American comedian Garry Shandling, the creator of numerous ground-breaking TV shows and comedy styles, has died suddenly at the age of 66.

Los Angeles police officers were called to his home to investigate reports of a medical emergency on Thursday morning (March 24th), the Associated Press reports. He was rushed to a local hospital, but was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Shandling’s death was the result of a sudden and serious heart attack, TMZ additionally reports, with friends remembering him sounding fine earlier on Thursday morning. However, the cause of death has yet to be officially confirmed and is the subject of a current police investigation.

Upon the news breaking, tributes poured in from the world of comedy, with many prestigious names in entertainment citing Shandling’s influence upon their work.

Garry ShandlingGarry Shandling has died at the age of 66

Beginning his comedy career as a scriptwriter on the sitcom ‘Sanford and Son’, he moved into stand-up comedy and his own TV shows in the ‘80s before launching arguably his most influential work, the pioneering life-imitates-art docudrama ‘The Larry Sanders Show’, in 1992.

It is for that show that Shandling is most remembered, enjoying a significant cult status ever since, and clearly influencing the likes of Ricky Gervais with his own ‘fly on the wall’ faux documentary ‘The Office’.

Gervais tweeted a tribute to the comedian, writing “RIP the great Garry Shandling. Surely one of the most influential comedians of a generation.”

‘Better Call Saul’ star Bob Odenkirk, a close friend of Shandling, described him as a “guiding voice of comedy”.

“He set the standard and we’re all still trying to meet it,” his statement continued. “He gave us all opportunities to learn how to do the best work of our lives. 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.”

Conan O’Brien went as far as to say that Shandling had helped “save his life”, consoling and mentoring him after he lost his presenting job on ‘The Tonight Show’ in 2009.

Universal Talent Agency, who represented Shandling, released a statement saying that he “was an irrepressible force in comedy and in life, and his body of work will forever be cherished. He brought a smile to our faces on screen and in person, and was a most generous mentor to so many talented comedic minds. It was a true privilege to have him in our lives as both a friend and client. We will miss him dearly.”

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