This article was originally published in the December 1994 issue of Playboy magazine.
God must be a fan of “The Larry Sanders Show.” Ever since the second season of HBO’s brilliantly droll sitcom, talk of talk shows has consumed the media. As Leno and Letterman jockeyed for Johnny Carson’s throne, the public got an unprecedented dose of backbiting and brinkmanship. There followed Conan O'Brien’s rise, Arsenio Hall’s farewell and, this fall, the resurrection of Tom Snyder. It all gave Garry Shandling’s show a spooky backstage veracity that made the inside humor all the more telling.
In addition, Shandling, a permanent guest-host on “The Tonight Show” in the mid-Eighties, was reportedly offered millions to host an authentic talk show in Letterman’s old NBC spot. (Even now, Shandling’s name is always mentioned when there’s a talk-show vacancy.) After serious consideration, he said no, claiming he didn’t have enough time to prepare. Next, CBS supposedly went after him to follow Letterman. Shandling again declined, leaving the spot for Snyder. In fact, in one “Sanders” episode, Larry hired Snyder to follow his show after Letterman (playing himself in a guest appearance) told Larry he was thinking of hiring Snyder for the slot after the new “Late Night.” No wonder “The Larry Sanders Show” seems like a maze of mirrors and TV monitors.
Such disorientation has its compensation. “USA Today” called “The Larry Sanders Show” the ultimate talk show, and in “The Washington Post,” critic Tom Shales wrote, “‘The Larry Sanders Show’ is brilliantly brilliant, wonderfully wonderful and hilariously hilarious, the next step in the evolution of the television talk show and a contribution to the betterment of viewerkind.” The proof is also in the show’s awards: the 1993 Ace for Best Comedy Series, as well as eight 1993 Emmy nominations and four 1994 Emmy nods. The show also won the 1993 Peabody Award, the most coveted award in television.
I have never stuck to a formula. I don’t know the level of my own talent, so I just have to keep working to find it.
“The Larry Sanders Show” is just the latest peak in Shandling’s career, which began in the early Seventies when he found work writing episodes of “Welcome Back, Kotter” and “Sanford and Son.” When an automobile accident landed him in the hospital, Shandling reconsidered his life and emerged determined to pursue stand-up comedy. He finally got his start at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. His topic that night, as usual, was his nightmarish single life. Although his delivery was low-key and unashamedly whiny, his material had a fresh and sophisticated appeal. It is difficult to dislike a guy who once said that over his bed he had a mirror with the message objects in mirror are larger than they appear.
Shandling quickly became a “Tonight Show” regular after his first appearance in 1981. Five years later, when Joan Rivers bolted for her own talk show, Carson gave Shandling the regular guest-host spot.
Shandling eventually abdicated that plum position for his own sitcom. He wanted to be on a major network, but just like his hapless bachelor persona, he ended up kissing himself goodnight. NBC didn’t want a series about a comic—at least not until four years later, when “Seinfeld” came along.
So Shandling took his wares to Showtime, where, in 1986, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” debuted. Cable proved to be a blessing. Unfettered by advertisers or network constraints, the show was inventive and un-censored. It was also the most narcissistic series ever put on television. Shandling played Shandling, a guy who lived in a house just like his and who had the same problems with his hair, his lips and his love life. Occasionally he even spoke directly to the camera and commented on the action. Critics lined up behind him, and “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” ran four seasons, until Shandling burned out.
An episode of that show, in which Shandling was the guest on a talk show hosted by Cristina Ferrare, gave the comedian the seed of the idea for a talk show done as a sitcom. Together with Dennis Klein (head writer of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and writer and producer of “Buffalo Bill” and last season’s lauded “Bakersfield P.D.”), they designed the series and then wrote the pilot. Although “The Larry Sanders Show” exists in a fictional world, it’s a canny reflection of reality. It competes with Letterman and Leno. It has a wily producer, Artie (Rip Torn), and a bumptious sidekick, Hank “Hey Now” Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor). Even Shandling’s real-life fiancée, Linda Doucett, gets in on the action as Kingsley’s assistant. Plus, all of Sanders’ too-numerous-to-list-here guests are bona fide celebrities willing to poke fun at late-night conventions and, refreshingly, at themselves. Viewers also get to see Sanders’ private life as he deals with exwives, staff and female guests he’s sleeping with. It’s just as you hoped life behind the cameras would be: jaundiced, duplicitous, indiscreet, backstabbing, ambitious, driven by fear and very funny.
Shandling, 45, was born in Chicago, but the family moved to Tucson when he was two. When he was ten, his 13-year-old brother, Barry, died of cystic fibrosis. Perhaps as a result, Shandling found himself pondering life and the universe when he would otherwise have been concentrating on his teenage wardrobe, grooming and figuring out how to talk to girls. “I actually thought, I don’t think the other kids are thinking about this stuff,” Shandling says of his preadolescence. Between existential crises, Shandling found that he was “naturally funny.” When, after getting a degree in marketing and then doing graduate work in creative writing at the University of Arizona, he realized he didn’t want to live in Tucson forever, he decided to take his humor to Los Angeles.
We sent Contributing Editor David Rensin, who conducted our “20 Questions” chat with Shandling in July 1987, to meet with the actor–comedian in Los Angeles, since filming for the third season of “The Larry Sanders Show” was underway. Says Rensin:
“It’s tough to tell what Garry is really thinking because he never takes off his sunglasses. Even when he’s being sincere, his vocal inflections and his inability to resist the wry retort can cast doubt. This can be a lot of fun, when it isn’t maddening.
"Our first session took place at a Malibu Colony house he’d leased while the construction of his new home was being completed. When I arrived, Shandling didn’t answer the door. But it was open, so I walked in and called for him. He was in the kitchen with his dog. After a few pleasantries, Shandling said goodbye to the dog and moved to the den. He wore dark glasses and baggy sweats, ate yogurt and kept his eyes on the television flickering over my shoulder.
"Since I sort of had his attention, it seemed the perfect time to begin.”
How am I doing?
Excellent, so far.
Good. I just want my words to be among some naked photos because that’s never happened to me before.
What about when we did 20 Questions years ago?
Yeah, but that was sort of in the back, at the end of a piece of fiction. By the way, my manager said “Make sure you say the word fuck somewhere in your interview.” So there, I just did.
This is clearly a move up, then.
Maybe this interview could be a foldout? To read the whole thing you’d have to fold it out rather than turn the page. If there’s any way to work that out, I’d appreciate it. Why can’t I be the first foldout interview? Would you bounce it off the editors? I think it’s a great idea. I’m trying to get my dogs to do a nude layout in Dog World.
If it means that much to you—and you don’t mind being folded in thirds.
That’s OK. I know I’ll never be a Playmate, so if I could at least be a foldout interview, that would fulfill my fantasy.
You might need larger breasts.
Did I mention that I have breast implants in my hands so it always feels like I’m with somebody?
Frankly, it seems as if you already have your hands full. The Larry Sanders Show has gotten raves. Every time a real talk-show-host job opens up, your name is mentioned. In addition, you appeared in Nora Ephron’s latest film and made a movie, Love Affair, with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. Let’s start with your newest venture. How did Warren seduce you into taking the job?
I actually agreed to do it without seeing a script. I had been offered several movies during my last series, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. I wasn’t in love with any, so I passed. When I finished the show, there were things I wanted to do, but the studios weren’t really interested in me. So the bad parts were ones I didn’t want and the great parts were ones I couldn’t get. When they called me and said Warren Beatty was doing a remake of An Affair to Remember, with Glenn Gordon Caron, who did Moonlighting, directing, it felt right. I had lunch with both of them and we laughed a lot. It’s not a big part. I’m in four or five scenes, and that’s before what happened in the editing room.
Did Warren have any acting advice for you?
He said, “You’re too hard on yourself.” But that was my first real role. I’d done a cameo in The Night We Never Met. Before that I did a VD training film in college, which I don’t really want to talk about.
Were you the guy who says, “I have a spot down there,” or the one who says, “Don’t worry. I had one and it went away”?
Unfortunately, it’s a little more embarrassing. I’m the woman who says, “How can I trust you?”
What film roles couldn’t you get?
I auditioned for City Slickers. The first read with Bruno Kirby and Billy Crystal went extremely well. I went back a couple days later and had a bad second session. I was really disappointed. I wanted to work with those guys.
The It’s Garry Shandling’s Show movie never got made. What happened?
The script was funny but too similar to the TV show. After having done four years of the show, I simply wasn’t inspired to do the movie.
If the transition to movies is so unpredictable, you could always be a real talk-show host.
I’m the opposite of Larry Sanders, in that Larry—like many talk-show hosts I know—wants to stay in his niche and is afraid to go outside it. I, however, am looking for the next project to force me further out of my niche and make me more frightened, because that’s how I’ll grow. That’s why I did Love Affair.
Nice sentiment. Do you expect anyone, especially people in show business, to believe you?
Why? Doesn’t that sound right?
Well, on The Larry Sanders Show, you’ve made it clear that showbiz types don’t always say what they mean.
It doesn’t sound honest? My projects have always been diverse. I went from guest-hosting The Tonight Show to doing my own series to turning down hosting a talk show so that I could do a series about a talk show. And I’ve just done a movie. There are many people I respect who view their careers as ways to grow.
Do you know something I don’t? If so, please tell me. In fact, for anyone reading this who knows something I don’t and can help me get to these answers quicker, I am available and begging for your feedback. Please write in.
OK, so you mean it.
Steve Martin, Albert Brooks and Woody Allen have never stuck to a formula. I don’t know the level of my own talent, so I just have to keep working to find it. I hope I can amass a body of work that reflects a certain degree of range.
How afraid are you that you might actually discover the limits of your talent?
Thanks for bringing that up. [Pauses] There is some fear that I will stop growing, which is dangerous. That will be an ugly and sad day, one that I don’t really want to contemplate. Thanks again. I guess I’ll follow that by saying: Do you know something that I don’t? If so, please tell me. In fact, for anyone reading this who knows something that I don’t and can help me get to these answers quicker, I am available and begging for your feedback. Please write in.
Would you consider hosting a talk show on a regular basis when The Larry Sanders Show is over?
I am not in any way, shape or form interested. I think.
We know you turned down an enormous amount of money—reports have it from $5 million to $20 million—to take Letterman’s place and follow The Tonight Show. But we also heard you passed because you thought Leno might nose-dive.
That’s absolutely false. One, these things are impossible to predict. Two, that’s something I would never say. Three, I don’t even believe that about Jay.
We heard that Letterman producer Peter Lassally flew to Los Angeles to persuade you not to take the NBC gig. You took a walk on the beach, talked about the show and—
Not true. [Pauses] I hear fabricated stories and am put in the position of saying “That’s fabricated” and then wondering if people believe me. Now I’m wondering if when other people say “That’s fabricated,” they’re telling the truth. I know I’m being honest, but we’re in a time when your word doesn’t mean anything anymore. It started with Nixon. I believe Peter Lassally tried to persuade Nixon not to take the late-night spot, but Nixon would never have admitted that.
Should Leno have acknowledged Carson the night he took over The Tonight Show?
I can’t answer that.
What if it had been you?
I honestly can’t say what I would have done my first night. I am a big fan of Johnny Carson, and he has been a major supporter of mine. He’s a legend—and he’s underrated. However, I was a little upset that Jay didn’t mention me on his first night. That would have been a nice gesture.
Apparently, HBO is gearing up to do a film based on The Late Shift, by Bill Carter, about the Leno-Letterman Tonight Show succession. Care to cast the film for us?
I would cast Danny Glover as Letterman—because I believe in offbeat casting. I would try to get Candice Bergen to play Leno. Half of it would take place on a motorcycle—I’d just like to see that. Johnny should play Johnny. That should be the little hook. Or Hugh Hefner should play Johnny. [CBS broadcast group president] Howard Stringer would have been played by Marty Feldman, who has passed away. Now it should be Eric Idle. NBC chairman Bob Wright, who’s actually a sweet man, should be played by Ed Asner. And I would like to be played by—it’s a tough choice. I would have to see them read, but I’ll pick a couple: It’s between Jimmie Walker and the coroner in the O.J. Simpson case.
Who should play Paul Shaffer?
Paul Lynde, who has unfortunately passed away, too, would have been perfect. So now I’d say Sting. And Bob Woodward should play the writer of the book.
You’ve said that one reason you resist doing a real talk show is that you need a “better idea,” otherwise you would be subject to the same sort of lambasting that real hosts get.
That’s right: I would become Larry Sanders.
But isn’t Larry Sanders the better idea?
Oh, that’s interesting. That’s a good question. I’ve never seen it like that. I won’t know that until I look back on it objectively, years from now. But my gut instinct is that it’s not. I think there is a talk show to do that’s a better idea, but I won’t go into detail because you’ll end up doing it.
How about a clue?
Here’s the clue: I think The Larry Sanders Show is a stepping-stone to a new way to do a talk show, one that’s completely different.
If there are going to be 500 channels, eventually we’re going to see a talk show with just two hosts with their desks together, trying to force a conversation out of each other. Or the host will be on one channel and the guest on another. That’s sort of interactive TV. “If you want to see Chuck Grodin answer this question, turn to channel 22. If you want to see Jeff Goldblum answer, turn to channel 47. And if you want to see Heather Locklear—”
Would you make a good talk-show host?
A really good host—for the first three weeks. Then I’d throw my hands in the air and walk off like Jack Paar. On the other hand, I’m strong at ad-libbing and I actually attempt to make people feel comfortable. It’s not unusual for my audience to fall asleep during a stand-up concert. That’s how comfortable they are.
Maybe you avoid hosting because you don’t want to wallow in the bullshit you’ve exposed on The Larry Sanders Show.
Emphatically, no. I take that back: Just no. It’s simple. There are other things I want to try. If I commit to a talk show, it’s a daily job for as long as the show is successful and spontaneous. The greatest challenge is the spontaneity, when you have to wing a conversation or fill a moment that is totally unpredictable. I really respond to that.
When did you get the idea for The Larry Sanders Show?
While I was doing an episode of my old series, in which Garry Shandling appeared on a talk show that Cristina Ferrare hosted. I thought, If Garry Shandling were that host, we could do a show in which that’s the job. My first series had almost burned me out, and I wasn’t really looking for another—at least not one that wouldn’t allow me to shed layers and become more truthful as an actor and a writer.
Is that what motivates you? The perception of showbiz types is that they’re driven by ego and avarice.
I’m not. People tilt their heads at some of my business decisions because I don’t always go for the money. And mind you, I would love to have lots of money. Instead, I’m driven to discover more of who I am.
You’re not concerned that by now we might be boring people with that revelation?
I’ve seen my dogs run away while I’m discussing this with them. I’ve had friends put their answering machines on. Great. Now you’ve made me self-conscious of my desire to grow. Maybe it would be easier if I just took the money.
When did The Larry Sanders Show become a reality?
When Tribune Entertainment offered me the Dennis Miller spot, I told my manager, Brad Grey, that if I had to choose—though I didn’t have a commitment at that time to do The Larry Sanders Show—between doing a talk show and doing a show about a talk show, I’d rather do the show about the talk show because I knew exactly what it would be.
How did you cast Rip Torn as Larry’s producer, Artie?
I was torn between Torn and another wonderful actor named John Glover. I’d met with Rip and his agent and it was very awkward. Rip was pleasant but not evocative, and I really didn’t know what to say. Nothing was accomplished and we continued to look for Artie. Then I asked Rip for another meeting. He came in and I said, “I know that it’s inappropriate for me to ask you to read a script, and your agent said you wouldn’t read for me. But it would help me get a sense of whether this will work or not.” He said, “Well, then, I really don’t want to read.” I said, “I respect that; let’s just forget it.” At which point he said, “Oh, to hell with it. Give me the script.” He proceeded to blow me away—and nothing short of that. No one saw it except me. My next concern was whether a movie actor would feel comfortable working at a television pace—I thought he’d never done a series. I asked, and he said he had done Rawhide. I hired him. Months later, out of the blue, he came up to me and whispered, “You know, I did only two episodes of Rawhide.” Which explains why he’s the perfect Artie—that’s Artie’s sense of humor.
How badly do you want to get off cable? Aren’t you tired of being king of a small country?
No, though I like the attitude with which you delivered the question. If I wanted to be off cable I would have taken one of the late-night talk shows that were offered to me. But let’s suppose NBC wanted The Larry Sanders Show. That would mean, I suppose, a prime-time series. Then I would have the opportunity to do a Fritos commercial, wouldn’t I? I guess it’s those benefits of doing a network show that I miss. I would like to be the new Frito Bandito—for a million bucks, or whatever it pays. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the advantage would be.
At one time, wasn’t It’s Garry Shandling’s Show supposed to be on NBC?
Yes, I had a deal to create a show. But at that time I was told that NBC didn’t want to do a show about a comedian’s life.
How did you feel when it aired Seinfeld and the show became a hit?
By then the public was exposed to stand-up comedy specials and Evening at the Improv enough to generate some curiosity about what comedians are really like. But let’s not kid ourselves: George Burns had a show in which he played George Burns, who was a comedian. And Danny Thomas played an entertainer in The Danny Thomas Show. So it goes way back. There’s no precedent for thinking that the audience wouldn’t understand or want to see a comedian’s life. And I Love Lucy, the most successful sitcom ever, had elements of show business to it.
Are you bitter?
No. It’s conceivable that had my show been on NBC it might have had a very short run. I was given such freedom at Showtime with It’s Garry Shandling’s Show that it helped me grow. It was the perfect place. Understand, I had written for network sitcoms: Sanford and Son, Welcome Back, Kotter, The Practice, The Harvey Korman Show and others. I already knew the formula: when you had to dissolve to a commercial and how you had to keep the audience tuned in during the commercial break by having some big cliff-hanger story point. Those elements can be constraining. I had no interest in going back to writing within that formula. If on The Larry Sanders Show I had to worry about where the commercial breaks were going, it would drive me crazy.
On It’s Garry Shandling’s Show you spoofed the conventions of the sitcom, reasoning that the TV-generation audience knew they were watching the tube, so why not acknowledge it? What about sitcoms these days? Are they better? Worse?
I don’t watch many of them. I don’t watch any of them, actually. I haven’t seen entire episodes of many of the top sitcoms. I have seen large hunks of Seinfeld and it’s terrific. I’ve seen large hunks of Roseanne and it’s very funny. When I was writing sitcoms, I would just sit and watch them. I knew them all—the characters, the arc of the stories over the season, where the characters were going. Now I’m so out of touch that I will be watching a talk show and a guest will be on whom I don’t even recognize. He ends up being the star of some new sitcom.
Let’s get specific about The Larry Sanders Show. There has been much analysis, but what do you think the show’s about?
Real people going through real experiences, reacting in human ways. They happen to work on a network talk show. I was interested in a project that allowed me to explore human behavior, both as an actor and as a writer. The subject of talk shows is funny and, needless to say, I’m writing about something I’m familiar with. But I’m not out to expose what really goes on backstage. I’m out to expose an aspect of human behavior that everybody has—the two-sided personality. We sweet-talk somebody, and as soon as he turns his back we say what we really think of him.
How deeply can you explore human nature and still entertain? After all, this is television, even if it’s cable.
I was going to say that, but you said it—proving that you’re the asshole. Proving that we’re both assholes! Sure, this is not a PBS documentary that looks at the psychology of the human condition. But let’s start there and then make it funny. This isn’t the first show to do that, but it’s the basis of really good comedy.
Let me give an example of the behavior I’m talking about. Look at what happened to Chevy Chase. The Larry Sanders Show captures moments like the one when former Fox executive Lucy Salhany said in the newspaper that they were committed to The Chevy Chase Show and would stick by it, and two weeks later it was canceled. I was surprised that it went so quickly. I assumed from her comment that they were going to continue to work on improving the show.
You, who rips away the veil, believed her?
Strangely, I’m occasionally naive about show business. It’s probably what allows me to remain fascinated by what I see. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona in a regular environment, so I’m always caught by surprise.
But you’ve been in Los Angeles a long time.
Twenty years. I think I’m up for parole soon.
Couldn’t you tell from how uncomfortable Chase’s show was to watch that it was destined for oblivion sooner rather than later?
I was surprised and, again, naive. I had read an interview in which Chevy said he was going to do a different kind of talk show, with a lot of sketches and comedy elements. Instead, it really was just a talk show. When people say they’re going to do something, I assume they’re going to do it. I would never say in an interview that I was going to accomplish something unless I was positive that I could. Otherwise, you leave yourself wide open.
Part of what has won The Larry Sanders Show such raves is that the tone is quite different from network fare. What’s the major emotion at work?
Fear. Show business is an unstable profession and it epitomizes an unstable world—and an unstable human existence. Larry is fearful, deep down, that one day he will wake up and not be Larry Sanders. Then who will he be? That’s what scares him.
Just curious: Do you continue to go to therapy?
_Maybe we should listen to tapes of your sessions— _
They’re available at Blockbuster. The complete set of My Shrink Tapes. Pretty soon I’ll be sitting with John Tesh, talking about how we made our relationship work.
How much do you really want to change a personality that’s so creative? Can you get too healthy to maintain an emotional connection to your resources?
I had that fear, but it turns out that as I’ve gotten healthier, I’ve gotten better. I can, in a healthier and more objective way, look at the craziness around me and within myself. Gee, I guess I should just be writing The Twilight Zone. Again, I’d like to mention that though I’m self-conscious, this is an interview about me—or I would be talking about something else.
What’s Larry’s story?
Oddly enough, I’m going to write the Larry Sanders story. His book.
Got a title?
I’m flirting with My Way. I think it has that show business sarcasm that’s so special. But maybe I’ll spell it w-e-i-g-h. However, since I want everyone to buy the book, I won’t talk about certain parts of Larry’s life now.
His cocaine problem when he was in his early 20s, his near-death experience with Sinatra, his sexual encounter with Elke Sommer in the dressing room during the taping of his first show.
Who hit on whom?
Again, I don’t want to divulge too much, but she came on to Larry, and Larry decided to interview her in the dressing room as well as after the show. Larry does a lot of follow-up interviews with women. He has a lot of skeletons in the closet. He once got drunk and was driving along Mulholland, and he hit Tim Conway’s dog and never told anyone about it.
We can see why you wouldn’t want to reveal this stuff before the book comes out. Anything else?
You want to spend more time on this? OK. Larry once told his psychiatrist that he was frightened because he had kissed Rip Taylor in a sketch and liked it. That sent him reeling for a couple of months.
Was there any contact between Larry and Rip after the kiss?
Larry never acted on it and is now glad he didn’t, because that relationship would have been purely physical and not intellectual enough to keep Larry interested on any deeper level. Larry loves women and understands them. He’s confident that he is heterosexual. He’s proud of his conquests with women—Elke Sommer, Joyce DeWitt, Karen Valentine and Brett Sommers.
You mock Larry, and one of the show’s highlights is that you have authentic celebrity guests who are willing to mock themselves. There’s a degree of discomfort and danger for them, yet you’ve clearly tapped into something else as well.
This show has to prove that it will not hurt or make fun of guests. When we can’t get certain guests, it’s because they don’t believe they’ll come off in the best possible light, that we’ll say something bad about them, that we’ll cross the line. That’s not what the show is. Now, I have a good instinct for going up to the line. I am completely capable of going over the line and have done so in scripts and in shooting—and then have edited it out. Mostly, I just like going as close to the line as possible, without going over.
Like writing “Billy Crystal would suck a cock to win a sack race,” as reported in a behind-the-scenes magazine story on your show.
Sometimes in rough first drafts of scripts everything is in there, and what goes over the line will be taken out. It’s indulgent and self-destructive to cross some lines unless one is making a philosophical point. But crossing a line just to cross a line is not my way. Sometimes actors will come in and say, “Hey, here’s an idea.” Sometimes ideas cross the line, but if they want to do it, I will. The first time that happened was when Carol Burnett said, “I can see your balls,” referring to Larry wearing a short Tarzan outfit. When she read the script and got to that part, she just blurted it out. I was flinching because I thought, Oh, I meant to take that out. This was only the second or third episode of the show, so I didn’t know how celebrities would feel coming on and saying things that we never hear them say. But she said “I can see your balls” with such commitment that it was one of the funniest moments ever on the show.
Are you overwhelmed or underwhelmed at the capacity of celebrities to mock themselves?
I’m whelmed, in the sense that I’m surprised by the number of celebrities who are wonderfully supportive spirits willing to have fun. John Ritter came on the show and played John Ritter. In the script he gets bumped off the talk show and isn’t treated in a way that someone like John Ritter deserves to be treated. And he was very willing to do it.
His meeting Gene Siskel in the hall and exchanging words about how Siskel reviewed one of Ritter’s films was one of the most uncomfortable scenes of the show.
That’s a favorite. Ritter is willing to talk about a bad review that Siskel gave him, and then willing to admit that he remembers, word for word, the review—after claiming he doesn’t read reviews. Some other entertainer might have said, “Wait, I don’t want to mention how bad that movie was.” I think it shows Ritter’s security. I respect him more for that than if he had said, “Oh no, don’t mention the movie.”
Has anybody else surprised you?
Burt Reynolds came on after his divorce from Loni Anderson. We didn’t know in advance if he’d be willing to do any jokes about the divorce, but he was more than willing.
Who surprised Larry?
Alec Baldwin. Wonderful guest and a good-looking man. When you’re interviewing him, you alternate between realizing those two things.
Whom do you still want to get on as a guest?
I’m trying to get Albert Brooks. He is tough. I had heard for years before I knew him that he was the funniest guy in a room, which, in comedy, means sitting with a bunch of other funny people and improvising and playing. Then I got to know him, and he is the funniest person I’ve ever met. He can make anything funny. Albert loves the show—at least he’s told me he loves it. Those are two different things in this town.
We’ve heard that Madonna wants to be on your show.
I received a message that Madonna’s management was interested. I would love to have Madonna on, but I can’t believe she would be interested.
Suppose it were true.
I would like to have her on. It would be a night that Larry was ill and Dave Letterman guest-hosted. Just replay the episode when she was on his show. I thought Dave was unbelievably funny. She was a difficult guest and Dave played off her perfectly. I laughed out loud several times. I think he did a better job than I would ever do interviewing her.
Didn’t Johnny Carson say he wanted to do the show?
Johnny said he would when he starts working again. When I called him, he said, “Not ready yet.” But he told me he really likes the show, and that pleased me. After all, creatively, if the people who actually do the job think you’re depicting it accurately, then you’re successful as a writer and performer. Letterman and Leno and Johnny have all told me that they enjoy the show and find it close to the bone. In fact, occasionally we’ll get a friendly call from Letterman’s office, and they’ll say, “Hey, tell me the truth. In the scene where Larry talks about cars, is that because Dave always talks about cars?” And the truth is, no. It’s completely coincidental. But it’s funny because I think the Larry Sanders composite possesses so many qualities the real hosts have.
One perk of The Larry Sanders Show is that you now get to do nude scenes. The first two seasons you were always in bed with one wife or another, and now you’re sleeping around.
There aren’t a lot. I can count them on my, let’s say, hand.
Seems like more. Wasn’t it exciting being sort of naked in bed with Kathryn Harrold?
“Sort of naked” is the key phrase. Underneath those blankets the women are wearing flak jackets. They’re completely dressed. It’s hilarious and pathetic. The blanket is always pulled up around the neck. It might as well be The Dick Van Dyke Show. Let me put it to you this way: When I do what I think are nude scenes, I’m always nude, and I’m then pretty shocked when the actress is completely clothed. So I learned very quickly to remain clothed.
_We noticed that one of those file cards stuck to the wall above your desk suggests a possible episode in which Larry dates Brazilian pop star Xuxa. Only it’s misspelled Shoosha. _
I’m surprised that the staff spelled Larry correctly. But Xuxa does not know how to spell Larry, so it balances out. You know how Xuxa spells Larry? X-a-x-x-y.
Another card says Sharon Stone. You two are an unlikely couple.
It’s a funny episode. Larry goes to bed with her, but he can’t get an erection because she’s more famous than he is. He realizes that he can’t be in a relationship with someone who’s more famous than he is. Artie says, “Don’t you know, Larry, that in a show business relationship where both parties are famous, it’s the woman who has the dick?”
What are some other rewards of being Larry?
It’s fun to have people in the business mention that they’re fans of the show. And then, very much like Larry, I usually say, “Why don’t you come on the show sometime?” Then I wonder if we will ever be able to fit them in.
Is there a waiting list?
I wish I had the list in front of me. I’d be happy to get it before we finish this interview—which, at the rate we’re going, will be right after the world ends and Jesus comes back, and we’ll include him in this. I’m sure you’d have some good questions for Jesus. Like, “Would you do a network show?” And, “Do you think you look like David Brenner?”
By the way, do people still confuse you with David Brenner?
Oh yes. The oddest one was when I was told I looked like a cross between Jimmy Carter and David Brenner. One article about me said I had the smile of Mr. Ed. That’s pretty much the only one that I thought was accurate. I just put down the magazine and continued grazing. You know, they have to put peanut butter on my gums to make it look like I’m talking, when I’m actually just licking it off. I guess that secret’s out.
We see you have a pair of binoculars handy—for checking into other people’s secrets, no doubt.
Right now there’s a plane out there that looks like a Japanese Zero coming straight for the house. [He points, and he’s right.] Sightseers! I also have a complex telescope that I rarely use because my neighbor keeps his curtains closed.
Did you buy it for yourself, or was it a gift?
It was a gift from Alan Zweibel, the producer of my first series. I’m interested in that sort of thing. Johnny Carson and I, on many a moonlit night, will sit out in the cold, examining the rings of Saturn. Dot-dot-dot, I wish.
Carson lives nearby. Could you look into his house with your telescope?
There’s an idea. Johnny is fascinated with astronomy. When I visited him once, he showed me a large telescope. Then I showed him mine, as men will do. Comparing the size of our refracting mirrors. And I’d like to say, by the way, that my refracting mirror is a little larger than Johnny’s. I know the women will think I’m bragging. I imagine that’s how you know if you really are well-endowed, if you have a sight scope attached to your penis.
Can you make Carson laugh?
I have, but I wish I could recall what I said. At the time, I just remember thinking, Oh, I just made Johnny laugh. Or, I just made Albert laugh. I can’t believe they would think I’m funny. In my most private moments—which I guess are no longer private—I realize that I have no idea what other comedians and performers think of me.
Do you try to be funny when you’re with other comedians?
Yes. Often. It’s both fun and competitive.
Do you get to spend any quality time with Johnny, Dave or Jay?
Of them all, of all comedians, I know Dennis Miller the best. Dennis is hilarious. Dave and I didn’t talk much outside of his show until one day when he called me at home—it was the first time he had ever called me at home—to tell me how much he liked The Larry Sanders Show. We’ve had some nice chats since then, but none that could be described as male bonding.
Do you like the old Dave, who was acerbic and sometimes hard on his guests, or the new Dave—friendly, energetic and in control?
I like the Dave from the Mary Tyler Moore variety show. He’s never been the same since then. There are other guys I’d really like to know, like Steve Martin. I sense we could at least be pen pals.
You are also friendly with Howard Stern. What’s his appeal?
He’s developed a style, he’s got a specific point of view. To a large degree, you get his stream of consciousness. Howard once said to me off camera that he doesn’t edit himself in his head when he’s on the radio. So anything he sees or hears in life could be repeated. That can be interesting, that can be funny, or that can be hurtful. That’s what makes it so appealing. I’ve heard him go over the line and thought it was too easy and too low, and I’ve heard him be funny. Underlying all that, you see a pretty nice guy sort of laughing at himself.
Bernie Brillstein, considered the comedy czar of Hollywood, once told The Washington Post that you’d be the Woody Allen of the Nineties. It’s 1994. Feeling any pressure?
I saw a very attractive Asian woman at a shopping center the other day, and I thought for a moment that since Woody is my idol and I try to do everything like Woody…but then I snapped out of it and accelerated the car. [Pauses] How am I doing? How evasive do I sound? Up in the top tenth percentile? Well, only with that one question.
Which question was that?
I don’t recall. Oh, whoops! Was I being evasive again? I’m always afraid you’re going to ask me something like, do I do drugs.
Do you do drugs?
I tried cocaine in the late Seventies but never inhaled. I also never slept with another woman while in the office of the president of the United States.
So it’s true: Your job is to push me someplace interesting. I always get that feeling when I do interviews. And that’s a mistake with me, because there’s nothing interesting.
What’s the scariest question an interviewer could ask you?
I’m fairly open, though you can tell from the way I talk that I’m somewhat protective of what I say. On the other hand, some of this is merely me searching for the words to express myself. But the reason I do lock up—after saying that I’m fairly open—is that I don’t want to search for skeletons in my closet, because I don’t think there are many.
I don’t think I’m the sunny, bright type—a clicking-your-heels type—in real life. My characters are all close to me. My work is close to me. There’s no big stretch. If you met me on the street you wouldn’t be shocked at how different I am from what you see on television or onstage. Were you shocked? How would you articulate your impression of me compared with what you expected?
A saner-than-anticipated man in an insane world.
Come on. Compared with what you expected?
We’re sorry to disappoint you. We could lie, if you’d like.
That’s OK. I don’t know how people perceive me. I don’t believe the average person knows what an artist is capable of until the artist presents it. I know artists who get frustrated, thinking, Don’t they know I can do this or that? The answer is no.
What about your dark side?
[Smiles] Aha. OK, let’s talk about the dark side. [Pauses] There is no dark side. I was at my friend’s house—oh, well, I may as well say it—the shrink’s office, and my shrink, who see other showbiz people, said to me, “Among my show business clients, you’re the healthiest.” Actually, it may have been me who blurted that out; I’m confused now. Nevertheless, I suppose the fact that I meditate and follow a fairly spiritual path, and often make choices not based on money, puts me in a tinier percentile.
My first therapist was a woman, and my current one is a man. Both seem to have maintained their sanity through my many visits. And they both have cable, which is a prerequisite for me in selecting a therapist.
How come you don’t seem happier, then?
I think I need more money. I think if I just had some more money, I’d be happier.
Does your therapist watch the show?
The shrink I just referred to I had for many years. I’ve had a new therapist the past two years. Both are wonderful and seem to have maintained their sanity through my many visits. The first was a woman, and my current therapist is a man. And they both have cable, which is a prerequisite for me in selecting a therapist.
Were you screwed up before therapy?
Yeah, I was screwed up. I was more confused than I am now. I’m still confused, but before, I was really confused. I thought the way to live life was to figure everything out intellectually. Now I believe the opposite. I think we instinctively know the answers and know what to do. So I would say that I’ve come 180 degrees, which actually is the temperature in Tucson in the summer.
If you used to be a ten on the scale of being screwed up, where are you now?
Nine—with a bullet, as they used to say. You can’t say that anymore about music. A “bullet” used to mean a song was popular and moving up the charts quickly; now it means that the lead singer perhaps shot somebody.
Does your therapist talk with you about the underlying meaning of each episode?
Let’s not make it sound as though I take the videotapes in and say, “Watch this and tell me what you think of the show.”
Can we make it sound as if he knows you better than all of us know you? That he truly knows the line where Garry Shandling and Larry Sanders cross?
No. I think you know me best.
Flattery won’t get you out of that question.
Oh no, you do. I sense that you do.
You also sense that we are secretly heading somewhere with these questions.
No, I sense that you know me better than anybody I know. That should tell you something about my intimacy problem. You are now my longest-lasting relationship through the period of this interview. Here’s what I like about you: You just like to talk about me, and that’s the beauty of our relationship. I sense that, eventually in this interview, you will take me somewhere that makes me feel awkward. Perhaps it will be into the ocean. No, you’ll start asking me about my personal life, is my guess. I think you’re slowly working your way up to that.
Well, now we have a clue, at least, where we’re going.
Here’s why I think you’re going somewhere: You have to be. You’re coming week after week after week, hoping to find something, I assume. Of course, I may be projecting my own searching identity.
Are you as intimate with all the people who interview you?
Oh, I should say not. This is special. I feel awkward even admitting to you that I have talked with another interviewer. That’s very much like a man saying he’s slept with another woman. I can’t even look at you—I’m not looking at you now as I say this: You are my first and only interview, I swear.
We can pretend it’s the first time for both of us.
No. You see, it’s a double standard. When men meet women, we assume—or know—that they have slept with other men and perhaps are even doing so as we speak. But women get angry at men for ever having slept with another woman—at least that’s my own experience—and are hypervigilant about whether the man is currently sleeping with another woman. More so than men. In other words, I believe that women tend to be more jealous than men. [Pauses] And I see you as the woman in this relationship.
Is your therapist’s phone number handy?
I’m not jealous that you have interviewed other people. But I assume you would be jealous that I have talked with someone else—so you are the woman. I say that from looking at you, not as a metaphor. I believe you’re a woman! Just spend the money and get the operation, is what I say to you. That wristwatch will also make a lovely lapel watch.
Clearly, it’s time to move on. When are you going to get married?
Aha. I told you I knew where you were going. I told you that you were going somewhere.
Considering the choice of questions to pursue, we think you should be happy with this one.
I’ll tell you how I feel about discussing my personal life: pretty damn angry. I am proud of the fact that I keep a distinct separation between my personal life and my business life. At home I don’t have things from my work; I don’t have pictures up of myself as Larry; I don’t have any awards to speak of on display. I don’t have anything there that reminds me of my job. That works great for me. When I’m home I’m clear about who I am. I don’t in any way get absorbed into some show business life.
Don’t you take business phone calls?
This is stuff already in the public record. After years with Linda Doucett, isn’t some forward movement called for?
I didn’t say I wasn’t going to talk with you about it, I was just expressing my general philosophy. Don’t be so defensive—I’ll buy you a new necklace. You are the woman in this relationship.
So you insist—and way too much, we might suggest.
You come here to the beach with your shirt half open, and you just talk with me. You’re so willing to listen. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m a little turned on. Why can’t I meet a woman who comes to my home with my résumé and just talks with me about me?
OK. Let’s talk about you. And your personal life. What’s the toughest thing about being in a romantic relationship with someone in the same business? You mean someone in show business—on my show—who does her own interviews and does a pictorial in Playboy, which I totally support? It’s the loss of control I have over my privacy. But Linda is entitled to talk about whatever she wants. Which is awkward for me. But I put no constraints on it, or her. She is entitled to use her best judgment in talking about the things that she wants to talk about.
And do your best judgment and hers agree?
Ninety-five percent of the time.
You went to a party at Hef’s house to celebrate Linda’s pictorial. Was it your first time at the Mansion?
No. But I enjoyed it. Initially, I was afraid and pained about going because I knew there was going to be a lot of press there. Also, I imagined any number of bikinied women. And Hef. So any time you mix what in my mind was Hef, bikinied women and the press, and add my girlfriend to that mix, why, it’s quite volatile. What it turned out to be was a laid-back, classy dinner on the patio. And it turned out that I was the only one wearing a bikini, so I was somewhat embarrassed.
How did you and Linda meet?
Richard Lewis invited me to a party. Linda was there. Someone I didn’t know came up to me and said, “How are you doing?” I said, “Fine.” There was a silence and then I heard a woman murmur in my ear, “Oh yeah, right.” I turned and it was Linda, mocking me for saying “fine” and understanding that when I said “fine” I was not telling the truth. I would say that’s been the dynamic of our relationship ever since—me occasionally going, “Oh, fine,” and her going, “Oh yeah, right,” and then us arguing for the next couple of days about what the real truth is.
Why do you like each other?
That’s easy. We laugh a lot. But I am cautious in relationships. I’m not one of those men—this is clear to anyone who knows me—who dive into relationships. It takes me a long time to trust somebody on a lot of levels. That can be frustrating for many women, not to mention my pets. I need to know that there aren’t hidden agendas and that relative mental health exists.
So when’s the wedding?
I really hate getting pressured by a man on this. No wedding date has been set.
You finally moved in together.
Yes. We have a very good relationship. We’re actually thinking of adopting a 17-year-old Asian girl, so I’m looking forward to a full life.
How has having a steady girlfriend affected your humor?
Since my humor comes from pain and personal experience, I find it a very deep well from which to draw.
Why have you apparently given up complaining about your hair and lips?
I hope I’ve matured and realized that it’s what kind of hair you have inside that counts. As I grow I plan to become less concerned about my looks. And thank God this comes at the right time—just when I’m going downhill. No coincidence there.
From where did you originally draw your painful inspirations?
When I started doing stand-up I was dating a lot, so I used to talk about how difficult it was meeting somebody you liked, and when you did meet somebody you liked, did she like you? In my last HBO stand-up special, I talked about how hard it is to work things out in a relationship and be committed. It’s another level.
You had a brother who died. That must have been extremely painful.
He died when I was ten, and I’m sure that being exposed to death that early makes one wonder about life a little more. I’m sure that had something to do with getting me started.
Did you ever feel guilty and wish it had been you instead of him?
I think it should have been you instead of him. And don’t get me wrong, I say that with love, you know that. No, I’d rather be sitting here having my brother interview me, but you understand that’s because he was my brother. If God had come to me and said, “Do you want me to take the guy from Playboy or your brother?” I probably wouldn’t have said, “What are the choices again?” But don’t get me wrong—
We didn’t mean to be insensitive. Did you fear for yourself after your brother died? Did you think something might happen to you?
No. I don’t know why not. Maybe because I was an insecure, funny kid who was overprotected by the communist system.
Are you more like your mom or your dad?
My dad passed away, so I’m more like him.
But seriously, folks.
I’m serious! [Pauses] My father had a successful business of his own, and I think of myself as self-employed. That may not be a personality trait, but it was an enormous influence.
Did your mom work when you were growing up?
My mom worked for my dad, then she worked at another office. My mom is very creative, very funny. Has a lot of energy. I assume I inherited my father’s energy level, which was much more laid-back. My mother still has a high energy level and still has a successful pet shop.
Is it true that the pets look out of the cages at 8x10s of you?
My mother does have pictures of me plastered on the cash register, which I believe is a Jewish shrine. My picture on the cash register is not a coincidence. Also, she has a Garry Shandling museum in her back office—a wall of pictures of me with celebrities who have autographed photos to her. Donna Summer, Doc Severinsen, Mac Davis—people I used to open for in Las Vegas. Really, if you’d like to go, I think it’s ten bucks this time of year to get in.
I was not the class clown. Class clowns make a farting sound just when the teacher bends over. I was the guy who would lean over to someone when the teacher bent over and mumble, 'Nice ass, huh?’
Would you define your sense of the world as absurd or merely ironic?
I don’t know. I know I started to think about that, quite frankly, when I was about 12—which I knew was odd, even then. I remember thinking about the world and what it all meant and how I fit in. I also realized that the other kids were probably not thinking that way.
Were you a class clown?
I was funny in school, but not the class clown. I’m not wacky or crazy. Class clowns are people who make a farting sound at just the right time when the teacher bends over. I was the guy who would lean over to someone when the teacher bent over and mumble, “Nice ass, huh?” That’s the difference.
When did you hit on the magic of the self-deprecating style?
The tortured layers came in my teens. I’m sure that also has something to do with not dating much and going through the same identity crisis that all teens have. My humor turned more toward things that were meaningful for me.
Why did you go to Los Angeles instead of New York when you left Tucson?
I thought you were going to ask me, “Why did you go to college in town?” [Pauses] Why did I move to L.A.? That was a big risk for me. The thought of going to a big city like New York, where it’s cold, frightened me no end.
So it was a pragmatic decision to come here because of the weather?
Very pragmatic. I remember one day I was sitting in the bleachers, watching a baseball game at the University of Arizona, thinking, This is the life. But do I want to spend the next 20 years doing this? I knew I had to take a risk. There was a deep-down calling that had something to do with discovering myself. It took enormous courage for me to move. I wasn’t one of those fellows who couldn’t wait to get to Hollywood, who had their bags packed and were all excited. I was frightened to death, and nothing short of that.
Nearly every early story about you mentions the car accident you had in 1977 and how it changed your life—but there are few details. Can you describe how you were before and after the accident?
I had a bad car accident. I was in the hospital for several weeks. I had one of those near-death experiences, which I will not go into, that made me go on a disciplined, soul-searching path to find out what life was and who I was. Prior to that I was trying to figure all of that out intellectually, and I realized that I had to take a different route. After that I began meditating and understanding more about a different way to live my life.
What was wrong with the way you were?
In a real way, you realize that in a second you would give up everything to continue living. So, it puts your priorities in order. I realized I should try to do what I wanted to do: stand-up. I was plodding along as a comedy writer, not happy and intellectually confused. As opposed to now.
Do you like yourself now?
I guess that’s the core of the whole thing. That’s one of my struggles. I like myself more all the time, but not enough to really want to live with myself. That’s why I take long walks and meditate. Part—and I emphasize part—of my craving to be in nature is that I forget myself there. It makes me feel good. Self-consciousness is not a healthy way to live. I have to struggle to overcome it.
Some people say they act because the characters give them an opportunity to do things and experience things they wouldn’t otherwise.
I’m starting to think that you’re smarter than I am and that you should be playing Larry.
We’re happy with the way things are.
Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person claims that you’re the one who is making her act crazy?
Well, that’s crazy behavior on her part.
Suddenly it seems as if there’s not that big a chasm between you and your characters.
That’s correct. Do you think I should take this Walkman off? Maybe I could hear you a little better.
Do you want people to like you?
Yes, but it’s less important than it was five years ago. I’d like to be less concerned about the audience liking me and be more concerned about the work. It’s tricky because it’s also my job, and I really don’t want to be self-destructive and just do something purposely that the audience will hate—and I’m capable of that, by the way. I’ve gone into nightclubs and gotten the audience to hate me. Most people never get to see it because I do it in small clubs. I go on and am hostile and funny and attack people. It’s something I get out of my system in a club one night every two years, then I say, “Yeah, I can still do this. I’m still capable of really bombing and eating it and getting people angry at me.” I like to dare myself to do that. And, uh…. I lost my train of thought. It was something about liking me, wasn’t it?
Let’s continue with this deep analysis. We hear you desperately crave approval and need everyone to concur with your instincts and decisions. For instance, your friend Joan Rivers once said, “We were doing a show in San Diego and he met a girl he liked. He had to get approval from everybody backstage. By the time he went to ask her out, she’d gone home.”
I would say that quote is completely untrue.
Still, you don’t make up your mind easily.
Yes, but that’s different from needing everybody’s approval. But between you and me, what do you think of Linda?
Can we check with someone before we answer?
Why, do you not approve of how this is going so far? Why are you asking me this? You’re making me paranoid. I think I need approval. Comedians need approval. People in general need approval. And I don’t think I’m off the scale in that direction at all.
Will you continue doing stand-up, or will that taper off?
I still find stand-up to be a terrific vehicle for self-exploration, and I continue to use it that way. Though I’m not doing stand-up regularly right now, when I do make an appearance on a talk show the material I prepare is still a kind of honest, humorous report. Standing onstage alone in a small, intimate setting—whether it’s a nightclub or a bathroom with a full-length mirror—and seeing what comes out of my mouth is still a fascinating experience for me. And a painful one for the audience. Sometimes I’ll just walk into a club here in L.A., get up onstage for 20 minutes and talk through some things I’ve been thinking about. I find myself having moments on the stage that I didn’t have two years ago doing stand-up. So I think I’m becoming more authentic. [Pauses] But if I go on about this I’ll sound so self-indulgent that people will turn to the Party Jokes.
Before they do, we’ll move on. How easy are you to work with?
Very easy. The difficult part is that I’m a perfectionist. But the flip side is that my perfectionist qualities push the work to a better place.
So you’re easy to work with as long as people do exactly what you say.
I give writers and actors great freedom and, in fact, encourage it.
And when they come up with something, can you be decisive?
Sometimes. Other times I get confused, and I say so. My acting teacher, Roy London, may he rest in peace, used to say to me, “I really don’t believe you’re indecisive. You have a quality that allows you to look at both sides of an argument and take them to their ultimate end. You see those ends and then have to decide which is really worth while. So you’re plotting the out-comes of the decisions.” And that isn’t exactly indecisiveness, it’s something else. He never convinced me, by the way.
What gets you angry?
Besides these questions and wondering when they’re going to stop? [Smiles] First of all, in a relationship, I can’t handle being controlled. I can’t handle not being allowed to be as free as is fair. People who are insecure in relationships try to control the other person so that the relationship is “safe.” But it usually backfires. I shout only about once a year, and I sort of wish I shouted more. Allowing my anger to come out is something I have to work on. When I do go nuts it’s not at little things. I get angry at injustice, much like Superman. And then I put on a cape with a big “S” for Sanders and Shandling.
Can you be happy?
Yes! But not like someone who always walks around in an elated state yet isn’t on drugs.
So happy for you is just brief moments.
I picture me in the old days, like when I was in college, getting loaded, putting the headphones on and just getting really happy. Actually, I read a lot of Zen, and I’m happy when I’m in the woods meditating. I’m happy in nature. The core of my way of being is a Zen philosophy. I don’t want to get into that now, because anybody can pick up a Zen book—but it would explain things. I came about that in a natural way. I didn’t know that it was Zen-like until I started to read Zen books. I meditated, not knowing it was meditation, because I had never been part of any group, other than the American Nazi Party. But I’d rather not have that printed. The group meditations were so unfulfilling yet still hostile.
You seem like such an uncomfortable urban guy. People may have a tough time accepting this side of you.
I know. That’s the part of me people have no clue about. Just before you got here, I was hiking in the hills and meditating.
So you really are the sane guy in an insane world. How do you do it?
My therapist has said, “You are confused because you think you are unhealthy in some way, but you’re not.” So maybe my problem is simply that I am the only sane person around. There’s a healthy statement. Are we done yet?
Almost. Is Larry more or less sane than the people around him?
I’m tempted to say “exactly the same.” My experience is that often there are backstage personalities who have even bigger egos than the main performer. We may explore that a little this season on the show. Actually, Larry struggles with the craziness more than the other characters—if we want to call that being a little more sane. The other characters are not struggling to understand themselves, and Larry is. But he’s got some problems.
He’s surrounded by other human beings. [Squirms uncomfortably in his seat and picks up the binoculars again]
How has your playing Larry changed Garry?
Larry is willing to take control of things more than I am. I find myself connecting to and committing to that kind of energy in Larry, and it has served me well to take more control of the things I want to do in my life. Like stopping now. If that’s OK with you.
How’d I do?
What’s going to hurt me?
Remember, I get hurt easily.