It's Garry Shandling's Show.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents




Garry Shandling put aside a successful career as a stand-up comedian to venture into irreverent forms of fictional television with film producers and talent managers Bernie Brillstein (Ghostbusters) and Brad Grey. The trio created comedies in 1986 and 1992: the whimsical and warm It's Garry Shandling's Show and the darker Larry Sanders Show.

The first program began on the cable network, Showtime, in 1986. After a year, it reached critical success and Shandling relinquished his role as one of Johnny Carson's regular guest hosts on NBC's Tonight Show, leaving Jay Leno as the primary alternate behind the desk. Shandling and Leno had replaced Joan Rivers as Carson's principle replacements in 1986 when Rivers began her own talk show--the initial program on the fledgling FOX Broadcasting Company network.

While still in first run on Showtime, It's Garry Shandling's Show was licensed by the new FOX Broadcasting Company as part of its second season Sunday evening line-up. Although plagued by low ratings and hence unable to satisfy FOX's expectations, critics praised Shandling's tongue in cheek style. FOX reran the Showtime episodes and then contracted with "Our Production Company" for new installments until 1990.

The program, set in Shandling's condominium in Sherman Oaks, California, featured comic schtick. Shandling played a single man looking for the right woman. He spent his free time with his platonic friend Nancy (Molly Cheek), his best friend's family (Stanley Tucci and Bernadette Birkett) and his single mother. Much of the show mimicked Shandling's own life, including his actual home in Sherman Oaks and his romances (a girlfriend moved in with Shandling's "character" when his personal domestic life changed).

The program began with a monologue, introducing the show. Next came a silly theme song, performed by Randy Newman, including the lyrics "Garry called me up and asked if I could write it" and a whistling segment. The "dramatic action" in each episode was simple, built on such premises as Garry's bad dates, or his discovery of a nude photo of his mother from the 1960s. Each situation was resolved with warmth and whimsy, sometimes with the help of audience members.

His antics included "breaking the fourth wall"--acknowledgement and direct address of the audience, both in the studio and at home, as part of the show. In one episode, Garry told the audience to feel free to use his "apartment" (the set) while he was at a baseball game. Several people from the audience (perhaps extras) left their seats to read prop books and play billiards in front of the cameras as the program segued into its next scene.

It's Garry Shandling's Show often included guest stars. In the pilot, just after Garry's character moved into the condo, he was robbed. That night he dreamed of Vanna White (appearing on the show) giving away his good underwear and other personal belongings as prizes on Wheel of Fortune--for less value than he hoped. His most frequent visitor was his "next door neighbor," rock musician Tom Petty. In one episode Petty, who usually had appeared with disheveled long hair, loose shirts and tight pants, became part of a neighborhood quartet. He made his entrance walking in line with three middle-aged singers and all four wore (bad) matching plaid wool vests.

Shandling sometimes used other sight jokes, but most often he exploited running verbal gags. These included the unseen ceiling mirror inscribed with the typed motto, "things may be larger than they appear." Another continuing joke involved Larry's ongoing consideration of what to do during the 41 seconds when theme music interrupted the action.

Some episodes, however, were more serious. One of these featured Gilda Radner near the end of her unsuccessful battle with cancer. This show also presented an anti-war Vietnam theme, detailing how one friend's conduct caused a man to become a prisoner of war. Though the program ended jovially, the action included a darkly lit battle sequence in which uniformed soldiers shot at each other and put holes into Radner's living room set.

Though each episode of the show was scripted, Shandling was known to improvise his lines. If a scene needed three takes, he often performed differently in each iteration as though challenging himself to make each retake funnier than the prior one.


Garry Shandling............................... Garry Shandling

Mrs. Shandling................................... Barbara Cason

Nancy Bancroft..................................... Molly Cheek

Pete Schumaker................................. Michael Tucci

Jackie Schumaker........................ Bernadette Birkett

Grant Schumaker .................................Scott Nemes

Leonard Smith .......................................Paul Willson

Ian (1989-1990)................................... Ian Buchanan

Phoebe Bass (1989-1990)...................Jessica Harper



March 1988-July 1989   Sunday 9:00-9:30
July 1989   Sunday 9:30-10:00
July 1989-August 1989   Sun 10:00-10:30
August 1989-March 1990   Sun 10:30-11:00


Cohen, Noam. "Meta-musings: The Self-reference Craze." The New Republic (Washington, D.C.), 5 September 1988.

Gelman, Morrie. "Crystal, Shandling, HBO Take Home Handful Of Aces." Variety (Los Angeles) 21 January 1991.

Martel, Jay. "True Lies." Rolling Stone (New York), 8 September 1994.

O'Connor, John J. "The Larry Sanders Show." The New York Times, 19 July 1995.

Schleier, Curt. "The Open-and-Shut Life of Garry Shandling." Emmy (Los Angeles), June 1995.

Woolcott, James. "The Larry Sanders Show." The New Yorker, 21 December 1992.

Garry Shandling on the theme song to It's Garry Shandling Show
Al Jean on writing for It's Garry Shandling's Show
Garry Shandling on the writing process and cast on It's Garry Shandling's Show
Manager Bernie Brillstein on the start of It's Garry Shandling's Show
Thomas Schlamme on directing It's Garry Shandling's Show
Sam Simon on consulting for It's Garry Shandling's Show
Who talked about this show

Bernie Brillstein

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Manager Bernie Brillstein on the start of It's Garry Shandling's Show

Sam Denoff

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Sam Denoff on It's Garry Shandling's Show

Al Jean

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Al Jean on writing for It's Garry Shandling's Show
Al Jean on writing for ALF and It's Garry Shandling's Show

Thomas Schlamme

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Thomas Schlamme on directing It's Garry Shandling's Show
Thomas Schlamme on how he came to direct It's Garry Shandling's Show

Garry Shandling

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Garry Shandling on the writing process and cast on It's Garry Shandling's Show
Garry Shandling on how his acting coach deconstructed scripts of the show
Garry Shandling on It's Garry Shandling Show and winding up on Showtime, not NBC; on the premise and theme song of the show
Garry Shandling on an episode of It's Garry Shandling's Show inspiring The Larry Sanders Show

Sam Simon

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Sam Simon on consulting on It's Garry Shandling's Show
Sam Simon on consulting for It's Garry Shandling's Show

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