Picks and Pans Review: Confessions of a Late-Night Talk-Show Host

UPDATED 12/07/1998 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/07/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

by Garry Shandling with David Rensin

Playing the fictional star of The Larry Sanders Show (which ended an acclaimed six-year run on HBO last summer), Garry Shandling etched a dead-on portrait of Sanders as a vain, fussy, insecure-to-the-point-of-paranoid rival to Leno and Letterman. Unfortunately this spoof of vapid, name-dropping showbiz memoirs reads like the real thing. Instead of fleshing out Larry's pretend life, the authors reduce it to a dart-board at which they hurl a lot of stale gags. ("I was a fat child," Larry recalls. "I couldn't get girls in high school. I couldn't even get guys.") A few riffs do hit the chuckle zone: Larry describing how a jealous Dick Cavett planned for a scuba-diving hit man to ambush Johnny Carson on the beach, or telling how he met his craven TV sidekick Hank ("Hey now!") Kingsley on a cruise ship "as he was trying to rip the life jacket off a young boy during a fire safety drill." After Larry and an old teacher tryst at his 20th high school reunion, he says, "She looked at me and said, 'B-minus.' I was ecstatic. I knew I could improve on my D." Alas, this faux tell-all merits only an Incomplete. (Simon & Schuster, $23)

Bottom Line: Stick with the reruns

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