×

Judd Apatow Talks Garry Shandling’s Mentorship at ‘The Zen Diaries’ Premiere

For Judd Apatow, the process of creating “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” a two-part documentary on the life of the late comedian, was eye-opening in understanding Shandling’s impact on young comedians.

“I didn’t realize that he had chosen really consciously to be a mentor,” Apatow told Variety at the film’s Los Angeles screening on Wednesday. “I knew he was available to people and he was really kind and if you said, ‘Will you read my script?’ he would give you notes. But he wrote in his journals that he wanted to help people and he thought that was the win in life, to help people.”

Apatow, who early in his career worked on Shandling’s “The Larry Sanders Show,” directed and executive produced the documentary, which explores the legendary comedian through four decades’ worth of television appearances and a lifetime of personal journals, private letters, and home audio and video footage. “The Zen Diaries” also features more than 40 interviews with Shandling’s family and friends, including Jim Carrey, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jon Favreau, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman.

The director first got the idea for the two-part documentary, which will air on HBO on March 26 and 27, when putting together footage for Shandling’s memorial, following his death in 2016.

Popular on Variety

“I was able to get an enormous amount of footage from different people and then I realized ‘Oh, this would make a great Bob Dylan-type two-part documentary’ so we spent about a year searching for footage and just watching footage and then a year editing it,” Apatow said. “It was a pretty massive job but really fun.”

In a speech prior to the screening, he described what making the project honoring his friend had meant to him, saying, “Garry was such a great person to so many of us and I don’t want to get emotional now because it’s all in this film. I’m very sad that I’m not going to be able to continue making this film and spend every day with Garry.”

The premiere, held at the Avalon Hollywood, also welcomed Bob Saget, Kevin Nealon, Vanessa Bayer, Kathy Griffin and Regis Philbin.

Like Apatow, Nealon, who is also featured in the documentary, said that Shandling became a mentor to him over the years and the two would frequently write jokes together over the phone. “I thought maybe he was only supportive to me and a few other people, but as I see this, he touched so many people’s lives and he was so compassionate in so many ways with people who were suffering,” the comedian said.

Saget told Variety that Shandling was his first friend in Los Angeles when he moved to the city in 1978, and they “went through a lot of stuff together, a lot of good stuff, a lot of ups and downs stuff.”

“He was a very complex, very brilliant, very funny man and I miss him and I wish I could spend time with him now,” he added. “Judd did a beautiful tribute to him.”

More Scene

  • Coldplay - Chris Martin

    Grammys 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Let the music play, indeed. The Grammys are just days away and dozens of parties are happening every night this week leading up to the big day, Sunday, Jan. 26. And the partying continues with several bashes following the ceremony. (All events listed are by invitation only unless marked otherwise; this list is being updated [...]

  • Jared Harris arrives at the 26th

    No, Jared Harris is Not Playing Doctor Octopus in Marvel's 'Morbius'

    The first-ever trailer for Marvel and Sony’s next Spider-man spinoff “Morbius” left comic book fans reeling with theories. While the plight of the main character, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) – a scientist dying of a rare blood disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire – seemed ripped right out of the comics, the [...]

  • Charlize Theron31st Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    Charlize Theron Says Megyn Kelly's 'Bombshell' Reaction Video Was 'Really Validating'

    Charlize Theron says it was “really emotional” to watch Megyn Kelly’s half-hour response video to “Bombshell,” the Oscar-nominated feature film that depicts the sexual harassment Kelly (as played by Theron) and several other women experienced from Fox News founder Roger Ailes. The video, which Kelly posted to her YouTube Channel on Jan. 9, shows Kelly, [...]

  • Sean Penn CORE Gala

    Sean Penn Offers to Take Selfies in Exchange for $5,000 Donations to Disaster Relief

    A decade after the catastrophic 7.0 Haiti earthquake left between 50,000 and 100,000 dead and nearly a million people displaced, Sean Penn hosted the 10th anniversary CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) gala, raising funds for international disaster relief at the Wiltern Theatre on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. “We’re not here tonight because we want [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content