George Shapiro, the founder of Shapiro/West & Associates in the United States, died on May 26 at the age of 91. He died of natural causes at his Beverly Hills residence, according to Deadline. Shapiro and his partner and boyhood friend Howard West served as personal managers for comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Andy Kaufman, and Carl Reiner, among others. He and West executive produced Seinfeld, one of the most successful comedy programs of all time.
Twitter responses to the death of George Shapiro
Several Twitter users flocked to their accounts to mourn Shapiro, who was one of Hollywood’s most regarded talent managers and producers. A-listers in the industry have also voiced their sorrow, with many describing George Shapiro as a “gentle soul” who was always eager and encouraging.
One of the dearest people I have ever known, George Shapiro, just passed. 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
A brief history of George Shapiro and his works
During his adolescence, George Shapiro worked as a lifeguard at the Tamiment Resort in the Poconos, where he met performers such as Dick Shawn, Pat Carroll, and Carol Burnett, as well as singer Barbara Cook and dancer Herb Ross. During this period, he also met talent agents.
He said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation:
“These men showed up… I had no idea what an agency was, but they came to witness the event and chat to the ladies and comedians. ‘Is this your job?’ I asked. To see the play, enjoy a good supper, or visit a lakeside resort? I’ll have to check into it.”
After graduating from NYU and serving in the Army, Shapiro got an interview for a job in the mailroom at William Morris in New York via his uncle, Carl Reiner. He worked as a junior agent in the firm’s packaging department, earning $38 a week, but he remained involved in comedy, seeing Lenny Bruce, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, and Phyllis Diller perform in New York. He also convinced West, a PS 80 acquaintance, to join him at the agency.
Shapiro and West moved to Los Angeles a few years later, where he worked as a television packager on series such as The Steve Allen Show, That Girl, and Gomer Pyle USMC. He also helped establish the careers of several of the ensemble members by putting together a series of specials for Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, and Carol Channing. In 1973, George Shapiro decided to become a personal manager in order to build stronger ties and partnerships with consumers, so he left William Morris and founded his own management agency, ultimately dragging West along with him. Shapiro/West Associates was established.
For many years, Shapiro handled Andy Kaufman and executive produced his specials, including Andy Kaufman at Carnegie Hall for Showtime and The Andy Kaufman Special for ABC. He was also behind a slew of other TV comedy specials, including Showtime’s Broadway Baby, which starred Elayne Boosler, HBO’s Stand-Up Confidential, which included Seinfeld, and Reiner and Mel Brooks’ animated classic The 2000 Year Old Man.
Comedian, Summer Rental, and Summer School are among the feature films produced by Shapiro. He also produced documentary films headlined by Reiner, such as The Bronx Boys and If You’re Not in the Obit and Eat Breakfast. He also produced the HBO documentary The Bronx, USA, which paid tribute to his hometown. George Shapiro recently executive produced Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as well as Jerry Before Seinfeld and 23 Hours to Kill, both Netflix comedy standup specials. His last project as a producer was The Super Bob Einstein Movie, a 2021 HBO feature film based on the late actor and comedian Bob Einstein.