November 21, 2018

Comedy Store’s Mitzi Shore, 87

Mitzi Shore, who for decades ran The Comedy Store, the legendary club on the Sunset Strip, died on April 11 following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 87.

“It is with great sadness and very heavy hearts that we report the passing of Mitzi Shore yesterday morning,” The Comedy Store said in an April 12 statement. “Mitzi was an extraordinary woman and leader who identified, cultivated and celebrated comedy’s best performers. She helped change the face of comedy and leaves behind an indelible mark and legacy in the entertainment industry and stand-up community. We will all miss her dearly.”

Shore was born Mitzi Lee Saidel on July 25, 1930, in Menominee, Mich., and raised in Green Bay, Wis. She attended the University of Wisconsin but dropped out to marry comedian Sammy Shore, whom she met while working at a Wisconsin resort one summer. In the 1950s, through her marriage, Shore met Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, Shelley Berman and Buddy Hackett, and she became a mother figure to the comedians.

On April 7, 1972, Sammy opened The Comedy Store — Mitzi came up with the name — with comedy writer Rudy De Luca. It was the world’s first all-stand-up-comedy nightclub. Two years later, the Shores divorced and Mitzi received control of the club in their divorce settlement.

According to veteran journalist William Knoedelseder, author of “I’m Dying Up Here,” Shore deserves partial credit for transforming the 1970s into the golden era of comedy. Shore nurtured many talented young comedians, including David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Bob Saget, Richard Lewis, Garry Shandling and Elayne Boosler. Working behind a sign on her desk that read, “It is a Sin to Encourage Mediocre Talent,” Shore pushed those she saw as having that special spark to perform, allowed them on her stage and encouraged authenticity in their comedy.

In 1976, she expanded the 99-seat nightclub to a multistage venue, featuring three rooms: the Original Room, the Main Room and the Belly Room. She operated The Comedy Store as an artists’ colony, where comedians could tinker and work out their material before fellow comedians, comedy lovers and entertainment industry professionals. However, Shore did not pay her comedians until 1979, when performers began picketing outside the club.

“Looking back on my mom’s life, the one word that comes to mind is giver. She gave her heart, her soul, and her stages.” — Pauly Shore

Shore eventually opened additional Comedy Store locations, including in La Jolla, Calif., Las Vegas and Honolulu.

In the late 1990s, Shore’s Parkinson’s became so severe that her hands shook when she wrote the lineup sheets for each evening’s show. Two of her four children, including actor-comedian Pauly Shore, took control over the operation of the club. Shore spent her final days in hospice care.

On Twitter, Pauly said his mother’s legacy was her compassion for her performers.

“Looking back on my mom’s life, the one word that comes to mind is giver,” he wrote. “She gave her heart, her soul, and her stages.”

Saget and other comedians also posted tributes on Twitter.

“Mitzi Shore started my career when I was 21 by believing in me,” Saget wrote. “I will forever be indebted to her and love her and always knew that she loved me.”

The Comedy Store closed on April 11 to honor Shore, only the ninth night in its 46 years that the club closed.

Shore’s funeral was held on April 13. She is survived by her four children — Pauly, Peter, Scott and Sandy.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Comedian’s Assistance Fund is accepting donations in Shore’s memory.

Ding Dong! Rabbi Calling

His turn on is making single Jewish women laugh. His hometown is Jewtown, Calif. He puts his age at 99 (although he looks at least 50 years younger). His occupation is comedian/dancer/male model — and rabbi. Yes, the tzitzit-wearing, black-bearded Rabbi Rabbs (a.k.a. Hershel Remer) is in a class by himself.

Rabbs (as he likes to be called) is the uber-Jewish component of Don Barris’ wild and wacky pseudo-reality “The Ding-Dong Show” Monday nights at The Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip. Rabbs, who doesn’t perform if the show falls on a Jewish holiday, lovingly refers to the outrageous cast as “a bunch of degenerate gentiles — all verifiably nuts. It’s a show about crazy people who are comedians — what could be funnier?”

The unique “major goyisheh comedy show,” as Rabbs calls it on his My Space Web site, was the perfect setting for the Jewish day school (YULA) and UCLA alum who spent eight years with the Orthodox Union’s West Coast kashrut division before finding his calling. (He also has a sideline working as a UNIX computer specialist.)

“I was born a comedian,” said Rabbs, who joined the show in 2001 and refers to himself as “America’s Favorite Rabbi Comic.” “My mother says I was funny before I could talk.”

Rabbs started signing up for amateur nights at The Comedy Store before meeting owner Mitzi Shore, who eventually booked him in regular shows and finally as a “Ding-Dong” cast member.

“I didn’t even know what I was doing there for a full year,” said Rabbs, who with the 11 other members of the “Ding-Dong Show” cast is currently shooting a follow-up to the 2003 comedy, “Windy City Heat,” which featured host Barris. “There are two things that make me different from the cast: One, no member of my family has ever been put in jail, and two, I am not on any psychiatric medications.”

Rabbs’ distinctive sense of humor shines on the show’s Web site, which offers background on each “actor,” and includes a message board forum called, “Ask the Rabbi Rabbs,” and a thread that Rabbs started earlier this year on “Which chick digs Rabbi Rabbs the most?” (He has several die-hard female followers.)

But there is a serious side to that thread: Rabbs is looking for a “rebbetzin” (rabbi’s wife), a search that takes on a greater meaning around Passover.

“I have learned the hard way that Judaism is a religion designed for married people and extremely difficult to be successful at while single,” said Rabbs, who’s looking for “a Jewish woman who doesn’t just want me for my money or my muscular body.”

“The Ding-Dong Show,” Mondays, 9:30 p.m., The Comedy Store.

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