This is the introduction to the Garry Shandling interview. It’s the introductory part of the interview. It’s the part where I tell you who Garry Shandling is.
This is the second part of the introduction to the Garry Shandling interview. This is where I tell you he plays Verne in Over the Hedge, opening this weekend. Now is where I remind you he starred in the HBO classic The Larry Sanders Show and the hilarious sitcom deconstruction The Garry Shandling Show, which is from where I stole this intro.
This was the introduction the Garry Shandling interview.
Shandling: So I only have notes with me as reminders for me. You ask me whatever and then when I ask you questions I have my notes. And this is how I worked on the movie, probably. I don’t know how the others did it but I had tons of pages spread out on the floor that I would go to for so-called ad libs and jokes and things I had written.
Q: So there were ad libs?
Shandling: Cary the director/writer came into the room and he said, ‘Wow that line about “Oh I thought we’d be dead by step two” gets a laugh,’ and that was practically the last thing done as a real ad lib where I was watching it in the audio room. I just said, ‘Oh there he’s got to say –‘ and they put the mic on. That’s how many things were done. And many things were not done that way.
Q: Were you allowed to ad lib all the time?
Shandling: I was allowed to ad lib all the time and there was a lot of stuff they couldn’t use because it was… filthy.
Q: Can you share some of that?
Shandling: There were some jokes taken out just because they couldn’t fit them in. One was… how did it go? ‘The shell makes me look ten pounds heavier.’
I know that I never screamed as much in my life as when I was playing that character as he gets tossed around when he goes over the hedge. When he gets thrown around and is screaming like that there is a place where I shouted a reference to having an orgasm. I think it’s somewhere in the area where he’s riding the propane tank.
Q: So will we get the porn version of Over the Hedge?
Shandling: I think one of these companies should release one some time. A kind of an X-rated outtake version. On the DVD where the kids can’t look at it, but you hear someone like me really going to town in I think a very humorous way. And to see a turtle saying the things that come out of his mouth would be interesting. Has anyone ever done it before?
Q: I used to be convinced that some of Donald Duck’s incomprehensible tantrums were filled with swearing.
Shandling: Now that I’ve done this process I don’t doubt that Bugs Bunny was swearing under his breath, Donald Duck was swearing under his breath, the Road Runner was swearing under his breath… It becomes a process that requires an internal search to connect in some funny way, and in that process for me I sometimes do some inappropriate asides that can’t be used.
Q: What was your initial attraction to the script?
Shandling: I was totally befuddled from the get-go. I was totally befuddled by the get-go. I had done I think three scenes in a movie that they never finished called Tusker. I played an elephant with Tim [Johnson, co-director of Over the Hedge], and that seemed fine and dandy. And I don’t throw around the phrase fine and dandy very easily. They hit it off, and we were ad libbing, and they called me to do this part. The process, as you might have heard, is quite remarkable in that the story isn’t quite fully beaten out. There’s a process in this case that was tough because figuring out who Verne was and what the arc of that character was was really tough as opposed to doing a few scenes. That was what was frustrating – if I could have done a few scenes I think everybody would be happier, including the audience.
But the fact is I hadn’t done it before and I thought it would be a challenge, period. And that’s the kind of thing I do. I didn’t know it was animated until I saw it, so I was pretty shocked. Because I had been practicing at home with a coach to play a turtle and then I saw a rough cut and I was like, who is this guy?
Q: Did you have a hard time coming out of your shell as a youngster?
Shandling: I actually think I’m more of a turtle than Verne is. Where Verne is up on two legs and moving at full speed and doesn’t pull his head into the shell very often, I in reality was five or ten minutes later to every recording session. And I pitched it, I said he should come into a couple of scenes late saying sorry. And then he’s up and walking around on two legs whereas I’m home on all fours. Just use me. I think I’m an interesting choice for that turtle.
Q: So you’re saying playing a turtle is appropriate for you.
Shandling: Not only appropriate, but my destiny.
Now I couldn’t tell you whether I was utilized to my best. I did my best and it was a new process to me, because the only time I’m in a room alone screaming is at the shrink’s. I had no picture to go by for quite some time and I couldn’t get the pieces of the story together, so I didn’t know what I was playing. And then I wanted to do scenes with the other actors in the room, especially Bruce, but everybody’s schedule is wacky and that’s not the way these things work. Maybe everybody got together and I didn’t know and I was just excluded.
Q: A lot of actors find it very difficult to be alone in the recording booth like that.
Shandling: You’ve helped me. I’m not kidding, I needed to hear that. As opposed to what’s happening right here, in the present, which is how I know how to work best. I don’t know how to ground myself without the other actor present.
Q: How did you think you looked?
Shandling: I think I look great in green, and I’m going to start wearing more green.
Shandling: I had not considered turtlenecks. I thought I’m in better shape than that turtle, but that shell adds ten pounds. It makes you look heavier. I wrote a joke where Verne says, ‘I’m in shape. I have a washboard back.’ That didn’t get in either.
It’s shocking to see the first time because the animation and what’s in the eyes is so hard to get. I don’t know if the attitude comes across. I don’t know if what I was doing is in the movie or not – it’s somebody else’s eyes. It’s an animator’s eyes. I still don’t know what to think. If I had it to do over again, I would do it without the shell. I don’t know why.
Q: Would you do animation again?
Shandling: I would do it again. I would make sure that the character was very clear, period. But that’s what anyone would say about any movie. I would get involved in the writing process earlier. But Cary and Tim, and I’m not just saying this, I was shocked by their commitment to trying to improve it every day. And they were really supportive when I was doing my voice-over, because I was really insecure.
I’ll tell you why I really said yes – and he told me I could tell this story, which I think is strong of him. [Jeffrey Katzenberg] called me into his office and said, ‘I wanted to find something for you to do, a voice for you to do. And now I’ve got it – we’re doing this cartoon with a raccoon and a turtle.’ And then he literally reached down and put a puppet of a turtle on his right hand and a puppet of a raccoon on his right hand and Jeffrey Katzenberg started talking as the characters. I was alone with him in the room and I said, ‘Jeffrey, give me a second,’ and I went into the corner to collect myself as a joke, but it was shocking to me. I thought that someone who has that kind of vulnerability and enthusiasm is an interesting character.
Q: Have you ever had anyone do something like that to pitch you before?
Shandling: I’ve never had anyone put on a puppet show to convince me of anything. And I’ve done a lot of stuff. I don’t know that I would put the puppets on when I was pitching a show. This was the head of the studio putting a puppet show on. And I’ll tell you, he wasn’t bad. I think if this whole thing goes down he could do puppet shows.
Q: Are there any kids in your family who you would like to show this movie?
Shandling: I don’t know. Here’s the thing – I’m single, I haven’t been married, I don’t have kids yet. If I do have kids I would be interested to see them in my life, so here’s a movie for kids and I’m in there and I’m supposed to be kind of funny for kids. During this they would say ‘What kids respond to, it’s for the family,’ and here you’ve got a single guy who doesn’t have kid – my God, this could be as close as I get.
Q: Did you ever read the original comic strip?
Shandling: The comic strip is what I looked at, and it’s another reason I did it. The comic strip, where animals would comment on human behavior, interested me. And I would hope that if another one is made there would be more of that. Because we are living in a world that is coming to an end. How high do gas prices have to get for it to technically be the end of the world?
Q: Before the world ends will we see more Larry Sanders on DVD?
Shandling: This is so important to me. All during this [making Over the Hedge] what I was working on was putting the Larry Sanders DVDs together. They’re supposed to be out in the fall, in November. That was all consuming. I’m so proud of… God knows until you see them. They said ‘What kind of special features do you want to do?’ First of all, I’m not the kind of guy that likes to rehash the show and so forth and so on. I’m still learning about the show and what happened and the process is revealed. I said, ‘Just get me two hand held cameras and I’ll visit people I want to visit, that I want to catch up with, that I don’t get to talk to because I’ve been so busy and during the show I didn’t get to talk to them, without any preparation.
It’s very hard to describe. It is so real and unedited, so there’s these sections where I talk to Sharon Stone that is real life, that goes on for thirty minutes, that’s a private, intimate track. Then I talk to Tom Petty. I can’t explain it other than you cannot see it coming – it’s not an interview situation. I go over to his studio, I hadn’t seen him in a long time. It’s the core of what Larry Sanders is about, which is about being. It’s a very interesting, private little track. Seinfeld – I walked through Central Park with Seinfeld, we shot four hours. That one I’ll have to cut down a little bit, but it’s great insight. It’ll feel unedited and raw.
Q: What about the Garry Shandling Show?
Shandling: I was doing that simultaneously. They’re working on that too.
[At this point a Dreamworks PR person came to take Garry away. As he left, he had one last question for us…]
Did you guys think that character of Verne worked at all? Because there’s a lot of places where he stands around and blinks. And just yells.