Today marks five years since Garry Shandling died. There was an immediate outpouring in the comedy community, and that’s been remarkably sustained. There is the occasional recounting of Shandling’s remarkable commitment to a complex joke, even when it was delivered for an audience of one, and there have been an abundance of stories of his generous mentoring of other comics, providing bits of advice and huge amounts of support. He was a favorite of mine, and it’s been gratifying to see him reflected in the eyes of those received so much from him personally and professionally.
As it happens, this month is also the fortieth anniversary of Shandling’s debut appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. In 1981, a strong performance on that Burbank stage was life-changing from a comedian. Just listen to the crowd as Shandling moves through his already well-honed material. They’re roaring. Right from the start, he was one of the greats.