The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling

I love Judd Apatow’s intimate 2018 doc and heartfelt tribute to the late, great Garry Shandling.

Through never-before-seen journals, interviews, and footage, you see the brilliance and complexity of the comedy icon.

It’s a must-watch for any fan of laughter, insight, and being…well…Zen.

Trailer for “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling”

Watch “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling”

Release Date: March 26, 2018

You can stream it on HBO Max at

If you don’t have Max but have Hulu, Hulu is doing a Max add-on (for $15.99/mo.) to get Max here:

You an also rent it ($3.99 last I checked) on:

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  • My Rating: 96/100
  • IMDB Rating: 8.4/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 94/100 (Users); 94/100 (Critics)

Review of “”The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling”

This 4-hour, 2-part HBO doc is a must-watch for anyone loving comedy and good humans.

As Shandling’s friend and mentee, Apatow gives us an intimate look at his life.

He draws from Shandling’s journals, stand-up tapes, and personal archives to paint a vivid picture.

You’ll be treated to interviews with over 40 of Shandling’s friends and colleagues.

Jim Carrey, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman, Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Nealon, and Conan O’Brien are all interviewed.

Shandling, born on November 29, 1949 in Chicago, moved to LA in 1973 to pursue comedy.

He quickly became a sought-after sitcom writer. He worked on TV hits like “Sanford and Son” and “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

Shandling’s Big Break

Shandling’s first big break was when he caught the attention of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

According to the doc, Carson’s talent scouts regularly attended comedy clubs to discover new comedians for “The Tonight Show.”

They were impressed by Shandling’s performances at The Comedy Store and The Improve and brought him to Carson’s attention.

Carson trusted his scouts’ judgment and decided to give Shandling a chance on his show.

He recognized Shandling’s potential and believed he would be a good fit for his audience.

Shandling first appeared on Carson’s show on March 18, 1981.

He quickly became a regular guest and even served as a guest host.

Shandling’s appearances on “The Tonight Show” catapulted him to national fame.

He showcased his signature brand of observational humor and self-deprecating wit.

The doc features clips from Shandling’s early stand-up performances on the show. You can see him honing the comedic style that would define his career.

Carson became a mentor to Shandling, offering guidance and support. Their relationship played a crucial role in Shandling’s rise to prominence.

Shandling’s experiences with Carson influenced his later work. “The Larry Sanders Show” drew heavily from his time in the world of late-night TV.

Through interviews with Shandling’s friends and colleagues, the doc paints a picture of a pivotal moment. His appearances on “The Tonight Show” launched a remarkable career in comedy.

In the ’80s, Shandling revolutionized TV comedy with “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” on Showtime.

The Garry Shandline Show (1986 to 1990) broke the fourth wall and parodied sitcom tropes.

Shandling’s next project, HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show” (1992-1998), was even more influential.

This satirical look at a fictional talk show, starring Shandling as the neurotic host, anticipated the rise of cringe comedy.

Through the doc, we also get a glimpse into Shandling’s personal life and spiritual journey.

You’ll learn about his struggles with a thyroid condition that required heart surgery in the late ’90s.’

Shandling’s Legal Dispute Brad Grey

And as Zen as Shandling was, he had to get tough in business. The doc explains the legal battles he had with his manager Brad Grey.

Shandling fired Grey in January 1998 and sued him for $100 million. He accused Grey of breaching his fiduciary duties and enriching himself and his production company.

Shandling claimed Grey double-dipped as both his manager and executive producer on the show.

He alleged Grey gave his own company better terms than Shandling’s.

Furthermore, Shandling believed Grey failed to properly represent him in negotiations with HBO over the show’s final season.

He felt Grey prioritized his own financial interests over Shandling’s.

In response, Grey filed a $10 million countersuit, denying the allegations. He claimed Shandling had breached their contract and owed him money.

The legal battle generated significant media attention, offering a rare glimpse into contentious Hollywood relationships.

In October 1999, Shandling and Grey reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement.

Despite the bitter conflict, the two men eventually reconciled. They maintained a friendly relationship until Shandling’s death in 2016 at age 66.

Zen Buddhism.

he first encountered Buddhism in the early ’90s through his friend Garry Trudeau, the creator of “Doonesbury.”

IShandling attended his first meditation retreat in 1993 at the Zen Center of Los Angeles.

He found the experience transformative and began incorporating meditation into his daily routine.

Shandling’s commitment to Buddhism grew stronger after his heart surgery in 1996. He turned to meditation to manage his anxiety and find inner peace during his recovery.

The doc features an interview with Shandling’s close friend and fellow comedian Kevin Nealon.

Nealon recalls visiting Shandling’s home and finding him meditating in his garden, surrounded by Buddhist statues and artwork.

Shandling discusses is favorite Buddhist books, including “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh. He explains how these teachings helped him find clarity and purpose.

He even installed a meditation room in his home. He would retreat there for hours, sitting in silence and practicing mindfulness.

The doc also explores Shandling’s friendship with Buddhist monk Kusala Bhikshu. Bhikshu shares stories of their conversations about Buddhism.

He also studied with the legendary spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

In one particularly poignant moment, you’ll hear Shandling’s own words about his Buddhist practice.

He describes it as a way to “get back to the natural state of the mind” and find liberation from suffering.

Tragically, Shandling died from a blood clot in his lungs on March 24, 2016, at age 66.

There’s some great footage of the star-studded memorial service held at Shandling’s home. Attendees included Judd Apatow, Kevin Nealon, Sarah Silverman, Conan O’Brien, and Billy Crystal.

You’ll come away from “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” with a deeper appreciation for both his genius and how he just seems like a really good human

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc