Mitzi Shore, the hard-driving proprietor and mother hen of The Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip who lorded over the white-hot center of the stand-up universe of the late 1970s and ’80s, died Wednesday after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 87.
Shore gave such young comics as Robin Williams, David Letterman and Jay Leno a chance to thrive onstage before a live audience and be discovered.
“It is with great sadness and very heavy hearts that we report the passing of Mitzi Shore, the legendary Godmother of the world famous Comedy Store,” the club said in a statement. “Mitzi was an extraordinary businesswoman and decades ahead of her time who cultivated and celebrated the artistry of stand-up comedy. She was also a loving mother, not only to her own four children, but to the myriad of comedians who adored her. She leaves behind an indelible mark and legacy and has helped change the face of comedy.”
“My heart lays heavy,” her son, comedian Pauly Shore, tweeted.
Mitzi took over the club in 1974 as part of a divorce settlement with her husband, comic Sammy Shore, who had founded the business with comedian-writer Rudy De Luca. Two years later, she took out a loan to buy the building, which had been the site of the glamorous nightspot Ciro’s (once owned by the late Hollywood Reporter publisher Billy Wilkerson). Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling and Roseanne Barr also cut there comedy teeth there.
She came up with The Comedy Store name after De Luca talked her husband out of calling it The Sammy Shore Room. The club opened on April 10, 1972, right around the time that Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show had moved from New York to Burbank.
It proved to be great timing. Comics from around the country flocked to L.A., dreaming of hitting it big after attracting the attention of Tonight Show talent bookers in search of those who could deliver a funny, rapid-fire six-minute set.
The constellation of stand-ups who honed their craft amid intense competition at The Comedy Store also includes Tom Dreesen, George Miller, Byron Allen, Jeff Altman, Jimmy Walker, Louie Anderson, Barry Levinson, Bob Saget, Billy Crystal, Gallagher, Freddie Prinze, Marsha Warfield, Sam Kinison, Howie Mandel, Andrew Dice Clay, Chelsea Handler, Mark Maron, Joe Rogan, Whitney Cummings, Carlos Mencia and Maz Jobrani. There are way too many to mention.
“We’re like a school or a boxers’ gym,” Shore told the Los Angeles Times in a 1994 interview. “We’re here to help people develop their skills and to get them seen by supportive comedy crowds, as well as by TV and movie people.”
(Excerpt) Read More in: The Hollywood Reporter