George Shapiro, the deeply respected talent manager, producer and co-founder of Shapiro/West & Associates, died Thursday night of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 91 years old.
Along with partner and childhood friend Howard West, Shapiro was the personal manager of comedian greats Jerry Seinfeld, Andy Kaufman, and Carl Reiner, among others. He and West would continue to executive produce Seinfeldone of the best comedy series of all time.
Born in New York, Shapiro spent summers during his teenage years as a lifeguard at the Tamiment Resort in the Poconos, where he met artists like Dick Shawn, Pat Carroll and Carol Burnett, singer Barbara Cook and choreographer Herb Ross. That’s when he also got to know talent agents.
“These guys came…I didn’t even know what an agent was, but they came to see the show, talk to the girls, talk to the comedians,” Shapiro said in a past Television Academy Foundation interview. “I said, ‘Is this your job? Watch the show, dine, come to a seaside resort with a lake? I have to look into that.
After graduating from NYU and a stint in the military, Shapiro got an interview for a job in William Morris’ mailroom in New York through his uncle, Carl Reiner. He became a junior agent, earning $38 a week, in the agency’s packaging department but stayed close to acting, seeing Lenny Bruce, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Phyllis Diller perform in New York. He also recruited his friend PS 80 West to join him at the agency.
After several years, Shapiro began to recognize that big comedy shows and productions were moving to Hollywood. So he started a rumor at William Morris that he was going to be sent to the Los Angeles office. The rumor became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and Shapiro brought West with him as he traveled across the country.
In Los Angeles, he became a conditioner for television programs, including The Steve Allen show, that girl, and Gomer PyleUSMC. He also put together a number of specials for Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing that helped propel many cast members to superstardom.
In 1973 Shapiro decided he wanted to become a personal manager in order to develop deeper relationships and produce partnerships with clients, so he left William Morris and opened a management company, later bringing West with him. . Shapiro/West Associates was born.
Shapiro managed Andy Kaufman for many years and the executive produced the comedian’s specials like Andy Kaufman at Carnegie Hall for Showtime and The Andy Kaufman Special for ABC. He was also behind several other television comedy specials, including: Showtime’s broadway baby with Elayne Boosler; HBO’s Stand-Up Confidential with Seinfeld; and Reiner and Mel Brook’s animated milestone The 2000 year old man.
Shapiro also executive produced Man on the Moon with West which starred Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman. While Danny DeVito starred as George Shapiro in Milos Forman’s film, Shapiro played Mr. Besserman, a club owner who fired Kaufman early in his career, while West portrayed a club executive. hard-nosed network.
“George was one of the nicest guys on the planet,” DeVito said in a statement. “We got to see that smiling face every Friday night during ‘Taxi’ days. He never missed a show. Peace brother.”
Other feature films produced by Shapiro include Comedian, Summer rental and summer school. He has also produced documentaries like The Bronx Boys and if You’re not in the obituary, have breakfast which was hosted by Reiner. He is also the producer of the HBO documentary The Bronx, USA, who celebrates his hometown.
In recent years, Shapiro’s executive has produced Seinfeld’s Comedians in the cars having a coffee, and Seinfeld’s Netflix comedy specials Jerry before Seinfeld and 23 hours to kill. His last film produced was the 2021 Super Bob Einstein movie for HBO, about the life of the late actor and comedian Bob Einstein.
Shapiro was also a founding member of the National Comedy Center Advisory Board. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend George Shapiro,” Executive Director Journey Gunderson said in a statement. “Beyond his extraordinary accomplishments as a manager and producer that have guided the careers of great comedy talent, George was a founding member of the National Comedy Center Advisory Board. He believed deeply in our mission to celebrate and preserve the legacy of comedy, and we were thrilled to welcome him to our grand opening events. We will miss him terribly.”
Shapiro is survived by Melody Shapiro, his lifelong friend and mother of his children; brother Don Shapiro; son Danny Shapiro and daughter-in-law Hester Parker; his daughter Carrie Shapiro Fuentes and son-in-law Mark Fuentes; daughter Stefanie Shapiro and 5 grandchildren, Adam Shapiro, Nathan Fuentes, Audrey Fuentes, Skylar Shapiro and Alana Shapiro.
One of the dearest people I have ever known, George Shapiro, has just died. I bless our friendship and, at 99, I’m sure I’ll see him relatively soon. pic.twitter.com/3JGipf1P93
—Norman Lear (@TheNormanLear) May 28, 2022