This would be a much funnier story if Garry Shandling were still alive, but if he were, I wouldn’t be telling it.
I was partially responsible — in a roundabout way — for nearly killing Garry back in the 1970s.
No really. A friend knew Garry from a writing class at the University of Arizona. Garry by this point was living in L.A. and had done a couple of “Sanford and Son” and “Welcome Back, Kotter” episodes, but I’m not sure whether he had made his debut on the Carson show.
Anyway, my friend and I in far-off Tucson tried our hand at a “Kotter” script and sent it to Garry for feedback. We got a letter sometime later with the following note:
“This letter nearly killed me. I stopped to mail it and was walking between two cars to the mailbox when someone crashed into one of the cars and pinned me between them.” He went on to recount his recovery from broken bones (as I recall he was injured rather seriously) and then went on to critique our little script — which was terribly amateurish. (Fortunately, my friend and I each found a place in journalism, which was a much better fit with our talents).
Later on, in the early 1980s when I was a feature writer at the Arizona Daily Star, Garry’s mother used to call up Sherry Stern, the TV writer, whenever he was going to be on TV. It was, in retrospect, very sweet.
Farewell, Garry, and thanks for encouraging a young — and not very talented TV writer — who went on to find himself. Eventually.