With the release of the HBO documentary The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, producer/director Judd Apatow was able to create an in-depth and incredibly moving portrait of this late comedic legend in this two-part, four-and-half-hour project. Granted permission by the Shandling estate to use material drawn from the comic’s journals that he’d been keeping since 1977, along with conversations with more than 40 friends including Jim Carrey, Sara Silverman and Jerry Seinfeld, Apatow and editor Joe Beshenkovsky (Montage of Hate; Jane) wove together a film that captures the spiritual and self-aware side of Shandling that few people knew.
Apatow’s relationship with the Chicago native goes back to the early 1990s, when the young 20-something Syosset native was hired to write jokes for Shandling’s inaugural stint hosting the 1991 Grammys. Over time, Apatow admits a deep bond developed between the two.
“All along the way, he was a real older brother/fatherly figure to me. He was just there for me for every important moment in my life,” Apatow said.
These were three of Apatow’s favorite projects he worked on with Shandling.
“I wrote for the Grammys and they were very exciting [award shows]. They gave a lifetime achievement award to Frank Sinatra and Bono was the one who did the speech. Then Jack Nicholson introduced Bob Dylan, who played ‘Masters of War.’ This was right when the first Gulf War broke out.”
The 2000 Emmy Awards
“I worked on the 2000 Emmys and Garry made a real effort to remake them and almost approach it like his It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. There were a lot of behind-the-scene sketches and innovative approaches to the show. It was a real triumph for Garry.”
The Larry Sanders Show (1992 to 1998)
“Working at The Larry Sanders Show, I got to see the whole ride of that program and especially how he ended because he did a really epic, hour-long final episode and had all these guest artists like Jim Carrey. And Garry pulled off a fantastic ending—one of the best in comedy history. He wrote the episode with Peter Tolan. It was a remarkable accomplishment.”