There’s rightfully going to be a lot of looks back at Garry Shandling‘s impact on television and comedy due to the success and intellectual chutzpah of both It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show over the next few days. But their legacy extends beyond the shows themselves. If you’re a comedy fan who has yet to see those series and experience Shandling’s work — go ahead and rectify that ASAP — you’re probably not aware of the extent of Shandling’s influence. Like many other great ones, Shandling (an anxiety-riddled egoist to perfection) wasn’t afraid to surround himself with talent, both on camera and off.
On his first show, the wildly imaginative It’s Garry Shandling’s Show which toyed with many TV conventions in a time before such a thing was commonplace, Shandling aligned himself with original Saturday Night Live writer Alan Zweibel, who served as the series’ co-creator. Putting words in Shandling’s mouth? A significant part of the braintrust behind The Simpsons — namely Al Jean, Mike Reiss, the late Sam Simon — and both Tom Gammill and Max Pross, two writers who also worked with David Letterman on Late Night and Seinfeld. Two other It’s Garry Shandling’s Show writers? Initial Late Night With David Letterman head writer Merrill Markoe and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, though only for one episode each. It’s no coincidence that Shandling attracted so many writers from so many legendarily clever and hilarious shows. Both of Shandling’s series matched this description and had honors to back up their reputations: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show received four Emmy nominations and The Larry Sanders Show was a constant fixture on the ballot with 56 nominations and three wins.
With many of the players from his first show’s writing team off in the land of Springfield, Shandling looked to new talent to help staff up his HBO series, The Larry Sanders Show. Peter Tolan, who produced Rescue Me and wrote Analyze This found his first steady work as a writer on the show. John Riggi, a comic turned writer and producer went on to eventually work as a producer on 30 Rock after finding some of his first work behind the scenes on The Larry Sanders Show.