An advocate for stand-up comedians and his network, the acquisitions co-head had been with the cable outfit since 1993.
Longtime Showtime executive Gary Garfinkel died Friday. He was 55.
Garfinkel is said to have died at home, surrounded by family, after a battle with an undisclosed illness.
Having spent almost the entirety of his career at Showtime Networks, Garfinkel was known for his sense of humor and support of up-and-coming comedians — many of whom got their first TV break on the network during his 25-year tenure working in acquisitions.
“Gary was one of the most warm and welcoming people I’ve known and was beloved by everyone who worked with him at Showtime over the past 25 years,” said Showtime Networks president and CEO David Nevins. “He was a great warrior and advocate for our company and worked hard to bring the best content to our service.
“In particular, many stand-up comedians credit Gary for giving them the early exposure that made their careers. He played a key role in cementing Showtime as a major premium network, and all of us who worked with him valued his taste, his counsel and his integrity. We will miss him terribly.”
Garfinkel’s most recent role at the company was as co-head of content acquisitions. He evaluated, negotiated and acquired feature films, documentaries and comedy and music specials alongside counterpart Kent Sevener. His work in comedy was among his most significant contributions, expanding the portfolio to 39 specials in 2012 under the network’s Laugh Out Loud banner.
“It becomes fulfilling and more meaningful when I meet people who say they enjoy watching the network,” he told Beverly Hills Magazine in 2014. “And I feel really good when someone says that after having a crummy day they went home, watched some Showtime and were in better spirits afterward.”
Joining the network in 1993, Garfinkel worked exclusively in acquisitions, negotiating first-run theatrical output and library deals with the major studios. He joined Showtime after a stint at Sony Pictures Entertainment, working as an international business analyst, and at Salomon Brothers as a foreign exchange analyst.
A graduate of New York University’s Stern School of Business, he received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Boston University.
His family suggests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University or to the UCLA Brain Cancer Research Fund.