It's Garry Shandling's show in the courtroom, at least for part of Thursday morning.
The funnyman provided the first star power of the federal wiretapping and racketeering trial of Anthony Pellicano, accusing the disgraced Hollywood PI of running a "smear campaign" at the behest of Shandling's former manager, Brad Grey.
Shandling spent about 45 minutes on the stand, laying out his beef with Grey over profits to Shandling's Emmy-winning HBO series, The Larry Sanders Show, and how Pellicano fit in.
Called as a witness for the prosecution, Shandling, 58, ticked off a list of alleged transgressions committed by the 63-year-old celebrity sleuth after being hired by Grey's attorney, Bert Fields.
Shandling said he was disturbed to learn that Pellicano got codefendant Mark Arneson, a former LAPD sergeant, to run unlawful background checks on Shandling from January to March 1999. Pellicano also ordered checks on Shandling's accountant, assistant, ex-girlfriend and his pal SNL alum Kevin Nealon.
"This bothers me as much as the first time I was shown this," Shandling testified, eyeing with disgust computer printouts of the illicit data. "It's a creepy feeling."
Shandling said Pellicano began his probe as Shandling was being deposed in his lawsuit with Grey. About the same time, Shandling recalled, "negative stories" about him began appearing in the press.
"It was a spiritual test to get through," Shandling explained, adding that he first learned of the "smear tactics" from two journalists, one of whom he identified as Anita Busch, a former Los Angeles Times writer who was later threatened by Pellicano.
But under cross-examination from Arneson's lawyer, Chad Hummel, Shandling admitted that he had no evidence that any of the information gleaned from the checks were employed in what Shandling called a "spin campaign to assassinate my character."
Shandling and Grey's 18-year business relationship came to a bitter end, according to the comic, when he found the latter had cooked the books and shortchanged Shandling.
He also told the jury that Grey—now at the helm of Paramount Pictures—had made a number of "side deals" which he wasn't aware of that cheated him out of millions.
"[He] threatened me that if I kept looking into my own business, he'd make my life miserable," said Shandling.
Once Grey hired Fields, Shandling was warned by celebrity security expert Gavin DeBecker to "sweep" his home under the assumption that Fields would have Pellicano install listening devices.
While no bugs were found in Shandling's apartment—a point which Pellicano, acting as his own lawyer, noted under cross-examination—evidence of them was found in phone boxes outside his residence.
Grey is also slated to testify in Pellicano's trial, which kicked off last Thursday, along with Universal Studios president Ron Meyer and erstwhile superagent Michael Ovitz. Fields had no immediate comment on Shandling's testimony.
Among the other potential prosecution witnesses: Sylvester Stallone, Chris Rock, Farrah Fawcett, Keith Carradine, Die Hard helmer John McTiernan and various studio executives and high-profile lawyers.
If convicted on the wiretapping and racketeering charges, Pellicano faces hundreds of years in jail.