Jack Rollins, the talent manager who nurtured multiple ageless comedians, including Robin Williams, Woody Allen, David Letterman, and many others, passed away on Thursday. He was 100. Rollins and his longtime business partner, Charles Joffe, can be attributed to helping the golden age of versatile comedy come to life. He died of natural causes, confirmed his daughter Susan Rollins.
A producer with a sharp eye to spot obscure talent and the ability and perseverance to ensure it was presented to and accepted wholeheartedly by the world, Jack Rollins saw what others simply couldn’t be bothered to notice. He was the one who managed to boost the confidence of shy but brilliant comedians like Woody Allen. One couldn’t wish for a better manager. In fact, it was Rack Rollins who create the role of the modern show business manager.
Speaking about the times, Jack had once said, “When I went into this business in 1946 there weren’t managers. There was Milton Berle’s mother.”
If anyone would have seen Woody Allen perform stand-up comedy before he became a household name, they would have dismissed the shy, stumbling, and bumbling boy who only aspired to write for other shows. However, Jack Rollins stuck with the guy despite the repeated pin-drop silent audiences.
“The first 18 months as a stand-up comedian were horrendous. He was the worst comedian you can possibly imagine, zero grace as a performer. Finally the tide turned. He got a smile, then a laugh, and then a cult.”
Woody Allen has never stopped mentioning Jack Rollins as the producer of his films, despite Jack retiring a long time ago. Mourning the death of his beloved father figure, Woody issued a statement.
“He was one of the very few people in my life who lived up to the hype about him. All the stories about how great Jack Rollins was are true.”
Jack Rollins has been time and again revered as the man who had rock-solid instincts when it came to building fledgling careers. He had the uncanny knack of spotting young talent that needed a guiding hand and someone to manage the talent that often came saddled with a surprising lack of self-management and presentation skills. However, he will always be remembered as the man who introduced comedians like Joan Rivers, Billy Crystal, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Paula Poundstone, Martin Short, Robert Klein, and many others to the world.
A true “American pantheon of hilarity,” Jack Rollins has left a legacy that transcends generations with comedy that makes you laugh till you cry and then cry some more.
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