Mitzi Shore, the owner of the influential comedy club The Comedy Store and the “godmother” of the Los Angeles stand-up comedy scene, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 87.
As noted in a report from Deadline, Shore, who co-founded The Comedy Store in 1972, served as a “matriarch” for many future comedy stars, as the likes of David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Sam Kinison, Chevy Chase, and Jim Carrey all performed on her stage during their early days in stand-up comedy. She was also the mother of actor and comedian Pauly Shore, the youngest of her four children and the only one who became a comedian, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While a report from TMZ listed Mitzi Shore’s cause of death as an “unknown” neurological disorder that she had been battling for years, the Los Angeles Times wrote that she had specifically been dealing with Parkinson’s disease in the final years of her life. TMZ wrote that Shore had spent some time in hospice care prior to her death, and was taken by her son Pauly to the Comedy Store on Monday, allowing her to “say goodbye” to the establishment where she helped launch the careers of many a famous comic.
“Mitzi was an extraordinary businesswoman and decades ahead of her time who cultivated and celebrated the artistry of stand-up comedy,” read a statement from The Comedy Store.
“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. We will all miss her dearly.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, The Comedy Store was essentially a fifth child for Mitzi Shore, who took over at a time when it was still considered a “variety room” with different types of entertainment. Seeing that stand-up comics were frequently “belittled” in the 1970s and forced to work alongside a singer, Shore recalled to the Times in 1993 that she wanted to change that by making her establishment “all [about] comics,” with no other forms of entertainment showcased at the club.
“I wanted to give them respectability,” she said.
Although Mitzi Shore helped many a young comedian make their way up in the business, the Los Angeles Times wrote that her time as Comedy Store owner did not come without issues. Several up-and-coming comedians who were initially amenable to not being paid as they honed their craft staged a walkout in 1979, after learning that Shore allegedly paid the better-known headliners they opened for.
Shore reportedly agreed to pay most of the picketing comics $25 per set, but the Times recalled that the strike “left scars that never truly healed,” as she had to deal with comedians who refused to work for her anymore, as well as further allegations that she banned some strikers by refusing to book them for performances. The strike, however, helped break stand-up comedy into the mainstream in the 1980s, as comics based in other parts of the U.S. started getting paid for their work, according to Time’s excerpt from the 2008 book, Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America.
In the hours since Mitzi Shore’s death, tributes have poured in from several comics who previously worked at The Comedy Store, including Marc Maron, who tweeted that Shore “made an indelible mark on comedy and my brain,” and Kathy Griffin, who commended Shore for being a “woman in a male-dominated business who pulled no punches.”