Mitzi Shore at the Comedy Store
July 25, 1930
Green Bay, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Died||April 11, 2018
West Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Parkinson's disease|
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin–Madison (Dropped out in 1950)|
|Occupation||Comedy club owner|
|Known for||Co-founder and owner of The Comedy Store|
|Home town||Green Bay, Wisconsin, U.S.|
|Spouse(s)||Sammy Shore (m. 1950; div. 1974)|
|Children||4; including Pauly Shore|
Mitzi Shore (née Saidel; July 25, 1930 – April 11, 2018) was an American comedy club owner. She co-founded The Comedy Store in Los Angeles in 1972 and became owner two years later. Through the club, she had a huge influence on the careers of up-and-coming comedians for decades. Shore also founded Comedy Channel Inc. in 1982.
Shore was born Mitzi Lee Saidel on July 25, 1930, in Menominee, Michigan.[n 1] She was the daughter of a traveling salesman, and grew up near Green Bay, Wisconsin. She attended Green Bay East High School.
The Comedy Store
Sammy Shore and Mitzi Shore co-founded the Comedy Store in 1972. When Sammy and Mitzi divorced in 1974, Mitzi acquired complete ownership as part of their divorce settlement. Sammy Shore was later quoted in 2003 by the Los Angeles Times as explaining that he "relinquished control of the club to lower his alimony payments".
Shortly after she took full control, Shore obtained a significant cash loan from comedian Shecky Greene to help ensure continued operations (comedy clubs have never been viewed as sound investments by Shore creditors). She was not only involved in day-to-day management but, more significantly, in the recruitment and development of talent.
Now-famous comedians including Bobby Lee, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Freddie Prinze, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Chevy Chase, Sam Kinison, Marc Maron, Andrew Dice Clay, Jim Carrey, Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, and Carlos Mencia have worked at the Comedy Store for Shore.
1979 strike and picket
Shore refused to pay comics who performed in her club, insisting that the venue was a sort of "college of comedy" where comedians learned their craft rather than a money-making enterprise. However, in 1979, after the club had been expanded extensively, comedians began to insist that they be paid for their work. Shore refused and the performers picketed the establishment in what became a bitter six week strike action. Among those involved in leading the strike were Jay Leno, David Letterman (the club's emcee), and Tom Dreesen. After several months of picketing, and an incident in which Leno was injured by a car attempting to rush the picket line, Shore relented and agreed to pay comics $15 per set. The settlement set a precedent that resulted in New York City comedy clubs beginning to pay their talent as well, and other comedy clubs across the U.S. followed suit by paying comics to perform.
As early as 1978, Shore had converted the upstairs section of The Comedy Store into the Belly Room: a 50-seat audience for which she exclusively booked female comedians. At the time, professional comedy was very much a "boys' club", and bookings for female comedians were rare; opportunities for women to perform their own stand-up material with the most popular comics in the U.S. were unheard of.
Shore's liberal risk-taking with booking talent continued for decades. In the 1990s, once female comics had become more established, Shore continued to cross boundaries with her audience by creating specialty nights for Latino, gay and lesbian performers.
Comedy Channel Inc.
Shore owned and operated Comedy Channel Inc. from 1982 until her death—a company established to create and sell video tapes of performances at The Comedy Store.
In 1989, HBO launched its (ultimately ill-fated) premium cable service The Comedy Channel. Shore's suit claimed HBO's service was an "indirect unauthorized use" of the name and trademark Comedy Channel. Mitzi Shore retained counsel James Blancarte and sued HBO for copyright infringement. The channel merged with Viacom's competing Ha! channel two years later, first under the name CTV: The Comedy Network, and then under its current name Comedy Central.
Depictions in media
Tom Hanks' Playtone is in pre-production of a movie based on Shore's life and impact on American comedy. The character Goldie on the Showtime TV show I'm Dying Up Here is based loosely on Shore.
- "Mitzi Shore, Whose Comedy Store Fostered Rising Stars, Dies at 87". The New York Times. April 12, 2018. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
- Dustin Rowles (January 26, 2010). "Exclusive: Dave and Leno – The Early Years". Pajiba. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- "Comedy Store Owner Mitzi Shore Dead at 87". Los Angeles Times. April 11, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- "Comedy Club Owner Mitzi Shore, A Gatekeeper Of Careers, Dies At 87". NPR. April 11, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- Arthur Lawry (April 11, 2018). "Mitzi Shore, Comedy Store owner, dead at 87". CNN. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- "Comedy world mourns death of Green Bay native Mitzi Shore at age 87". Green Bay Press Gazette. April 11, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- Paul Brownfield (June 22, 2003). "Echo of laughter". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- Lawrence Christon (April 11, 1993). "COMEDY: A Room of Their Own: Thanks to impresario Mitzi Shore and the Belly Room, for a while back in 1978–79 female comedians had a small spot to work in together, a place where they could be bad, get better and launch careers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- "Mitzi Shore, Comedy Store Founder and Owner, Dies at 87". San Francisco Gate. April 11, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- "The First Comedy Strike". Time. February 4, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
- Chuck Crisfulli (January 9, 1994). "Mitzi Shore: Still Minding the Store". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- Steven Rea (May 30, 1989). "Two Cable Nets To Joke Around The Clock". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Interstate General Media. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- Lana Berkowitz (July 15, 2010). "Pauly Shore has a dog and worries about his mother. What's not to like?". Chron. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- Ramses Flores (January 29, 2010). "Tom Hanks Developing Film Based on The Life of Mitzi Shore and The History of The Comedy Store". Collider. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- "Interview with Sammy Shore". Classic Showbiz. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- ""Pauly Shore harnesses his roots"". usatoday.com. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
- Paul Brownfield (June 22, 2003). "Echo of laughter". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
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