While acknowledging Garry Shandling’s comedic talent on Thursday night, Conan O’Brien paid tribute his late friend and colleague by sharing a story about his generous nature off-camera.
“He was complicated, and he had a ton of empathy for other people,” O’Brien said during his opening monologue. “And I want to make that point: that is something in this business — in comedy — that is very rare. He really did care about other people.”
Shandling, the Emmy-winner actor and comedian who inspired a generation of performers through his work, died Thursday at the age of 66. He was also instrumental, O’Brien said, in helping him rebound emotionally after losing his job hosting The Tonight Show in “crazy F’d up spectacular fashion” in 2010.
“I woke up the next morning and I had no job, and I had no idea what I was gonna do, and I was just shell-shocked,” O’Brien recalled. At his wife’s urging, he and his family took a trip to Hawai’i. But he was not aware that Shandling was staying in the same hotel until the Larry Sanders Show star phoned him, saying, “Conan, it’s Garry. I’m staying three doors down, we’re on an island; there’s no avoiding me.”
So for the next week, O’Brien said, his family vacation became a two-man excursion, culminating in them watching the sunset together on a beach.
“We’re both watching the Sun go down and I turn to Garry and I said, ‘Garry, this is the most romantic moment of my life, and it’s with you,'” he said.
Watch O’Brien’s tribute, as aired on Thursday, below.