The name Garry Shandling may not be one that many of us who grew up in the era of Dane Cook and Larry the Cable Guy might recognize, but to the more old school (and dare I say educated) comedy fans out there, he’s a name that stands among the greatest of the great.

And now, sadly, he has passed away.  

According to TMZ, Shandling died in an LA hospital this morning as the result of “a massive heart attack, with no prior warning whatsoever.”

“The 66-year-old star was not suffering from any illness ... as far as we know ... so, it appears this was sudden. A source connected to Shandling says he was healthy and speaking to people on Thursday morning.”

A groundbreaking comic in every sense of the word, Shandling began his career as a writer on such iconic sitcoms as Sanford and Son and Welcome Back, Kotter before rising to prominence as a standup comedian in the 1980s. His massive success as a standup eventually earned the interest of HBO, who he teamed with to create The Larry Sanders Show. The innovative dark comedy, which centered around the daily trials and tribulations of a fictional late-night talk show host, would earn 18 Emmy nominations over the course of its six year run between 1992 and 1998 and would serve as an influential benchmark for the likes of such modern comedies as The Office and 30 Rock. Asde from helping launch the careers of everyone from Bob Odenkirk to Jeremy Piven, The Larry Sanders Show also holds the high honor of being included in Time magazine’s ranking of “The 100 Greatest Shows of All Time.”

In more recent years, Shandling still managed to make a mainstream impression; he appeared in Marvel films Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as pompous Senator (and secret "Hail Hydra" guy), Stern. 

While never married and largely a private person, Shandling was always described by those who knew him to be both an exceptionally talented and exceptionally kind and generous person. The outpouring of support from the celebrity community in the wake of his untimely death has been swift and bittersweet.

--“Garry was a guiding voice of comedy. He set the standard and we’re all still trying to meet it. He gave us all opportunities to learn how to do the best work of our lives,” said Larry Sanders costar Bob Odenkirk in a statement. “But, more importantly, as I knew him these last few years, he was a person who never stopped trying to be a better person. That’s yet another way he inspired me and I’m sure many others who knew him.”

--“Garry Shandling was a very special comedian with a beautifully unpredictable mind. He even voluntarily offered jokes and ideas for Oscars,” tweeted Steve Martin.

--“RIP the great Garry Shandling. Surely, one of the most influential comedians of a generation,” tweeted The Office star and friend Ricky Gervais.

And so, the comedy world has lost another one of its greatest voices. The wounds are so fresh that it’s hard to really pen up a proper tribute to Shandling, so instead, let’s just revisit a classic clip from The Larry Sanders Show, wherein Norm MacDonald opines about the massive dong of Sanders’ talk show sidekick, Hank (Jeffrey Tambor).

R.I.P. Garry Shandling