Editor's note: This originally ran in "Tales from the Morgue" in 2008. We are running again now in celebration of Garry Shandling's life. He died Thursday, March 24, 2016, at the age of 66.
When a young Garry Shandling was growing up in Tucson, he planned on being either a veterinarian or a comedian. By age 10, though, the animal population lost out to show business and comedy was all he wrote.
But, just as some kids were collecting baseball cards, Shandling was collecting the routines of his favorite comedians, including George Carlin, Don Rickles, Joey Bishop and Shecky Green.
He was also collecting postage stamps and sharing that interest with a pen pal. When Garry’s older brother Barry died at the age of 13, he inherited Barry’s Japanese pen pal Hiroki Shioji.
The two corresponded for several years and in 1964, Hiroki came to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. The Shandlings were very instrumental in helping get him through a variety of financial and paperwork issues.
Garry attended Palo Verde High School and went on to the UA where he received a bachelor of science degree in 1972. He began work on a master’s in creative writing, but did not complete the degree. He told a Star reporter that it was because of the foreign language requirement. “I just can’t wear those headphones, because it mashes down my hair.”
Shandling had submitted material to George Carlin to critique. Carlin’s encouraging words were enough to lead the aspiring comedian to Hollywood in 1973.
He wrote for several shows, but eventually went back to stand-up. He first appeared as a guest on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and later returned to host the show.
In 1986, he got his own comedy series “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.” It was followed by “The Larry Sanders Show.” Both ran for several years.