- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2016

Comedian Garry Shandling died suddenly Thursday at age 66 under unclear circumstances, multiple news outlets reported.

E! Online wrote that the Los Angeles Police Department had confirmed the death to its reporters after it had taken a call at Mr. Shandling’s home around 10:40 a.m.

Citing “sources familiar with the situation,” TMZ reported that Mr. Shandling died of a heart attack that came “with no prior warning whatsoever,” though there was no official confirmation on that.

Other details remained sketchy though. TMZ, which was first to report the death, said Mr. Shandling was not known to be suffering any illness and appeared well in photos taken last weekend with Kathy Griffin and Bob Odenkirk, who co-starred with him on “The Larry Sanders Show.”

Both E! Online and TMZ reported that Mr. Shandling was taken from his home alive and died at the hospital.

Tributes quickly began pouring in on Twitter from his colleagues and those he influenced. Ricky Gervais in an “RIP” tweet called him “one of the most influential comedians of a generation.” Jimmy Kimmel said he was “as kind as generous as he was funny and that is saying a lot.”

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Mr. Shandling began his showbiz career as a stand-up comedian and sitcom writer, but gained his greatest fame — and multiple Emmy awards — as the creator of “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and “The Larry Sanders Show.”

Both programs broke radically from then-recent sitcom conventions — though hearkening back to the earliest days of TV such as “The Burns and Allen Show” and variety programs of the 1950s. “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” was explicit about the fact it was a show and Mr. Shandling would frequently talk to the audience and include it in bits of business.

“Larry Sanders” was less “meta,” but just as up-front fake — a supposed “behind-the-scenes” look at a talk show that was wholly fiction, called “The Larry Sanders Show.”

In addition, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” was one of the first regularly-scheduled series to appear on a premium cable network, premiering on Showtime in 1985. Its four Emmy nominations were among the first not to go to the “big (then) three” broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC. Today, the situation is reversed, with cable and premium networks dominating the Emmys.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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