10 Questions For Garry Shandling

  • His previous HBO series, The Larry Sanders Show, was a precursor OF reality TV — a fictional talk show that bore a strange resemblance to the star's real-life career. Garry Shandling has been out of prime time since then, but he'll return on Sunday to host the Emmy Awards. TIME's Belinda Luscombe talked to him about the Emmys, TV today and his time off.

    WHERE THE HECK HAVE YOU BEEN? Oh. I have been living my life. I did two series back to back and then hosted the Emmys and then did two movies. And I don't think I ever stopped to, um, stop. I have a spiritual life that involves meditating, and I stopped working, and I'm fascinated.

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    FASCINATED BY STOPPING? Fascinated because I've chosen to stop and live. When I was writing and acting in those series I had no life outside of it. Any open time is a gift I have given myself. [Producer] Don Mischer usually calls me every June to ask me if I'm going to host [the Emmys], and for the last four years I said no — I'm sitting at the beach, and you want me to do what? But this year when he asked me, I actually had an idea that popped into my head because of reality TV. And I said to him, Would you ever consider doing the Emmys as a reality program? So that's the direction we're taking with it.

    ARE YOU BONING UP ON REALITY TV? I'm trying to catch up. I'm startled. I enjoy The Apprentice and the one that's called Take My Life and the other one called Stop Hitting Me.

    ARE THOSE LAST TWO REAL? No, but I promise you I could sell them.

    DO YOU WATCH ANY TV JUST FOR PLEASURE? I watched the Olympics. I watch the news, which is its own reality show. I love Curb Your Enthusiasm. I love it because it's funny and because I realize that I'm happier than Larry David.

    YOU DO A LOT OF MEDITATING? I've been meditating for about 20 years — a kind of Zen Buddhist meditation — and never talked about it because no one understood. And now of course it's become part of our culture, and we see Buddhas in storefront windows. It's weird to me that I do that and happen to be funny. I still can't figure that part out. It's feeling the deep impermanence of life and yet seeing the funny, impermanent side of life. Because it's all a joke. You wanna hang up and not talk to me anymore?

    NO. DO YOU HAVE AN EMMY JOKE YOU'D LIKE TO TRY OUT? Let me think. Well, I'm shocked that at this stage of TV, they're having a professional host the Emmys. A real person should be hosting it. I guess we're hanging on by a thread. Because I'm not a real person. I'm a professional. I'm pretty honored.

    WHAT'S THE BEST ACCEPTANCE SPEECH YOU EVER HEARD? I actually said, at an awards show that was being pretaped, "I know that this is being pretaped and will be shown Saturday, and I want to say now to whatever woman I'm sitting watching this with, I couldn't have done it without you." And I've also said this: "It's an honor just to win."

    THE ARTS COMMUNITY HAS GOT A LOT MORE POLITICAL THIS YEAR. ARE YOU DOING ANY CAMPAIGNING PERSONALLY? No. I don't think I'm severely politically active. I care deeply, and I have my strong personal beliefs. I think America is dancing on thin ice. But I think it's bigger even than a political issue. I wonder about the evolution of the human race and spirit and what our goals and reasons for living are. I read that 75% of Americans are now anxious and depressed, and I thought, Well, I'm a little ahead of my time, aren't I? The fact is that I have been on a state of high alert since high school. I didn't need 9/11. I was uptight on 9/10.

    WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH YOUR EMMY? It's in the closet. I have all my awards stored away like stuff from high school. I don't have anything that speaks of show business in my home because I have a separation between show-business life and my life. But do I, on a very sad day, just put them around me and sit with them? Yes.