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

Rolling Stone Review Zen Diaries

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.”


Young Garry

2 responses to “DEAR BARRY-”

  1. JayK says:

    Casey, a part of the letter to Barry you didn’t allude to was about how he knew the boundary between Garry and Barry to be an illusion. In Buddhist realization, there is the indivisible non-duality of all being. Because all of existence is one, When Barry died, Garry died as well and yet paradoxically, neither died. They continued as life from the emotional point of view of Garry. Sadness was the felt experience, the energy of Barry’s dying passing through. Garry then wrote from his realization that the boundary between them is dissolved, never was real, and they have never been separate. Barry always was there, first as the sadness and then as the joy in Garry’s heart. This is an absolutely beautiful and real experience of grief at a profound level. It’s Why I love this film so much.

    • Casey Gauntt says:

      This is a very beautiful, deep and much broader examination of Garry’s letter to Barry. Thank you for shining light on this. You might be interested in my new book that came out earlier this month. Here is a link to the post WHEN THE VEIL COMES DOWN on this website. Basically, I completely agree with you-there is no veil and we examine this from many different perspectives and through the eyes of many. Thank-you! Casey

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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