THE ZEN DIARIES OF GARRY SHANDLING- A film by and tribute from his good friend and mentee Judd Apatow.
Hilary and I watched this two-part documentary on HBO last week. I encourage you to give it a look. Garry Shandling, who died of a heart attack at age 66 in 2016, was a brilliant comedian, creator and star of two popular TV series and revered by his contemporaries and proteges such as Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Jim Carey and director Judd Apatow. We laughed hard during many segments.
But Garry had a darker side. As revealed by his own words in the extensive journals he kept over the years, much of Garry Shandling’s life—the good and the bad—was informed by the death of his older brother, Barry, and the stunting of the opportunity to grieve and heal imposed by his parents’ ‘we’re moving on and we’re not going to talk about it’ approach.
This is from a review by The Rolling Stone
The film begins with old home movies, painting a portrait of Shandling’s childhood as a happy one that turned tragic at age 10, when his older brother, Barry, died at 13 from cystic fibrosis. “I never had a conversation with him about it, but when I interviewed people, a few said, When Garry’s brother died, they didn’t talk about him anymore,” says Apatow. “That was an approach some people took back in 1960. They didn’t have the psychological education to know how to deal with it, so they just moved forward. His cousin told me he couldn’t remember it ever being brought up, their entire childhood.
As work on the film progressed, “I found a diary entry where Garry was very upset that he was never allowed to go in and say goodbye to his brother, and that his mom didn’t want him to go to the funeral,” Apatow says. “It’s not in the documentary, but I found out later that one of her parents died and she got very, very upset, and didn’t want that to happen again in front of Garry. The result was that Garry wasn’t given a way to work through his grief.” The director theorizes that Barry’s death became something like the organizing trauma of Shandling’s life and work, and while the documentary emphasizes the importance of Shandling’s complicated relationship with his mother, the emotional climax of the film centers on the discovery, tucked away in one of the journals, of a letter that Garry once wrote to Barry – an attempt at saying goodbye that they weren’t able to have as kids.
“Dear Barry, you died during the night. My hunch is you were a special spirit ….When you died, I died. … Being alone in that house without a brother, without you, the emotional pain was immense. … I claim victory for you, for me, for us. So, Barry, I tell you that I love you. You were, are joy. Goodbye from this world. Goodbye from the pain of your body. I honor your life. … Thank you. See you on the other side.”