LOS ANGELES — Garry Shandling, who as an actor and comedic masterminded a brand of self-inflicted phony docudrama with "The Larry Sanders Show," has died.
Los Angeles Police officer Tony Im said Shandling died Thursday in Los Angeles of an undisclosed cause. He was 66.
Im said fire officials were dispatched to Shandling's Los Angeles home Thursday morning for a reported medical emergency. Shandling was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Im did not have any details on the nature of the emergency. He said police will conduct a death investigation.
Coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said his office did not yet have any details about Shandling's death.
An innovative and eccentric humorist with pillowy lips and a voice that always seemed on the verge of a whine, Shandling claimed to disdain too much logic cluttering his life.
"The answer isn't gonna be in the facts," he told The Associated Press in 2009. "It's gonna be in intuition. That's how I work creatively. I'm always teaching people that the answer to that creative question is right here, in the room, between us here."
More to the point, it was dealing with the questions he confronted in himself.
Born on Nov. 29, 1949 in Chicago, Shandling was raised in Tucson, Arizona. On arriving in Los Angeles as a young adult, it was a short hop from a brief stint in the advertising business to comedy writing and stand-up.
Then in the 1980s, he began to experiment with TV comedy, and to toy with the sitcom form, with his first series, "It's Garry Shandling's Show," a Showtime project that made no bones about its inherently artificial nature: the actors in this otherwise standard domestic comedy routinely broke the fourth wall to comment on what they were up to. Even the theme song began with the explanatory lyrics, "The theme to Garry's show...."
Then, in August 1992, Shandling created his comic masterpiece with "The Larry Sanders Show," which starred him as an egomaniacal late-night TV host with an angst-ridden show-biz life behind the scenes.
It was just three months after Johnny Carson had retired from "The Tonight Show," where Shandling had appeared as a stand-up and occasional Carson stand-in. It seemed a wry but deeply felt homage to the King of Late Night.
But it was more. "Larry Sanders" proved to be an act of courage, a brave effort led by someone portraying a character dangerously close to himself. As Larry, Garry dug deep to confront his own demons, and did it brilliantly as the series teetered between dual realities: public and private; make-believe and painfully true.
Real-life celebrities appeared as guests on Larry's show-within-the-show, and also interacted with him "off the air."
David Duchovny, agreeing to come on the show, also came on to Larry romantically once he got the chance.
Jim Carrey delivered a rip-roaring comic tribute to his host on the final broadcast, then, during a commercial break, turned on him in rage over a long-ago slight.
"Are you doing a bit, now?" asked Larry, perplexed.
"We're OFF the air," Carrey hissed. "This is real life now."
The show explored the fuzzy distinction between TV life and real life, and the loneliness of someone at its crossing. The closest thing Larry had to friends were his chronically needy announcer Hank (Jeffrey Tambor) and his Napoleonic producer, Artie (Rip Torn). Together the three actors were among TV's best-ever trios.
After "Sanders" ended in 1998, Shandling's public appearances were few.
He was mentioned as a candidate to follow David Letterman as a bona fide late-night host for CBS' 12:30 a.m. slot, but no deal was made.
"I would not do a show where you just sit and talk to somebody," Shandling had said back in 1993 when he was courted by NBC to take over for Letterman on "Late Night."
His films included "Hurlyburly" in 1998, "What Planet Are You From?" in 2000 and "Zoolander" in 2001.
He hosted the Emmy Awards in 2000 and 2004.
On the latter occasion, he spotted Donald Trump in the audience and congratulated the billionaire developer for hosting the Emmy-nominated "The Apprentice."
"Nice to see a man who's paid his dues, worked hard," Shandling said. "We all know what it feels like to have to build 80-story condos and gambling casinos just to get our foot in the door in show business."
In his own business dealings, Shandling became one of the rich and famous targeted by private eye Anthony Pellicano, who was sentenced to prison in 2008 on convictions of racketeering and more than six dozen other counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud and wiretapping in the Hollywood wiretaps case.
Pellicano was accused of wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone and bribing police officers to run names of people, including Shandling, through law enforcement databases.
While Shandling never married, his most public romance was with "Sanders" co-star and fiancee Linda Doucett, who played Hank's comely assistant in the series' early seasons.
Doucett sued Shandling after he fired her following their breakup in the mid-1990s, receiving a reported $1 million settlement, The New York Times reported in 2006.
The news of Shandling's death brought an outpouring of reactions from performers who spoke of his impact.
"Garry was a guiding voice of comedy," said actor-comedian Bob Odenkirk. "He set the standard and we're all still trying to meet it."
And filmmaker Judd Apatow declared, "Garry would see the ridiculousness of me being asked to sum up his life five minutes after being told of his passing. It is a perfect, ridiculous Larry Sanders moment. ... I am just too sad. Maybe tomorrow I will do better. "
AP television writer Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this story.
Some celebrity reaction to the death of comedian/actor Garry Shandling:
"Garry was a guiding voice of comedy. He set the standard and we're all still trying to meet it. He gave us all opportunities to learn how to do the best work of our lives. But, more importantly, as I knew him these last few years, he was a person who never stopped trying to be a better person. That's yet another way he inspired me and I'm sure many others who knew him." — Bob Odenkirk
"Working with him was one of the great privileges of my career. He was a comic talent of immense originality who enthusiastically encouraged and responded to the originality of others." — Rip Torn.
"Garry Shandling was a very special comedian with a beautifully unpredictable mind. He even voluntarily offered jokes and ideas for Oscars." — Steve Martin
"I had a personal relationship with him and we never worked together so I had him for dinner, we spent time together, I found him to be incredibly funny and sharp and with a beautiful sense of humor. It's a real loss." — Martin, at the opening of the Broadway show "Bright Star."
"I'm crushed. That man made me laugh. Spoke to me as a peer. Even though I've known him since the 90s, it's in the last few years that we have had meaningful and memorable one-on-one talks. I had no idea our last one would be four days ago." — Kathy Griffin
"His neurosis made me feel human His first series was sensational but the second is one for the ages. We worked together on our projects but for me our mutual respect and laughs over our low-self esteem was magical." — Richard Lewis
"Goodbye Gary Shandling thank you for your kindness and your generosity and for making me laugh so damn much." — Amy Schumer
"I just found out a half an hour ago. I am completely speechless. I'm just stunned. A genius. So it's horrifying." — Martin Short, at the premiere of the Broadway show "Bright Star."
"Saddened over Garry Shandling. He was a comedy idol of mine. He leaves behind the greatest single-camera comedy of all time. #LarrySanders." — Seth MacFarlane
"RIP the great Garry Shandling. Surely, one of the most influential comedians of a generation." — Ricky Gervais
"Garry would see the ridiculousness of me being asked to sum up his life five minutes after being told of his passing. It is a perfect, ridiculous Larry Sanders moment. I can imagine how Hank would handle it but I just don't know how to sum up someone I loved so much who taught me everything I know and was always so kind to me. I am just too sad. Maybe tomorrow I will do better." — Judd Apatow
"I loved Garry very much. Garry was very important to me, not only as a comedy genius, someone I admired greatly for his comedy but he was very good to me personally." — Howard Stern.
"Gary Shandling was often funny when he was serious. And when he was actually going for it - unparalleled. Bless his soul." — James L. Brooks
"@GarryShandling no no no. I love you. I cannot accept that you are gone. Rest in Power my hero. #RIPGarry." — Margaret Cho
"Sad today. My friend @GarryShandling passed. He encouraged me from the very start. A few weeks ago he told me life was short and enjoy it." — Kristin Chenoweth
"Gary Shandling was a comedy hero of mine. He once sent me a thank you note that read, "Thanks for nothing." RIP." — Zach Braff
"Dammit. He was the best. So sad. RIP Garry Shandling. — Marc Maron
"Saddened by the news of the passing of Garry Shandling , I met Garry at @TheComedyStore WEST in 1979 #VayaConDios." — George Lopez
"No!!! Not #GaryShandling!! I am devastated. Grew up with Larry Sanders. Can't process this. RIP. Beyond sad. Thoughts are with his family." — Josh Gad
"Can't believe it. RIP #garyshandling. Lost a great talent. In shock." — Aasif Mandvi
"Oh my ..GOD will laugh now as he never has Before REST IN PEACE .. Wayyyy too soon." Henry Winkler
"Oh no RIP @garyshandling Such a talent." — Jim Gaffigan
"RIP Gary Shandling. You are one of the greats." — Lizz Winstead
"R.I.P. Garry Shandling. I am so saddened to hear this. Brilliantly funny and such a great guy. He will be so missed." — Albert Brooks