Gary Shandling’s Secret Pick-Up Game and Other Underground Things


[ESPN]  During his 40-year comedy career, Garry Shandling created two of the most iconic and influential TV shows of all time. But instead of following “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and “The Larry Sanders Show” with another television masterpiece, Shandling worked on something else: a pickup basketball game. During the 25-year run of the weekly Sunday game, until Shandling’s death at age 66 in 2016, it was attended by celebrities such as Sarah Silverman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow, who directed the recent HBO documentary “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.”

But Shandling’s was not a “Hollywood” game. Participants weren’t allowed to network there or talk about it afterward. “It was ‘Fight Club’ with better jokes,” says Shandling’s writing partner Suli McCullough. The players respected this to protect the singular refuge Shandling carefully constructed.

Those Sundays yielded friendships that are responsible for some of the best television and film of the past 20 years. As director Alex Richanbach says, “This group of people found a little family in Los Angeles because we all have the same comedy dad.” This is the story, told by the players, of how Shandling’s generosity, drive and anxiety led to a three-decade basketball game — and the next generation of comedy.

I know Garry Shandling is dead and therefore, no longer has a pick-up basketball game, but I need to go to Shandling’s pick-up basketball game.  Think of the legends that would come to play each week. The trash talk must have been on another level. The average player was a professional roaster who has had a mean crossover. Each game must have been a barrel of monkeys and it’s even funnier thinking that you couldn’t talk business or be Hollywood. Just a couple of the best comedians in the world throwing up bricks while Brook Shields cheers you on.

If I had to pick my team, I would have to go with Adam Sandler, David Duchovny, Will Ferrell, and toss up between Kevin Nealon and Peter Berg (do I want height or feistiness?). I wouldn’t say a word the whole game and solely focus on guarding Sarah Silverman and not getting my ankles broken.

While this game is near the pinnacle, if I had to be apart of an underground, secret game/society/club, I can think of a few that would really take the cake. All of which I’m assuming are frequented by cool famous people.

Secret Pick-up Hockey Game

I like hockey more than basketball so enough said.

Underground Speakeasy

Speakeasies are a dime a dozen now in terms of theme. I’m talking about a place that has a password and when I walk in, I have my own table. Mix of Cheers, Great Gatsby, and the Rat Pack. One of the things that stinks about cell phones is everybody is checking ahead to make plans to see where you will be at every moment. I want to walk in and be surprised who’s there. “Frankie’s in town? What a surpise!” There are only a few places I know of that are true speakeasies that even come close. But that’s for another blog.

Masters of the Universe/Best Ideas Dinner

If you’ve ever seen Billions, you know the kind of dinner I mean. A bunch of hedge fund managers, CEOs, and the like sitting around having a great steak dinner, taking turns talking about their best investment idea.  They break it down and the goal of everyone else is to rip it to shreds, find the holes, and if they don’t, buy the stock, bond, real estate, what have you. Light up a cigar, drink a glass of ’82 LaTour (never the ’84, that’s sewage), and explain why DowDuPont is my pick for the best stock of 2019 (I actually do think this).

Underground Gambling Ring/Poker Game

If you know me then this is obviously the pinnacle. I want to find an underground poker game in NYC more than just about anything. “Oh, I know a game. The last place got shutdown, but they moved to a new location.” If it’s in Little Italy or another neighbor block with an old-school vibe, all the better.

So if anyone knows of a secret hockey game or underground poker game, help a guy out.


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