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Comic Starts With His 25th Special

January 07, 1986|LAWRENCE CHRISTON

Someone recently remarked that it was entirely possible that Ronald Reagan is a hologram. While that idea may reflect a certain frustration over finding the sticking points of our first Teflon President, it also reflects an alarm over how much our lives are both informed and manipulated by the media.

Comedian Garry Shandling has taken the premise one step further--how many people can you fool if you offer the 25th anniversary of a show that never existed?

"Garry Shandling's 25th Anniversary Special" will begin airing Wednesday on Showtime and, according to Shandling, "about 1,700 more times in the month of January." The premise grew out of an idle conversation in a car with a friend. "We thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to have an anniversary special when you've never had a show?,' " Shandling said. "This will operate out of a talk-show format and is a vehicle not only for things that went wrong, but for historical recollections, such as Woodstock, the change in hair styles. It's easy to parody talk shows, because they've become such parodies of themselves."

As a former sitcom writer and stand-up comedian, Shandling, 36, was once touted as a replacement for Johnny Carson until it was generally conceded that not only can Carson never be replaced, but that he'll probably go on until the next Ice Age.

Carson will be among the guests on the show. So will Donny Osmond, Mr. Ed, Doug McClure, Stan Kann and Senor Wences ("He's 92 now. We looked at tapes of him on the Ed Sullivan show years ago, and he was old then"). The show will also feature the more implausible How's My Hair band, and a sidekick named Pete (played by Paul Wilson). Garry plays Garry.

"It's done real straight," Shandling said. "We have a clip on the era of censorship where we have to bleep out things said by Mr. Ed. We also have a psychic on the show who's incredibly accurate and predicts terrible things about people which turn out to be true, and which forces the psychic off the air."

Shandling is a subtle writer (he co-wrote the show with Marc Sotkin) whose jokes often have a surprising twist. A characteristic Shandling joke is this: "I like a girl who likes to talk in bed, but it got to the point where I had to say 'Hang up the phone!' "

"The premise is a reach as it is," he said of the show. "It's like when you look at a David Letterman show and say 'This is crazy,' and then it doesn't seem so crazy. I hope it's good enough that some people can watch it and really think I've been around for 25 years, and ask themselves 'How come we've never seen him?' "

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