From the director of Knocked Up and Trainwreck comes The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. This documentary film directed by Judd Apatow. When Garry Shandling passed away in 2016, he was widely remembered as a top stand-up comic and the star of two of the most innovative sitcoms in TV history. But to those who knew him, the "real" Garry Shandling was a far more complex person. Now, Apatow has created a remarkable portrait of this iconic comedian in the four-and-a-half-hour documentary. Epic in scope and intimate in detail, the film features conversations with more than 40 of Shandling’s family and friends and four decades’ worth of TV appearances, along with personal journals, private letters and candid home audio and video footage that reveal his brilliant mind and restless soul. "Give what you didn’t get," wrote Shandling in a journal late in his life, the mantra of a self-proclaimed "spiritual warrior" still challenging himself to transcend his own insecurities, despite achieving so much in the face of loss, betrayal and tragic twists of fate. From childhood tragedy to heartbreak, professional betrayal and unexpected physical trauma, to his emergence as a powerful teacher, friend and guiding spirit for a new generation of talent, Apatow’s documentary not only chronicles one man’s ability to survive the ups and downs of a life in show business, but also offers a profound investigation into the power of comedy to elevate the human spirit. Part two offers an extensive examination of The Larry Sanders Show, his landmark HBO comedy series. Colleagues remember the demands of producing material that met Shandling’s high standards, while his diaries reveal an ongoing struggle with complacency and search for authenticity. A successful gig hosting the Emmys, creating unique extras for the DVD release of The Larry Sanders Show and an appearance with his friend Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (where Shandling opined about death and mortality) hinted at some of the lessons he’d learned in his lifelong quest for peace.
In early February 2017, it was reported that Apatow was developing a documentary on his mentor and friend. A day later, Apatow made a public plea, via his official Twitter account, for anyone with photographs, videos, or information about Shandling to reach out to him. In early January 2018, it was announced at the annual Television Critics Association's winter press tour that cable network HBO had acquired the documentary and planned to premiere it in two parts on March 26 and 27, 2018.
The film confirms that Shandling's enduring popularity as the high priest of putdowns can be chalked up to an admirable national trait to not take ourselves too seriously. I kept thinking what Shandling would have thought of it. He probably would have been embarrassed and a bit shy about the whole thing. But he would have loved the attention. He would have smiled and laughed. And that's all that really matters. A wonderful, cathartic look back at the life of this unique man.