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The Larry Sanders Show: “The List”/“The Stalker”

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“The List” (season 2, episode 3; original airdate June 9, 1993)

In his “autobiography,” Confessions Of A Late-Night Talk-Show Host (currently available for $.01 in paperback from Amazon!), Larry Sanders describes how hosting the show provided him an endless supply of potential sexual partners—so much so that the book provides a list of the celebrities he bedded during the show’s tenure. Last week, Artie was lining them up in an attempt to forcibly push Larry out of his divorce-related funk and between the legs of several ladies, only to have him backslide into bed with his first ex-wife, Francine.


But “The List” provides a corollary to the show being Larry’s sexual cornucopia: The spoils aren’t limited to the host. (No, I don’t mean the intern or whoever she was that Jerry banged, or the endless stream of cocktail waitresses Hank seems to favor.) As First Lady of The Larry Sanders Show, Francine had the opportunity to meet celebrities, too, and when her marriage with Larry fell apart, she could take solace in the arms of some of Hollywood’s hottest men (and Ed Begley Jr.).

Six years after his split from Francine, that possibility had never crossed Larry’s mind—until Francine tells him that she slept with (the impossibly young and thin) Alec Baldwin, who’s a guest on the show this week. Desperately jumping into a pool of self-delusion, Larry insists that Baldwin is “gayer than a French horn,” but Francine insists: She banged him and even went out with Ed Begley Jr.! “What do you think the odds are that you would’ve slept with the same three people on one show in one night?” Larry asks later.

To prevent these kinds of surprises down the road, he and Francine decide to make a list of the people they slept with, which Francine helpfully divides into three categories: legitimate acts of penetration, oral sex, and heavy petting. (“You keep narrowing it down like this, I’m not going to have any names on my list,” Larry says.) They agree to share their lists with each other 24 hours later.

Anyone who’s talked numbers with a new romantic partner knows the awkwardness that accompanies it, but the discomfort is only intensified when names on the lists belong to celebrities. Larry and Francine will not only recognize the names on their respective lists, but also have to find peace with their being more attractive. And they’re people Larry sees on a regular basis for his work. Francine and Larry are walking down a path laden with landmines, only these don’t explode so much as fill your head with images of Ed Begley Jr. finger-banging your ex. (I’m speculating on that part.)


Sure, Francine would be uncomfortable, but she’s an adult. She could deal. Larry, as this episode makes clear, cannot. He insists Alec Baldwin come on the show as planned, though Artie makes a case for why that’s a bad idea by hilariously pantomiming Baldwin and Francine having sex. It goes predictably poorly: “You’re 100 percent right,” Larry tells Artie after the segment. “From the time he walked out, all I saw was him fucking her! And she was on top!” When Francine slips her list under his door, he can’t bring himself to read it.

“Jesus Christ, that’s hefty,” Artie says, holding the envelope in Larry’s office the next day. “It’s a two-pager at least. That’s gotta be 85 to 100 names in there.” Artie expertly knows how to manipulate Larry, and this is subtler than his nearly physical revulsion to the thought of Francine re-entering Larry’s life earlier in the episode. (“Are you fucking insane? That woman smashed your People’s Choice Award!”) But Artie is also an expert glad-hander, so when Francine shows up, he’s Mr. Nice Guy.


Francine hasn’t read Larry’s list, either. “Why don’t you just give me the ones you screwed while we were married—I’m making a collage,” she says, suddenly fuming. Turns out she only dated Baldwin and Begley to retaliate against Larry, and she’s irate that only now is he finding out about it. (“I’m sorry. I’ve been really busy,” Larry says, sheepishly.) In the space of a weekend, Larry and Francine have gone from out-of-touch exes to taking personal inventory of their sex lives, and in a rare bit of level-headedness for Larry, he and Francine realize they’re going too fast. Time to slow it down.

DID YOU THINK I WAS GOING TO FORGET ABOUT HANK’S LOOK-AROUND CAFÉ? For shame. How could we not address the first mention of Hank’s biggest vanity project? It comes early in the episode, with Darlene reading a letter from Hank’s business manager, who considers the idea of a street-level restaurant with a rotating floor preposterous, and Hank’s timetable for opening it unrealistic. Hank suggests his manager shove his opinion up his ass. “The point is, it’s not the view. When you eat at Hank’s, you and your food are going on an adventure!” Darlene reminds Hank that he doesn’t have enough money to make the rotating floor, so he vows to get investors—after all, he’s on a first-name basis with some of the most influential and powerful people in the business! “Get Chuck Woolery on the phone,” he says. Pure gold.


Stray observations:

  • Judd Apatow was the consulting producer on this episode.
  • Artie, overcoming his aversion to Francine and trying to assuage Larry’s anxiety: “Don’t sweat it, kiddo. I’ve gone knocking on my ex-wives’ doors when I was tanked up and horny! God bless those four little ladies.”
  • “All right, Ed, you had your turn.” “I’ll say.”
  • Artie, calling Larry on his denial that he watched the Alec Baldwin/Ed Begley episode with Francine at home: “Horseshit. She’s already got you lying to your friends again.”
  • Larry makes his list: “Who’s the blonde, the girlfriend on Perfect Strangers?”

“The Stalker” (season 2, episode 4; original airdate June 16, 1993)

In order to understand a bunch of jokes from—and this episode of—The Larry Sanders Show, it’s important to know the plight of Margaret Mary Ray.


Beginning in 1988, Ray, who suffered from schizophrenia, began stalking David Letterman—and was surprisingly good at it. She first made headlines for stealing his Porsche and claiming to be his wife when she was pulled over (and saying the 3-year-old boy in the car was Letterman’s son). She would be arrested many times over the next few years for trespassing, but her antics were usually more comical than scary. (Well, Letterman did once look up from his bed and see her standing in his hallway.) She once convinced some painters she was his housekeeper. She camped out on his tennis court. She left him gifts and wrote him letters. It became an ongoing gag on Letterman’s show, though he never mentioned Ray’s name and rarely pressed charges. She eventually went to prison for 10 months—and killed herself in 1998 (just like two of her siblings), leaving behind five children she barely knew.

But in 1993, Ray was basically a loveable kook, albeit representative of something that terrified celebrities. The Larry Sanders Show repeatedly references the Letterman stalker in its first two seasons alone, and with "The Stalker," Garry Shandling and Paul Simms basically wrote an episode about Margaret Mary Ray—not her personally, but as the archetype of the disturbed fan. As much as the prospect of a stalker scares Larry, he desperately wants to be important enough to have a stalker. The only personality trait that could eclipse Larry’s anxiety is his vanity.


In bed with Francine—and shirtless because, baby, Larry Sanders is all man—Larry is awakened by a noise outside his window. He’s convinced someone is on the roof, and in that weird logic of the anxiety-ridden and freshly awoken, he connects the roof intruder to the sightseeing buses that take tourists to celebrities’ homes. When Francine mentions that her sister saw Larry’s address on a map to stars’ homes, his fear only deepens. When he hears another noise, he says, “Your sister’s not in town tonight, right?”

Convenient for the episode’s plot, it just so happens that one of the guests on the show the next day is the exceedingly creepy (and tiny) winner of the Larry Sanders Lookalike Contest. Larry couldn’t be more uneasy as the guy describes not only Larry’s favorite resort in Hawaii, but how he always stays in Larry’s favorite room, 714. The guy is weird but seemingly non-threatening, until Larry and Artie find him sniffing the clothes in Larry’s office. (He just wants to know what cologne Larry wears!) Maybe Artie’s suggestion of a 12-foot electrical fence isn’t so crazy now. (“Gaudy? Hell, fry the motherfuckers.”)


At home, Larry is beside himself—and hurt that that a man who resembles Linda Hunt won his lookalike contest—but Francine isn’t terribly concerned. Both of Larry’s wives were far more grounded than he, which probably explains why their marriages didn’t last. Francine scores the line of the episode when she asks, “Do you want me to take you seriously? I only have time to humor one neurotic obsession right now. Are we choosing this one? Then next time we’ll choose one of mine?” She doubts the lookalike tailed Larry home or was behind the strange noises they heard the preceding night.

But Larry wants a security team, so he meets with a company whose literature insinuates that Sharon Tate wouldn’t have been murdered if she’d been a client. Classy! Larry asks for the same bunker Saddam Hussein has (or at least the same system as Letterman), but the security guy isn’t amused. “Are you familiar with a book called Helter Skelter?”


Everyone may think Larry’s just being paranoid—when he spits out brownies mailed in by a fan, Beverly asks if she wants him to hire a taster (“No, you don’t need to hire a taster. Just have that weird intern do it”)—but Hank is right on Larry’s wavelength. That should be the first sign to Larry that he’s over the edge. But he still thinks Hank’s suggestion of carrying a handgun is too much, even if it is Jack Lord’s gun from Hawaii Five-O.

When someone does break into Larry’s house—with Francine in it—Larry feels validated, though the coming punchline is telegraphed from the moment Larry arrives at his house. Like Letterman, he wants to treat his stalker humanely, try to connect with him as a fellow fan (his explanation about why he likes Jerry Lewis is awesomely clumsy), and even reach out and offer some of his time.


Naturally, the man is Guatemalan, only speaks Spanish, and has no idea who Larry is.

Larry tries to spin it the next day as a genuine stalker—Artie: “If you only had the electrical fence, all you’d have to do now is unplug it and hose it down!”—but he angrily comes clean when Hank starts pestering him about getting a bodyguard. “He had no idea who you were?” Hank says. “My God, I’m sorry.”


In Hollywood, the only thing worse than being violated is being violated by someone who doesn’t know you’re famous.

Stray observations:

  • Francine, talking in her sleep: “No more jokes, Larry!” Then she smacks him. The best part of that scene, though, is Larry laughing at one of his monologue jokes (about Michael Jackson) as he turns the TV off.
  • “The List” and “The Stalker” feature two of the most hideous ties I’ve yet seen Larry wear. In the former, the design looks like it has eggs sunny side up, and the latter has one with a yellow and black checkerboard. Yikes.
  • The banter between Phil Hartman (man, I miss that guy) and Corbin Bernsen is gold. Hartman: “You have a ton of obsessed fans? I didn’t know your show was still on the air.” Bernsen: “Aren’t you the only guy on Saturday Night Live who doesn’t have some big movie coming out?” I’m with Phil Hartman on this one, though: Did you know L.A. Law was on the air until 1994? The more you know!
  • Speaking of Bernsen, the creepy fan he had with him was perfect—the slightly aggressive way he said “I know you” couldn’t have been better. (“It’s nice for them!” Bernsen says.)
  • Ugh, Margaret Mary Ray has a Facebook page. People, seriously, do something else with your time.

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