Conan O'Brien Remembers Garry Shandling: He Helped Me Through a 'Particularly Difficult Time in My Life'
By Rachel McRady
Hours after news broke that the comedy world had lost& Garry Shandling, one of its greatest trailblazers, CONAN host Conan O'Brien took a moment to pay tribute to his longtime friend.
"I have to tell you that this is a devastating shock to me and just about everyone I know," an uncharacteristically somber O'Brien told his audience of Shandling's sudden passing. "This just doesn't seem real still, and I don't know when it will… He was obviously hysterically funny pretty much all the time, but he was also extremely sensitive. He was complicated. And he had a ton of empathy for other people, and I want to make that point. That is something in this business, in comedy, that is very rare."
O'Brien went on to explain that Shandling was there for him during a pivotal time in his life.
"During a particularly difficult time in my life, Garry just magically appeared and he helped me a lot," the 52-year-old talk show host said. "Seven years ago now, when my Tonight Show ended in this crazy, effed up, spectacular fashion, I woke up the next morning and I had no job and I had no idea what I was going to do. I was just shel-shocked, and I was a complete zombie."
At the time, O'Brien's wife suggested that their family take a vacation to Hawaii to get away from the stress of losing out on The Tonight Show.
"I just sat alone in this hotel room for, I think, half an hour, 40 minutes, just silent and I did not know what to do… suddenly the phone rang and I heard a voice," O'Brien recalled. "It's an unmistakable voice. It said, 'Conan, it's Garry. I'm staying three doors down. We're on an island. There's no avoiding me.'"
So, instead of spending the week with his family, the late night host spent his vacation with Shandling, recovering from this painful experience.
"I was at a real low point. He counseled me," O'Brien said. "He cheered me up. He told me jokes. He talked to me about philosophy. He talked to me about how there are bigger things in the world, and I’m going to be fine."
To further remember the late comedian, O'Brien shared several interview clips with Shandling and a famous Emmys sketch that involved them riding on horseback down the beach together.
O'Brien wasn't the only late night host to honor Shandling. Seth Meyers also took a moment to pay his respects, recalling the impact that Shandling's The Larry Sanders Show had on him as a comedian in late night. He noted how Shandling's character, Larry, would review a mediocre show by saying, "Not best of Larry," meaning if there was a best-of recording of his show, that episode wouldn't make it.
"I cannot tell you the times whenever I walk off there are shows that maybe aren’t the level you want them to be, and I always think to myself, 'Well, not best of Larry,'" Meyers said. "It makes me feel so much better knowing that people who do jobs like this or who’ve done jobs like this all feel the same way at any given time."
Actress Goldie Hawn exclusively spoke with ET on Thursday night about the loss of her former co-star, tearing up while saying, "I'm not as happy tonight, let’s put it that way. I'm gonna miss him. It was such a shock."