Keep Calm and Garry On

Oh shit. Another incomprehensible loss.
First it was the absurd conga line of musicians, producers and record executives who snaked their way to heaven.
Bowie. Frey. White. Emerson. Kantner. Stigwood. Sir George Martin. And that is just a partial list.
And now warming up the concert of the stars is Garry Shandling.
And he's the one who said no flipping.
But here's the thing.
We all have on our to do list: buy eggs, pick up dry cleaning, die.
The big cosmic joke is that we only have control of two out of the three.
The latter is either up to whoever or whatever you believe in or a really bad piece of sushi.
But we are always aware that dying is on the list.
Always.
Sometimes I think that life is one large mallet and I'm the whack a mole trying to avoid it.
On other days, when it takes on the appearance of actually working, my own personal reality flaunts about like Pee Wee Herman.
But both versions have a built-in cold shower/wake up call that comes a-knockin' in the form of the death of a celebrity (or a friend or cherished relative) or the explosion of yet another ISIS carry on.
And sometimes, when God really wants to fuck with us everything seems to happen at the same time.
The other day we had Brussels and Garry Shandling to deal with and I have to think that Garry would have loved that absurd contrast.
Garry, or the character of Garry, to me seemed like someone who lived life like he was wearing clown sized cargo pants full of wildly scrambling, severely neurotic squirrels.
I remember seeing him in what I'm guessing was the late seventies opening for some major rock act in some generic arena.
The brilliance of guys like him, Robin Williams and George Carlin was their ability to create the feeling that the audience was a priest listening to the rantings of a tortured mind inside a deeply personal comedy confessional.
That kind of intimacy elevated the comic and his art to superstar status. We felt more like enlightened disciples than we did members of the audience at the Improv.
Being a comedy writer whose producing/writing credits include Mad About You and Fresh Prince and sadly, Full House, I have long been exposed to some extraordinary comedy minds, from Saget to Reiser (who I was just lucky enough to write a pilot with).
The thing about guys like that is their ability to sharpen and re-sharpen their already serrated edged brains -- while keeping their readily available and often sweet hearts open and vulnerable.
Comics to me are no different than lap dancing strippers: they expose it, tease you and then leave you wanting more.
For the audience this makes us feel extraordinarily close to the performer. The more open and honest that they are, they easier it is for us to project ourselves onto the souls of their movie screens.
The same goes for musicians. How often does a song become your song as if the composer/lyricist wrote it just for you?
Insert you here. That is what we do.
So when someone like Garry Shandling dies, who to me was the brow-furrowed Gepetto of comedy who just knew how to make the most thrilling and original HBO-bound comedy puppet shows, it seems like someone larger than life itself has left us. While hardly an Ogre, he seemed Shrek-like to me, in that behind that richly expressive character face was a deeply beautiful man.
We seem to think that we have the exclusive rights to whomever we love in the world of entertainment. They simply belong to us. This time its most definitely personal.
But our everyday lives haven't lost a thing. Nothing has changed. And yet we feel as mournful and staggered as if we lost our most cherished pet -- which is yet another projected illusion. We tend to dress up our pets with our own personality quirks, creating the illusion that they are our equals in an ongoing love relationship and when they let us down, we blurt out things like "you should have known what I was thinking!"
Because when it comes to the BIG questions in life, virtually nothing can be explained to our complete satisfaction, we tend to have complete faith in the unknown. Even Einstein, who was a fairly bright guy, said that the only absolute thing in life was mystery.
Since that is our holy playground of choice, we go off and make our heroes outsized (see: God) allowing them to entertain us like the gladiators of Ancient Rome whose fate we decide with our casual, life and death deciding thumbs.
See Reality TV/Donald Trump/Kim Kardashian.
We are, most of the time in our culture, either rabid fans or way too zealous, hanging judges.
But the thing is: we actually know none of these people which is why Bio pics are often so surprising when we realize that real people are actually a part of the story.
I recently went on The Beatles Pilgrimage Tour where I followed the footsteps of the Fab Four from their childhood homes in Liverpool to Abbey Road in London and the thing that I walked away from was how simple, real and mortal they all were. Human elements were the key chemical components of their explosive world. (Also having Tony Bramwell at my side for a week only sharpened this POV).
So Garry.
I did not know him. I may have met him. I honestly don't remember.
But it doesn't matter because his two shows on HBO which were heavily dosed with all kind of original, never-before-experienced spices, literally boiled my brain like a Fatal Attraction rabbit and re-sculpted my comedy instincts forever.
I now and forever will carry his original comedy imprint, just like I've carried Neil Simon's, Woody Allen's, Larry Gelbart's, Laurel and Hardy, Keaton, Chaplln, Jack Benny Abbott and Costello, Monty Python and on and on.

The real friends of Garry's will have to take on the enormity of their own personal loss. That has to be just plain horrible.
But for me, my own, personal Grauman's Chinese theater blocks of wet cement while always ready for it's next imprint while in perpetuity, have a very special place for Garry Shandling, whose, goofy smile, darting narrow eyes and generous hands will last forever.