Judd Apatow’s Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling


LAST NIGHT I finally came to the end of Judd Apatow’s extraordinary four-hour film about the late Garry Shandling – the so-called Zen Diaries of said comedian.
As the director of There’s Something About Mary read aloud a letter that Shandling had written to the older brother who’d died, as a child, of cystic fibrosis, I completely lost it – I broke down and sobbed. I’d come to the close of a remarkable, hilarious, neurotic life haunted by the loss of Barry Shandling (a death never explained to the little brother) and felt overwhelmed by compassion for the witheringly brilliant creator of the meta-show about host Larry Sanders.
It made me realise how much Shandling and his Comedy Store peers – a particular strain of American-Jewish humour that slices through to the heart of the human condition – have meant to me. And it prompted this short distillation of gratitude for the sheer fearlessness of Shandling, Seinfeld, Silverman, Larry David – and of Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Jackie Mason and the many who came before them. Out of such pain has come the purest comedic joy I’ve ever known.


comedy store

Always I’m in awe of them:

unsparing men and salty women

lancing my illusions

and my gentile self-delusions.

No hugging and no learning,

nothing left to lose:

ancestral agony of pogroms

and the terrors of the Zyklon B.

The balls it takes to work that space,

illusion of a mastery that masks

the backstage whimper of a fevered need:

  “You think they liked me?”

“Man, you killed out there.”

3 thoughts on “Judd Apatow’s Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling

  1. Beautiful words Barney. I too was intensely moved by the revelations around Garry Shandling’s life in these phenomenal films. I also caught an hour of Dying Laughing on Sky Arts last night – another wicked testament to the peculiar bravery of stand ups.
    While I’m here, can I also say how moved I was by your wonderful book Never Enough – it seriously lit a fire in me. Truly, truly Inspirational. All the best


    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Jamie. They mean a lot. And great that you saw the wonderful Shandling film. It would be really nice to hook up soon. Let me know if you’re around, I’m working in Hammersmith most days. Mark De Lane Lea is now firmly back in my life! Barney xxx


      • Thanks for getting back to me Barney. Would love to Hook up. Whereabouts in Hammersmith are you? I live very close and my work hours are my own so I could stop on by (forgive me the Bobby W reference 😁) anytime you like for that. Great to hear Mark is on the scene xxx


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