The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling will explore the late comedian’s life, comedy, and wisdom.
The trailer for The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling—Judd Apatow’s HBO documentary about the life and wisdom of late comedian Garry Shandling—was released Thursday.
Judd Apatow, who directed the film, considers Shandling his most important mentor, dubbing him his “comedy Buddha.” In January, Apatow announced the documentary in an Instagram post, confirming rumblings that he was developing a film about his friend. Shandling died in March 2016 at the age of 66.
Shandling was a serious Zen Buddhist who felt a connection to Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and practice. He considered himself “a serious student of dharma” looking to find “the Real Shandling,” which showed in the It’s Garry Shandling Show, where he frequently broke the fourth wall in a meta-spin on the classic sitcom format to play with ideas of self and ego.
Brother Phap Hai, senior student of Thich Nhat Hanh, spoke at Shandling’s memorial and shared stories of his devotion to Buddhism in a Lion’s Roar exclusive. He included a journal entry from Shandling:
“Give more to others. Get outside ‘yourself.’ Keep your heart open and have fun. Keep mind clear. Make it fun for them. Open heart, kindness, truth, compassion. Follow your instincts.”
In the trailer for the documentary, amid clips from his influential entertainment career, brief notes, seemingly from Shandling’s diaries, chronicle his day-to-day thoughts, which slowly transform into philosophical mantras. Some of them read:
“Relax, meditate, let go,” “You don’t need to be anything. You can just be,” “See what happens next. Give up the control.”
“He turned to Buddhism, but not because he’s Zen,” Sarah Silverman is quoted in the trailer. “It’s because he was in desperate need of being Zen.”
Despite sharing little about his personal life, Garry Shandling and his sharp comedic mind had an enormous impact on American comedy. He influenced and inspired many of his co-workers and friends, such as Silverman, Apatow, Kevin Nealon, Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, and Jim Carrey.
Alex McLevy from The A.V. Club writes that the documentary celebrates Shandling’s true comedic heart:
“[…] the film tries to trace not only his enormous impact on comedy, but also the man himself and how he evolved through the decades into someone actively working to open himself up to the world and the people around him.”
The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling will air in two parts on HBO from March 26 to 27.