Q: It’s been nine years since The Larry Sanders Show ended its run on HBO. Why did it take so long to get so much of the series out on DVD?
A: Getting that show done every week required a lot of mental and emotional output, and until two years ago, I was still too close to it. I needed some distanceas I would recommend for anyone after a breakup.
Q: Do you see Sanders as a direct influence on shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, Extrassitcoms that play with their stars’ identities?
A: I like Larry David’s show, and what Sarah Silverman is doing now is unique. When I pitched the show to HBO, nothing like this existed. We created an opening for half-hour comedies that were more provocative. Moments that might seem like mistakes, we’d leave in. When you take a risk and you’re willing to make a mistake, you’re very connected to the truth.
Q: The show’s on-set credo was, in fact, “the magic’s in the mistakes.” Do you think that philosophy applies to real life as well?
A: We have to remind ourselves that life is just an image, so why not feel as safe to take a risk as you would playing a scene in a show?
Q: So much good comedy comes from insecurity. Is it harder to be funny when you’re feeling happy?
A: We did a Sanders episode about this, when Phil, the writer, fell in love and was very happy, and for those two weeks he couldn’t write any jokes that Larry could do. So he broke up with the girl, because he thought he would lose his job. I was in Chicago recently and had a few tequilas, and there was a blues band onstage singing a song called “Let the Rain Stop.” And everything they were sayingabout the weather, or the girl leavingwas what I talk about. Only with me, it comes across as neurotic Jewish complaining.
Q: So you’re a bluesman?
A: I guess. The first time I listened to Eminem, he seemed to be in pain and connected to something he had to get off his chest. I liked it. Where is he now? What happens with some people as they get older is that they find a formula that works for them and then stick to it. That’s the dangergetting lazy in your art, which means getting lazy in your discipline to grow and be self-aware and mindful.
Q: You’ve kept a pretty low profile since the series ended. Does it bother you when people ask what you’ve been doing?
A: You’re talking about the calls my mother makes. It only bothers me because outside of show business people don’t walk around saying, “What are you gonna do next?” I’ve done two series; I did Over the Hedge, which took two years plus a press tour; I put together this DVD package; I still do stand-up. I don’t want to be doing anything next. I won’t tell you what my new ideas are, but . . . well, here’s a hint: ham radio.