Some of the biggest names in comedy, the people who stood as giants in the genre, developed their craft at the Comedy Store — people such as Robin Williams, Richard Pryor and David Letterman. It was there that Roseanne Barr was discovered, that Jim Carrey worked the door.
And the woman who became synonymous with that Los Angeles institution was owner Mitzi Shore. She died early Wednesday at the age of 87, according to her son, actor and comedian Pauly Shore.
According to the Comedy Store, Mitzi Shore’s health began declining in the 1990s.
“Looking back on my mom’s life, the one word that comes to mind is giver,” Pauly Shore wrote in a statement posted on social media. “She gave her heart, her soul, and her stages. So Mom, on behalf of myself and all of the other comedians, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for letting us develop our crazy at the Store. Not only were you our comedy Godmother, you are my mother. We’d be nothing without you and your guidance.”
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The 1970s in Los Angeles was a golden era for stand-up. Johnny Carson had moved his show out to the West Coast city, and loads of comics, eager for a life-changing spot on the show, followed suit. That comedy scene is loosely depicted in the Showtime series, “I’m Dying Up Here.”
Founded by Mitzi, her then-husband Sammy Shore and comedy writer Rudy De Luca, the Comedy Store belonged solely to Mitzi beginning in 1974 as part of her divorce settlement (the name had been her idea as well). She booked the comics and nurtured their careers. She created the Belly Room, a space within the club only for female performers, with a somewhat complicated legacy. She also gave blunt assessments to those she deemed lacking charisma, and served as a gatekeeper to bigger showbiz opportunities. “It is a sin to encourage mediocre talent,” read a plaque she kept on her desk.
Garry Shandling and Arsenio Hall performed stand-up at the club years ago. More recent years have seen comics such as Whitney Cummings, Marc Maron and Joe Rogan work there.
“Mitzi Shore made an indelible mark on comedy and my brain. ‘You’re a poet. You should wear a scarf on stage,’ ” Maron tweeted.
“This amazing lady helped shape the American comedy landscape for decades,” Kevin Smith tweeted. “Mitzi Shore was, and will remain, an absolute legend.”
Other comedians paid tribute to the club owner, writing that “getting passed” by her — meaning, her booking them at the club — often represented a career turning point:
“The great Mitzi Shore, owner of the famous Comedy Store, has passed away. No words can express the gratitude I have for her. We met in 1979. She opened the door to my dreams! If she loved you, you did well. If she didn’t, you did something else. I will love her forever.”
— Jim Carrey
“Dear Mitzi whenever people ask if there was a moment where I felt like I had made it in this business I tell them it was when I became a regular @TheComedyStore- your club let me grow exponentially as a performer and gave me some of the best memories of my life. I love you!”
“Mitzi Shore was a pioneer who gave more comics their start than I can count. . .I did my first legit comedy gig at the Store. She was a woman in a male dominated business who pulled no punches, something I always admired. My heart goes out to @paulyshoreand the entire Shore family”
— Kathy Griffin
The club announced it would be closed Wednesday to honor her memory.