A forgotten comic revolutionary returns to hbo news ok what is my education level

Two years ago this weekend, garry shandling, the comedian behind the revolutionary "the larry sanders show," died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was just 66.

Now, director judd apatow delivers the ultimate thank-you to his mentor. "The zen diaries of garry shandling" stretches over two nights and more than four hours on HBO, but it still leaves you longing for more. (apatow, thankfully, has been posting rare shandling clips on his instagram in recent weeks.)

The director’s interview list includes jim carrey, sarah silverman, jay leno and david duchovny, but his greatest coup is revealed in the title. Apatow got access to decades of shandling’s diaries. That lets the conflicted comic’s own words drive the narrative, which stretches from his difficult childhood to his artistic triumphs and, ultimately, his retreat.

It’s been 20 years since the all-too-real late-night host sanders walked away from his desk, but "the zen diaries" is an important reminder of why shandling mattered.Larry sanders apatow spoke from los angeles by phone. The interview was edited for space and clarity.

Q: the diaries are such an incredible storytelling device. But I’m curious. Garry was a complicated guy. Tell me about the process of figuring out what you felt comfortable using.

Judd apatow: my gut instinct was that garry evolved into this very important mentor to so many people, and he didn’t talk to all of us just about comedy. He also talked to us about spirituality, and I believe that garry would want his life to be a lesson, to be helpful to people in some way. He was also obsessed with the truth. He wouldn’t want people to lie about what his journey was like. What he found most important in life was honesty.

I think (estate executor) bill (isaacson) and I were very careful about what sections of the diaries to use. But what we learned when we read the diaries was that, after the first few years, the diaries weren’t a play-by-play of what was happening in garry’s life.Garry shandling they were an opportunity for garry to speak to himself from a higher place. So most of the diaries are advice to himself to help him deal with things. There’s a lot of buddhist quotes.

Apatow: yeah, I think so, and I might say that that is the result of him feeling like he didn’t have that voice with his parents. And he felt the need to develop this for himself, but also he became one of the great advisers to so many of us in the business, both in our personal lives and in our work. When my mom died, he was one of the first people I would call to lean on and try to work through it. That was the sad thing about garry’s passing — we all realized that the person we would call about garry’s passing would have been garry.

Apatow: the journals were all over the place. A lot of them in one trunk, but they would turn up in other boxes, and I started reading through this journal from about 10 years before he died, and he wrote a long letter to his brother who had passed away when he was 10, and I was very moved.Garry shandling I sat and cried so hard for the pain he felt. The courage of an adult trying to figure out what his unhealed wounds were. Suddenly everything seemed to fall into place. Garry wanted people he could rely on in life to a fault. That’s why he got very sensitive when things would go wrong.

Q: I always worry when a friend or admirer makes a documentary about that subject, that they will gloss over the rough spots. I was relieved that you didn’t do that. I also like how you put yourself on camera during the interviewing.

Apatow: I decided that the best way to talk about garry would be to show conversations about garry. Because he was one of those people that you would sit around with a friend and try to figure out. You would try to understand him. You would share information. You would talk about how much you loved him, and that it was important for the audience to see that.Larry sanders he also had a lot of friendships that were very complicated. And garry was easily, well, garry would sometimes feel violated and cut people off.

Apatow: he would feel wounded by someone’s behavior. And it’s hard to say what is valid or an overreaction, but there definitely was a sensitivity there. People loved garry, but they also knew that there was something they didn’t know or didn’t understand. Garry’s not one of those people who thinks we have to make him look like some saint. Garry sanders was all about showing the warts as a way to learn something about what keeps us separate.

Apatow: you know, when I was young, in my early 20s, I started writing jokes for garry, and then I wrote for "the larry sanders show," and I spent an enormous amount of time with garry and linda when they were at their happiest. I would go over there and have dinner with them and watch TV.Larry sanders show and I never understood why they were so nice to me. It was like if jimmy page wanted to hang out all the time. I was almost like a starter son or something.

Apatow: but as decades passed, I realized that that was something that garry did with a lot of different people. That he was a very kind, giving mentor. When he thought you were talented and had the potential to do great things, he was very willing to share everything he knew with you. And I felt like that was connected on some level to how george carlin treated him when he was in college. You know he went to a concert and gave george carlin some jokes that he wrote for him, and george carlin took the time to read them and said, "I don’t buy jokes, but there’s a great joke on every page in this, and if you want to pursue this line of work, I think you should." and then garry just moved to california.Sanders show that gave him the confidence to believe in himself. So on some level, I think that was the beginning of garry mentoring people.

Q: we see garry and tom petty just chatting. Which hit me because of how terribly sad it is that they’re not here. Which leads to another thought: of how quickly we’re forgotten. When I was watching your film, I mentioned garry shandling to a couple of neighbors and friends. Most had no idea who garry was.

Apatow: nowadays, we live in a world where there are 450 scripted television shows. So how often do people dig into the history of TV and go back and watch "I love lucy" or "all in the family" or "the larry sanders show"? So one aspect of this documentary which I’m excited about is, you don’t need to ever have seen anything garry’s ever done to watch it. We lay it all out. We show the work. We show what led to him doing that work.Larry sanders and, hopefully, a lot of people will go down the rabbit hole.

Apatow: as soon as "the larry sanders show" ended, I was pitching garry’s next show, and I could never get him to do it. And he danced around me even at the end of his life. Nothing seemed to spark. And adam mckay was the one who said everyone always wished garry made a third show. But the truth is, we were his third show. His mentoring was the third show. Everything that the world has gotten from people like me is actually from garry. It’s from all of the lessons. It’s based on his way of looking at this type of comedy. So I like to think of it as if he did do it. And I’m hopeful that this documentary feels like garry’s latest project.