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Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host is a Hollywood tell-all that will forever change the nature of this kind of book. While Geraldo Rivera used his sexual exploits to shamelessly promote his book, Sanders uses his conquests of thousands of women to illustrate his compassion and grace. "If it sells, it sells," Sanders says. "There was never a hidden agenda." While Roseanne used her book to promote her many personalities, Sanders's book shows how a straight-shooter can not only survive but thrive in Hollywood. Most of all, Sanders, in truthfully disclosing all aspects of his life and those of people he has never met, hopes to heal and entertain. Sanders has written a wonderfully hilarious book that will make some of his fans wish he were back.
A Larry Sanders autobiography would, by nature, be shallow, superficial and lazy. So why am I, a loyal Sanders fan, so surprised at how shallow, superficial and lazy Confessions is? Eighty-three of the book's white-space-laden 237 pages are taken up by publicity shots of Larry/Garry with Jerry Seinfeld, David Duchovny, Sharon Stone and many of the other celebrities who've appeared on Sanders as themselves. And this despite the fact that Shandling had extra time to write it, since he delivered the book too late for its original May 1998 publication date. But, then, maybe this is all part of Shandling's grand scheme -- Larry would miss his deadline and then turn in a padded piece of crap. Maybe Confessions of a Talk Show Host isn't supposed to be viewed as a book, so much as a piece of interactive performance art that you can experience while riding the train to work. You'd better bring something else to read on the trip home, though.
Actually, Shandling has done a good job of writing in Larry's ironic, "I'm such a putz" public voice (he has no private voice), and at his best, his rim-shot surrealism reminds you of Woody Allen's old humor pieces. In the chapter "Celebrity Sex," Shandling-as-Sanders writes, "I began using the date rape drug Rohypnol. I took it twenty times. I didn't know you were supposed to give it to the woman." In a chapter about Artie, he reveals that their relationship is "more than producer-star, it's been father-daughter, particularly in the sense that after a bad show he'd spank me. He stopped doing that shortly after the Menendez trial."
Shandling also gives his alter ego that requisite for all memoirs, the abused childhood, and provides us with a list of all the female guests Larry says he's slept with, from Paula Abdul to Renée Zellweger. Not surprisingly, Artie, sidekick Hank Kingsley, head writer Phil and all of the other unfortunate members of Larry's staff rate scant mention because, of course, this is a book about Larry. He does, however, devote a touching two paragraphs to "the most important person in my life," his personal assistant Beverly ("I don't really know anything about her").
As an extension of a joke, Confessions serves its purpose; Larry's conceited, meandering, insight-free "tell all" makes you feel ripped off and used, and when you're through with it, all you can think is, "What a jerk!" Which is what Shandling intended. I hope. -- Salon
Why am I writing this autobiography now?
Because I'm Larry Sanders.
Actually, I'm very, very, very famous, but the publisher said that title wouldn't fit on the cover of the book. Who wouldn't be famous if they hosted a late night network talk show opposite David Letterman and Jay Leno, and, before them, opposite Johnny Carson? I've been in the talk show game now for fifteen years, and while Arsenio Hall, Chevy Chase, Dick Cavett, Joan Rivers, Magic Johnson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Alan Thicke, Pat Sajak, and even Johnny Carson have all had what they think were successful runs, I outlasted them all. I was on the air until just six months ago.
It seems like only yesterday that I said good-bye to all of you on my finale, mainly because I've had only one good night's sleep since. I toss and turn for hours until I realize that making salad isn't going to relax me. I have been flooded with letters that scream, "Larry, we miss you!" "Larry, don't leave us!" "Mr. Sanders, we need more of you!" Okay, that was just one letter, but I am sure the post office lost millions more that contain the exact same message, and there are probably another five to ten million fans who wrote similar letters but were embarrassed to mail them or couldn't afford the postage. That would be a total of close to twelve million letters. Perhaps I had left too soon. I never considered that my television audience was so codependent, so unable to function without me--in other words, so sexy. It is with a deep sense of compassion and caring about others and with no ego whatsoever that I come back to you just like Jesus did, to speak to you one last time about something even more riveting than that of which Jesus spoke: show business and all the gossip and dirt and rumors that I have accumulated over a lifetime. And two thousand years from now, after translation upon translation of my book, who knows how I will finally be perceived? Maybe I'll be thought of as the real Son of God.
To answer the question I am asked most, "What makes you a television star and not me?" My response: "Huge psychological dysfunction." I am driven to be loved by everyone. Only the Olsen twins want it more. On television, you can be loved by millions of people; in fact, there is an expression, "making love to the camera," which refers to the idea of seducing the audience fight through the lens, and the actor ultimately making love to them and then packing up and going home. I want to put your mind at ease by telling you that for the last ten years I have been making love to you through the camera every night, and on all but two of those nights, I wore a condom. Those two nights I was drunk and forgot. Sorry.
The first time I ever considered telling my life story was a few years ago, when Roseanne appeared on my show to promote her book My Lives. I'd spent five minutes reading it cover to cover in the makeup chair before airtime, and when I put it down I said to our makeup man, "Well, this isn't that good. I could do better than this. My life is more interesting than all of her lives put together. Dammit, my nose is still shining. Do something, you bastard!"
"Then maybe you can get a couple of bucks for it at the used bookstore, you asshole," said Roseanne, sliding into the makeup chair next to me. She'd lost so much weight since her last appearance that I hadn't noticed her come in. I quickly dropped her book in my lap and picked up Rush Limbaugh's. He's fat. And so was his book. Both of them need to lose about twenty pages.
"You can't fool me, Larry," she said, "I know you are talking about my book. I see it in your lap."
"Oh, this?" I said, fumbling for it. "I'm sure it's wonderful. Do I need to read it before we talk? Or should I just let you run with it? I absolutely trust your instincts."
"I'll take care of it," she said. "Like always."
"That's why we love to have you on the show, Rosie," I said, as I stood and left the room.
By the way, the show went wonderfully. Rosie never mentioned the makeup room incident or, for that matter, the book, and I took one of her personalities--Darla the hooker, I think--out for dinner afterward.
But that night, after I paid for sex, I couldn't sleep. Something was bothering me. Then I realized what it was. The interview had not gone that well, and the show was weak. I love Roseanne, and I hope her new talk show is successful no matter who hosts it.
Days later, I went to my psychologist, who shall remain nameless, and I said, "Dr. Reisman, here's my problem. I read Roseanne's book, and ..." Dr. Reisman interrupted me and said, "I have that book on tape, but I'm a slow listener and haven't gotten through it yet."
"Why are Geraldo and Howard Stern and Roseanne and Burt Reynolds and Tina Turner and Richard Pryor and Louie Anderson and Brett Butler being asked to write books?" I asked. "Granted, I have no severe diseases, and my career hasn't started to go really downhill yet, but no one has asked me to write even a pamphlet."
"Well, is that something you really have the time to do?" he asked. "Is that something you really want to do?"
I said, "No, but that's not the issue. The issue is why haven't they asked me." At which point Dr. Reisman said, "You've got me thinking: No one's ever asked me to write a book, either." He seemed oddly disturbed. That's when I realized that Dr. Reisman should be seeing a shrink himself. Why would anyone ask him to write a book? He's not on TV or radio or the movies. His therapy might pass for comedy, but it was full of dated material that you could hear at any Friars Club roast. Most of his jokes were stolen from Pat Morita and Freud's father, who was hilarious. But Dr. Reisman got so upset at the thought of not being a sought-after author that I had to waste two precious minutes of my session talking him down. I was fine with that, but when he took two of my Xanax and borrowed a couple Valium for later, I got angry and said, "You've crossed the line, pal; that's my illegal medication."
Finally, I said, "Can we get back to me and my concerns about writing my best-selling book?"
He said, "You, like every celebrity who writes a story about their life, will find it exhilaratingly self-indulgent. Write it for yourself and read it for yourself."
I wanted one more very important opinion before committing to this book, so I asked my producer, Artie. Over the years, I've come to depend on Artie. There's something priceless and extremely annoying about someone who will always tell you the truth, or at least lie to you in a way that, although you know it's a lie, sounds a lot like the truth. In the end, you know that person has your best interests at heart because, after all, he or she depends on you for a paycheck.
"It's your ass, kiddo," Artie said, in his no-nonsense manner. "If it were me, I wouldn't do it. But that's just me."
"Really? Why wouldn't you do it?" I asked.
"Simple. I'd have to tell the truth, and I can't," he said.
"What do you mean you'd have to tell the truth, and you can't?" I asked. "I thought you always told me the truth."
"Of course I do. That's my job."
"Oh. I feel better now," I said.
"Look, Larry," Artie explained. "You'll be opening up a can of worms because you have to continue to have guests on the show and booking is difficult enough. If you're going to tell stories about people who have been on the show, they may not want to come back again. We might not be able to book anybody except the lady who makes presidents' faces out of potato chips, unless you somehow manage to insult her, too."
"I would never do that," I said. "Although remember how mad that bitch got when she caught Hank eating Eisenhower?"
Artie continued, "Plus, you will take the chance of alienating your coworkers--any number of the crew who I've seen drunk during the production of the show."
"Come on, Artie," I protested. "I would never write that about you."
"I'm not telling you what to do," Artie said. "I've got enough on my mind without having to get involved with you and Hank and your goddamned books."
"Hank's writing a book, too?" Hank, by the way, is my sidekick on the show. He's Ed McMahon to my Johnny Carson, Regis Philbin to my Joey Bishop, Clarabell to my Buffalo Bob.
"Yes," Artie said. "It's called The Sidekick's Book. Don't worry. There's not that many sidekicks who will buy it. McMahon's retired, Regis has his own show, and Andy Richter would just shoplift it."
"But, you know, I think Hank's book could do really well in the relationship/self-help market," I said. "In every relationship, there is a star and there is a sidekick ... Sometimes it's called husband and wife."
"Speak for yourself," said Artie.
"I am," I said, as I looked around to see if anyone else was there.
Artie was on his way out the door when I thought of one more question. "Did Hank say how big his advance was?"
"Come on, Larry. It's Hank," Artie said.
My heart sank. "Shit, that's what I was afraid of," I said. "Between the fan clubs and the right wing of the Republican Party, he'll probably clean up."
"Right. But remember, homosexuals, liberals, dancers, acrobats, and mimes make up a big part of the world too, Larry. Just don't say I didn't warn you," Artie said as he walked away.
Artie knew me too well. I felt like I wanted to run down the hall like a little girl, jump on my bed, and pound the pillows until my fists were blue. Even so, I felt that I had to do what I had to do and write my book. I authorized my new agent, Stevie Grant, to call publishing companies to see why none had approached me to write my story and to see if anyone would be interested in Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host: The Autobiography of Larry Sanders. That wasn't the original title I'd come up with, but it's the one that Hank said would guarantee me getting the book into Kmart. Just so you know, the other titles were: See Me, Feel Me, Read Me; I Cry as Hard as I Laugh; My Weight; and Far from an Asshole.
I can't say that it surprised me that every publisher was interested. They said, "Gosh, we wished we had known that you wanted to write a book about a man struggling to balance the artificial show business life with something more meaningful--whatever that is. We would have come to you first."
I think they assumed that I was just a one-dimensional talk show host who simply sat in his chair and could only talk to the people on his right. In fact, I'm a deep man who can talk to people on either side.
Stevie Grant immediately got offers for the story of how I clawed my way to the top. I turned them down. The money was just too little. I didn't think the effort to write would be worth the trouble. Then the offers came in higher, then so high that I realized, philosophically, that it would be unfair of me not to go ahead and write the book and do something good for myself. It would be unfair to turn down the money because I could use it to add on to my house, which is something that brings me true happiness. This summer I'm installing a follow-spot in my master bedroom.
For a long time I'd wanted to build a new office in my house as well. I had run out of room, frankly, to store all my awards and plaques. It had gotten so bad that I nearly lost a Golden Globe in the Northridge earthquake, when one of them--the only one--fell off a crowded shelf and hurtled toward the floor. I tried to grab it as it fell but I wasn't fast enough. Thank God it hit my dog, so it didn't get marred. Savage, my black lab, was only out for a second. When he woke up I yelled, "Good boy!" and gave him a biscuit. I've never seen him look more confused.
There's No Law
A book like this has to include some gossip or it won't sell. At least that's what I was told by the publishers. While some think gossip is a sin--and I'm one of them, and so is Tony Danza, but please don't say you heard it from me--it's not against the law. Sure, if we passed such a law the world would be a better place, but who has the strength to take on that responsibility? Gossip hurts everyone.
By becoming absorbed in someone else's life, we lose focus on our own. And the person who is being gossiped about may, in fact, be an innocent who suffers intense humiliation. I know. Remember in 1991 when everyone thought I put a gerbil up my ass? Totally false. I'm uncomfortable even putting one in my shirt pocket, let alone my ass.
I wish a law could be passed that would prevent sensationalistic books like this one, which exploit others for entertainment value, from ever being published again. I hope that this will be the last book of that type. The new law should start right after this book is published. This book would then become quite a collector's item and triple in value. Maybe as you sit there on the toilet you are holding in both your hands quite a valuable investment--and, of course, I'm assuming it's this book.