“It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” 25th Anniversary Tribute at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, 20 January 2011

by Joel Edelman on January 21, 2011

This is the caption to the photo for the review of the tribute to It's Garry Shandling's Show

It’s the Garry Shandling’s Show 25th Anniversary Tribute review. This is the part where the review talks about what happened at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. And here’s the part where I start typing.

Alan Zweibel showed up to fill in the rare pregnant pauses in this one-on-one-on-one conversation with moderator Zach Braff. The well-scrubbed Braff was the only one with an open collar, but surely it was not a segue, even as we were treated to an entire episode from 1989, “Worrywart.”

In this episode of “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” Shandling has a growth on his neck, and the typical fourth-wall hilarity that is now omnipresent on television (and even in the movies) ensues. At the end we’re treated with the classic gag of Peter look-alikes coming in to use the bathroom, one after another, until Shandling finally barricades the door.

After the episode was over, we were treated to about a half hour of banter between the three men, and we discovered lots of stuff that we may not have realized that we’d always wanted to know, such as how the show (as well as his other famous show, “The Larry Sanders Show”) is out on DVD. Shandling had the sets sent to Braff’s house, with a bill of course.

Zweibel revealed how he knew he’d “found a writing partner” back in the mid-1980s when Shandling called him on the phone at 1 a.m. to tell him that his “dog’s penis tasted bitter.” Sometimes you just know.

They wrote the pilot to “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” by faxing stories back and forth. They did not have email back then, Shandling pointed out, although he did make reference to something called “Zap Mail.”

What’s remarkable about the show, Shandling said, was that, 25 years ago, there was very little original programming on cable TV, so it was truly a groundbreaking show.

Shandling, whose writing credits include “Sanford and Son” and “Welcome Back, Kotter,” was told by TV execs that his unique idea of talking to the camera would not work, to which he replied that if that were true then “on the news, the anchors would speak to each other.”

Back to the show, Shandling called Zweibel up in his hotel room, asking him to help make the now-infamous theme song. After they hung up, Shandling said “I think we did the rest in the elevator, and by the time we got to the lobby we were done.”

So now there’s a show and a theme song. How about some casting? They brought in a ton of kids to see who should play Grant, and they narrowed it down to two. Who was the unlucky loser? Fred Savage. Looks as if South Park was right in making fun of him.

Now it was time for audience questions. The first question was about Gilda Radner. Her last TV appearance before she died was on “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.” Shandling said that she hadn’t been on TV in “six or seven years” and that she told him that she wanted to “make cancer funny.” So when she knocked on the door, Shandling answered “It’s Gilda Radner! Where have you been?” and Radner replied, “I had cancer; what’s your excuse?”

Another question was about why the show was set in Sherman Oaks. Turns out that that was where Shandling lived at the time. He later sold his house to none other than Judd Apatow, who set out to renovate the property. Then the 1994 Northridge quake hit, ruining everything. But, Shandling said, like any good Jew, Apatow had insurance so he was fine.

When asked about whether he thought kids would like the show, Shandling said that at the time he “didn’t have 10-year-olds running up to him telling him ‘I love your show.’” But in retrospect, it makes sense to him now. A child’s mind is free enough to appreciate the humor, he said. Braff added that he might have inspired shows such as “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

The most thought-provoking question from the audience was what the first thing was that made each of the men on stage laugh. Braff said he would answer first because it happened more recently.

When Braff was a kid, his dad took him to see Beverly Hills Cop, a big deal because it was an R-rated movie. He said that he knew he wanted “to get in on that” from that moment on. To this, Shandling added that, even today, “Eddie Murphy is still underrated.”

Zweibel said Woody Allen’s “Take the Money and Run” and “Bananas” caused him to “laugh my ass off and say, ‘Okay, this is funny.’”

Shandling said that for him it was George Carlin, and he added an anecdote that he wrote a few bits to show him as he passed through Tucson, to which Carlin replied that he was green, but he had potential. How right he was.

I’ll leave you with the first joke Zweibel ever sold. For $7 he came up with this: How can you tell a Hasidic orgy? The men are on one side of the room, and the women are on the other.

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