From the Archives: Garry Shandling’s essay on the millennium: ‘Time is just a concept’

Garry Shandling attends the 52nd Emmy Awards in 2000 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Garry Shandling attends the 52nd Emmy Awards in 2000 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Comedian Garry Shandling has died at the age 66. He was best known for his work on “The Larry Sanders Show” and “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.” This article by Shandling was originally published in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 1, 2000.

Boy, 2,000 years went by like that, didn’t it? It seems like only yesterday it was 1275.

A few weeks ago the Los Angeles Times approached me to write an essay on the millennium. “We’re wide open to whatever might occur to you.” How often I’ve wanted to hear those words from a date.

In the offer from The Times I saw a chance to express my more serious side and write about the deep philosophical impact of the dawn of a new millennium. But as days went by and the deadline for the piece loomed closer, I was seized by a writer’s block like I’d never had before. At first I blamed the block on my mother just because that’s worked for me in the past. When it didn’t, I realized the source of my writer’s block was panic: Just five days before New Year’s Eve and I still didn’t know how I was going to celebrate this gigantic event. I hadn’t felt this kind of pressure since the Bicentennial.


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I was frozen with fear that I would wake up today and feel like I’d missed something and everyone else hadn’t. I’d already experienced that with nine proms, including the one last year --don’t ask me to explain.

“Screw the Times essay,” I thought. “I need a plan for New Year’s Eve.” I worked without sleep for the next 48 hours to come up with the following options:

1. There’s a millennium bash up at Hef’s Playboy Mansion. I know that most of the men reading this are thinking, “You’d have to be gay not to go to that.” And some of you, who are more insightful, are thinking, “You’d have to be gay to go to that.” Oh, the pain of it.

2. I could spend a quiet New Year’s Eve with one special person. But there’s no person special enough for this New Year’s Eve. I could be in the bathtub with Claudia Schiffer and / or the Dalai Lama and still be thinking, “It’s bigger than this.”

3. I’ve been invited to go see Barbra Streisand perform in Las Vegas. That’s big, I guess. If only it wasn’t in Vegas. Life would be so much easier if Streisand would sing at Hef’s place. Oh God, help me.


4. I could put myself in a time capsule and have my friend Dave Duchovny bury it in the backyard. He’s into weird stuff like that.

5. B.J. Thomas and Canned Heat are performing at the Van Nuys Airport. I turned that gig down. It would seem hypocritical to show up now.

6. I could join a friend who’s flying to Katmandu and then hiking up into the Himalayas. I’d rather wait and do that off-season. Maybe April.

7. Even my shrink has a New Year’s Eve gimmick. I could have a 50-minute session with her right at midnight. It costs $1,000, but that includes noisemakers, unlimited alcohol and dancing. Other than the dancing, it doesn’t sound that different from my normal sessions.

8. There’s always Dick Clark.

The decision was numbing. Don’t get me wrong, I like parties as much as the next guy. In fact, I’m having one even as I write this. Excuse me, I’ll be right back.

Sorry that took so long, but two of the hookers were fighting. Anyway, I understand birthdays, bar mitzvahs, reunions and even bridal showers, but a party that celebrates nothing but the passage of time seems forced to me. Time is just a concept. Without thought, time becomes a continuous present.


When you are one with the moment, there is no time. So there’s nothing to celebrate. I am missing nothing.

Postscript: I went to Hef’s party. I just couldn’t take the chance that I was wrong. And if there is any deep lesson to be learned from reaching the year 2000, it is this: I’m not doing anything to celebrate the next millennium. I just can’t go through this again.

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