This interview is great because Shandling really is pissed. But instead of asking Gervais to turn off the cameras, he lets it play out because he thinks something more interesting will happen. This is more awkward than anything Gervais could have written for The Office. It’s almost scary the way Shandling tries to dominate Gervais’ personality—sort of like Tom Noonan in The Wife (but much much less so):
What happened when Ricky Gervais interviewed you for one of his TV shows?
You didn’t seem to get on… We were doing interviews for my Larry Sanders DVD at the same time as Ricky interviewed me for his show[…]We agreed we’d shoot my interview first then Ricky’s. When I walked into the kitchen, his cameras were on which created a completely different sensibility. I came in to say ‘hello’ with my guard down but there he was shooting his show. I thought: ‘Let’s see if I can signal to him to bring it down because we’re doing this other interview.’ We were doing two shows at the same time.
He doesn’t seem to have got the message
No. It becomes a boxing match. Either of us could have stopped for a minute and said: ‘Are we on the same page?’ but neither of us did. We were two people doing two different shows. I kept thinking: ‘Maybe this will be interesting’ I was trying to do something not comedian-to-comedian but man-to-man. He was trying to make an entertaining show, which I’m capable of; I just wasn’t doing it in that moment. We all needed to stop.[…]
Aren’t you currently working on a stand-up show with no jokes?
It’s such an abstract idea. Instead of thinking as a stand-up I talk for an hour and the audience doesn’t realise it’s funny until they’re on their way home. It’s speaking about the human condition but is funny along the way. It’s understated[…]Hopefully people will be so busy listening they won’t realise they’ve laughed. I finish by saying: ‘I’m sorry but I never really got started."
A great boxer makes his opponent fight his fight, on his terms. A great stand-up takes control of a room. There’s a reason comics say their best shows “killed.” Making people laugh is, at its simplest, an act of domination. And Shandling dominated Gervais. I tell Garry their interaction looks more hostile than he will admit. “A lot of funny people have a way of looking at life and commenting on it,” he says. "Now, there’s another leap to take, which is: Are those funny people actually integrating their life into their work? I still search for ways to put it. It’s living art. I see it as living life as an art. And part of that’s the comedy, and part of that’s the acting, and part of that’s the basketball, and part of that’s the boxing[…]You want to know what the world is about? No one knows what to think. If we could just embrace not knowing for a second, we might have a chance.
Has any watched The Larry Sanders Show (it’s on Netflix Instant View)—it is sort of the Godfather to our current plethora of awkward comedies (Curb, The Office, etc) I think he said something once along the lines of “All of our answers lie in the awkward pause”:
Gary Shandling has one of the worst reputations in the business. I can’t think of many people who are a bigger asshole than Shandling (even a bigger jerk than Bill Maher).
But yeah, the Larry Sanders show was brilliant.
That’s kind of funny, because on the show he plays and asshole—which is related to what he says about comedy: Now, there’s another leap to take, which is: Are those funny people actually integrating their life into their work? I still search for ways to put it. It’s living art. I see it as living life as an art.
Too bad he might actually be a jerk though:
What does it say about artists who are aware enough of their own moral deficiencies to to exploit/explore it in their art, but are unwilling to alter those deficiencies in their lives? In the interview with Gervais he’s exploring being an asshole by being an asshole—or maybe I’m reading too much into all that… it is interesting at least, because we get to see what Gervais actually acts like in a real awkward moment—in which he apparently laughs manically at even the slightest hint of something funny.
Someone needs to write the definitive academic book about awkwardness in art and what it all means. It seems (on first glance at least) like a post-modern phenomenon unique to a certain generation.
Lol. I think you might be reading too much into it. It seemed to me he was trying to make a buffoon out of Gervais. Gervais, being on camera, seemed to be trying to be respectful and just go with it, even though if the camera was off he probably would’ve called Shandling out on his bullshit. If anything, the clip makes Ricky out to be the bigger person and staying cool, whereas Shandling, who is in his own house and knows Ricky admires him, treats him like shit.
I ran into Gary Shandling at a premiere once (I think it was for The Fighter?) and his face looked like a bowl full of botox.
If anything, the clip makes Ricky out to be the bigger person and staying cool, whereas Shandling, who is in his own house and knows Ricky admires him, treats him like shit.
Definitely—and I think Shandling must have know that. I felt really bad for Gervais—who seems to look up to Shandling—but that’s what made it so interesting. You could see (or I could see, with my mind reading powers), behind Gervais’ terse smile that he was thinking: “What the hell is going on? Is he being serious? Does he really hate me?” It was a real experience of awkwardness by two masters of fictional awkwardness. I guess they did another interview with each other shortly after and everything was normal.
Comedy as an act of personality domination—that seems like an interesting concept.
Yeah, it looks almost as bad as Kenny Rogers’ face. The most important person I ever ran into was Bill Walton at a Sonics game…
And I’m sure Bill Walton’s face looked fine. haha
Ugh, Kenny Rogers. Talk about awkward.
His face looked normal—but his knees… that’s a different story…..it looked like someone stuck a few softballs up there.
Everyone read Amy Wallace’s interview, right?
What Shandling did was try to get Gervais to be ‘real’, but Gervais kept being a phony.
He is talking about Gervais behavior ( as much as comedy in general) when he said: Making people laugh is, at its simplest, an act of domination.
The unfortunate thing is that Shandling kept referring to his ‘real’ as being a ‘show’.
I think one can see that Shandling is dealing with some complex personal issues when he says:No one knows what to think. If we could just embrace not knowing for a second, we might have a chance.
Yeah. Exactly. That interview is pretty great, actually. The unfortunate thing is that Shandling kept referring to his ‘real’ as being a ‘show’.
Shandling wants to blur the line between the “real” and the “show”—to make comedy a “living art”—and he pretty much accomplishes that in the interview. Gervais had every right to be fake though, because his interview is designed to be that way—what’s interesting is that he desperately tries to avoid the reality of the situation.
I could have cared less about Shandling until this interview. Now I’m sort of fascinated by him. Has anyone seen any of his recent standup? What he wants to do seems pretty ambitious.
Here are some more relevant Shandling comments/quotes:
Shandling notes that we are deathly afraid of the awkward moment in our culture[…]performers use the power of the awkward moment as a frequent story-telling device to let a character’s hidden motivations and insecurities come to the surface.
In the WTF Podcast interview, Shandling commented on our culture’s addiction to talking and our refusal to endure the awkward moment. He went on to state that he is trying to focus on our culture’s addiction to vapid conversation, our insisting on avoiding uncomfortable silences, because we’re a culture deep in the throes of addiction. We’ve hit rock bottom, and the constant agressive back-and-forth in the political arena, shows a culture deeply in denial that maybe we don’t have all the answers. We are so scared of what might happen when we’re quiet, that the media machines must keep spinning so we can avoid the unpleasantness of self-realization. Shandling argues, that the awkward moment that we are so intent on resisting in our culture, that’s where we can find everything we need: “All the truth in the world is in that silence…that’s where the love is!” he states in between laughter, while also providing space for awkward pauses in his interview with Maron to drive home his point. Nobody likes a conversational lull. But it’s surprising that Gervais, whose continually uses it for comedic effect in his shows, seems so uncomfortable in it in real life. If Shandling is right, maybe this is memorably uncomfortable interview gives us an indication of where love, the kind of love that cares enough to refuse flee from discomfort, can actually begin.article
This is the kind of “serious” interview that Sanders wanted to do with Gervais. The 1:30 mark Sanders talks a little about his comedic philosophy.
Shandling’s standup from the 80s was pretty dumb. I recall a lot of penis jokes.
Gervais’ best interview for his show was the hour he did with Larry David. Great stuff.
I would like to take this time to apologize to RWPB, Santino, Mike Spence, etc. for turning this into a Garry Shandling tribute thread. Commence talking about the awkward aesthetics of the latest Duplass Bros. film, Jeff, Who Lives at Home —which I thought was pretty great.
It does raise the question of whether the awkwardness in a film character is intentional and then what does it mean script-wise? I think it is supposed to impart naturalness.
OTOH, Shandling is clearly intending to keep Gervais off-balance, which may be the same effect i.e. the awkward moment produces the same thresholdness. Shandling doesn’t know who he is and wanted Gervais to feel the same.
“Gary Shandling has one of the worst reputations in the business. I can’t think of many people who are a bigger asshole than Shandling (even a bigger jerk than Bill Maher).”
In my experience, most comedians who come from a stand-up background tend to, um, not be nice, socially articulate, well-adjusted people.
Speaking of trends, wasn’t Portman’s character from Garden State epileptic too? So is that, like, a thing?
I did enjoy The Exploding Girl. But then I’m a guy, and the movie plays in to male fantasy. Kazan is cute as a button, dresses in cute outfits, looks cute even in sweatpants and tee-shirt, and the camera spends a long time lingering over her. Which is nice. Cutest of all, she has epilepsy. Being epileptic may be hell, but for the purposes of the movie, doesn’t it lend Ivy an endearing vulnerability? I’m wondering if this is a movie women roll their eyes at, and whether anybody would watch ‘The Exploding Boy’.
Here’s another film that would fit this schema—Maren Ade’s The Forest For the Trees.
Schema in the sense of the original post (awkward moments), or schema in the sense of my criticisim (a film that leans on the attractiveness and vulnerability of its leading actress)? i.e. are you responding to the previous post, or continuing with the thread in general?
I was responding to Robert, yeah.
Re" “Exploding Boy”, have you see Craig Johnson’s True Adolescents?
No. I’ve thought about it giving it a whirl. I’ve had mixed reactions to the films directed by the Duplass brothers, but I do think Mark D. is a good actor. Are you recommending these two films — Forest for the Trees, & True Adolescents?
Yes to The Forest for the Trees (Ade’s second feature, Everyone Else is really good too) , not such much for True Adolescents, although its worth a look and not especially Duplass-y, but I think it sort of fitful relates to your question about a male version of The Exploding Girl.
preface: I’m not familiar with the AM distinction.
to me all it is is the director allowing the viewer to make up his/her mind about the character/narrative/point. while watching The Exploding Girl I found myself reading into everything on the screen. hand movements, interactions. and after reading through this thread I have found things I missed, like Matt Parks: “walking (movement) vs. sitting (stasis)” and its meaning. it was a great film (5/5) that had me engaged throughout.
that last scene in the car….so intimate.
@Jazz I agree about the early shots of the girl being unnecessary. I found myself thinking that, even though it didn’t bother me too much because:
as much as I don’t want to admit it, this is true. I gave the movie a 5/5 because I just loved it. but yes, a lot of my appreciation for it has to do with my attraction to the Zoe Kazan’s character. it’s shallow I guess.
edit- I do think that the Kazan character should appeal to women as well. I think her social awkwardness is authentic and would be relatable