatow on how Shandling’s legal battle with Grey 20 years ago impacted the stand-up, “He was very surprised about how brutal show business could be. He didn’t see it coming. He was naive in a business sense and didn’t know enough about how business worked. He was very trusting.”
Apatow first met Shandling when he interviewed him for a high school radio show. This ultimately led to Apatow writing jokes for Shandling during his emcee performances, and then writing and directing on The Larry Sanders Show. Shandling wasn’t just a mentor to Apatow, but several comedians. “He’d read your script and go see a cut of your movie,” said Apatow mentioning how Shandling was also an inspiration for Jon Favreau and Peter Berg.
There were stories at the time that Shandling was walking off the show abruptly in protest, “that he was crazy” said Apatow, “all of this was made-up to destroy Garry’s credibility. He didn’t see that coming; when you sue somebody it’s part of the process.”
Couple the tabloid headlines with Pelliano’s wire-tapping and all of Garry’s “paranoias about show business turned out to be way worse than his paranoid fantasies” said Apatow. Shandling was called in testify against Pellicano in his criminal trial.
“Even today with Harvey Weinstein we see that part of the business where people feel threatened with his sending out Mossad agents,” continued Apatow, “It was a difficult part of (Garry’s) life.”