George Shapiro

Manager


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly two-hour Archive interview, George Shapiro discusses his early years growing up in the Bronx, where he met his longtime business partner, Howard West, and describes working his way up from mailroom attendant to packaging executive at the William Morris Agency. He talks about his work with The Steve Allen Show and That Girl and details his decision to leave William Morris to form his own management company, Shapiro/West. He speaks at length on working with client Andy Kaufman, on negotiating Kaufman's intricate deal with Taxi and on Kaufman's premature death. Shapiro also comments on client Jerry Seinfeld, explains how Seinfeld got on the air and concludes with thoughts on the art of management and his philosophy on comedy. Bill Dana and Jenni Matz conducted the interview in a joint venture with the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College on February 12, 2007 in Los Angeles, CA.

"Bombing is part of the process of putting a good act together. You have to embrace it. You'll be in pain. You'll feel terrible. I've seen comedians crying after it… but bombing gives you the opportunity of knowing what doesn't work, and then starting new jokes. It's essential that a comedian bombs. Just stay with it, learn from it, and keep doing it. Get back on the horse -- there's a reason for that old cliché." 

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
George Shapiro on being drawn to comedians
George Shapiro on Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld's integrity 
George Shapiro on the poor test response to the pilot of Seinfeld
George Shapiro on disagreeing with Andy Kaufman's inter-gender wrestling on television
George Shapiro on comedians bombing
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences
On becoming an agent with William Morris
On entertainment in New York in the 1950s; on being drawn to comedians and leaving William Morris to start his own company
On managing Andy Kaufman - on Kaufman's work on Taxi, on Tony Clifton, and inter-gender wrestling
On comedians bombing; on "Man on the Moon"
On people believing that Andy Kaufman is still alive; on his closeness with clients, including Jerry Seinfeld; on comedy

Chapter 2

On current projects; On Seinfeld and how moving the timeslot for the show changed its popularity; on tragedy and comedy
On the camaraderie of comics between Jerry Seinfeld and friends; On The Comedy Store and The Friar's Club
On "clean" comedy; on the cast of Seinfeld; on his proudest achievements; on dealing with celebrity egos; on whether it was all worth it 
Shows

Cheers

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George Shapiro on Cheers liberating Seinfeld

Merv Griffin Show, The

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George Shapiro on disagreeing with Andy Kaufman's inter-gender wrestling on television 

Saturday Night Live

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George Shapiro on how Andy Kaufman got the gig on Saturday Night Live
George Shapiro on disagreeing with Andy Kaufman's inter-gender wrestling on television
George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman reading The Great Gatsby on Saturday Night Live

Seinfeld

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George Shapiro on packaging Seinfeld
George Shapiro on the cast of Seinfeld
George Shapiro on being proud of working with Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld

Steve Allen Show, The (1956-61)

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George Shapiro on clients Bill Persky and Sam Denoff getting hired by Bill Dana on The Steve Allen Show

Taxi

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George Shapiro on how Andy Kaufman (and Tony Clifton) got roles on Taxi
George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman's work on Taxi

Your Show of Shows

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George Shapiro on Max Liebman booking talent at Tamiment and creating Your Show of Shows
Topics

Characters & Catchphrases

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George Shapiro on how Andy Kaufman got the role of on Latka on Taxi

Classic TV series episodes

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George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman reading "The Great Gatsby" on Saturday Night Live

Comedy

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George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman reading "The Great Gatsby" on Saturday Night Live

Pop Culture

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George Shapiro on how Andy Kaufman got the role of on Latka on Taxi
George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman reading "The Great Gatsby" on Saturday Night Live
Professions

Manager

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George Shapiro on managing Andy Kaufman - on Kaufman's work on Taxi, on Tony Clifton, and inter-gender wrestling
George Shapiro on managing clients

Representatives

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George Shapiro on managing Andy Kaufman - on Kaufman's work on Taxi, on Tony Clifton, and inter-gender wrestling
George Shapiro on managing clients
Genres

Comedy Series

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George Shapiro on how Andy Kaufman got the role of Latka on Taxi
People

Jason Alexander

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George Shapiro on casting Jason Alexander

Bernie Brillstein

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George Shapiro on his first day in the William Morris mailroom

James L. Brooks

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George Shapiro on how Andy Kaufman got the role on Taxi

Lenny Bruce

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George Shapiro on first seeing Phyllis Diller and Lenny Bruce perform

George Burns

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George Shapiro on booking Jerry Seinfeld for his 100th birthday party in 2054

Red Buttons

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George Shapiro on Red Buttons' comedy

Sid Caesar

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George Shapiro on Sid Caesar performing at Tamiment

Jim Carrey

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George Shapiro on "Man on the Moon" - the movie based of Andy Kaufman's life 

Imogene Coca

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George Shapiro on Imogene Coca performing at Tamiment

Bill Dana

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George Shapiro and Bill Dana on Andy Kaufman at the first American Comedy Awards
George Shapiro on clients Bill Persky and Sam Denoff getting hired by Bill Dana on The Steve Allen Show

Larry David

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George Shapiro on Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld coming up with the premise of Seinfeld
George Shapiro on how Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David ran Seinfeld

Danny DeVito

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George Shapiro on "Man on the Moon" - the movie based of Andy Kaufman's life 

Sam Denoff

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George Shapiro on clients Bill Persky and Sam Denoff getting hired by Bill Dana on The Steve Allen Show
George Shapiro on being proud of working with writers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff

Phyllis Diller

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George Shapiro on first seeing Phyllis Diller and Lenny Bruce perform
George Shapiro on first seeing Phyllis Diller perform

Dick Ebersol

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George Shapiro on disagreeing with Andy Kaufman's inter-gender wrestling on television and Andy getting voted off Saturday Night Live

Milos Forman

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George Shapiro on "Man on the Moon" - the movie based of Andy Kaufman's life 

Ben Griefer

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George Shapiro on his mentor, Ben Griefer, in the packaging department of William Morris

Lee Karsian

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George Shapiro on working for agent Lee Karsian

Andy Kaufman

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George Shapiro on client Andy Kaufman
George Shapiro on "Man on the Moon" - the movie based of Andy Kaufman's life 
George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman and Robin Williams performing at Carnegie Hall
George Shapiro on people believing that Andy Kaufman is still alive
George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman

Abe Lastfogel

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George Shapiro on leaving William Morris

Max Liebman

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George Shapiro on Max Liebman booking talent at Tamiment and creating Your Show of Shows

Warren Littlefield

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George Shapiro on meeting with NBC's Brandon Tartikoff and Warren Littlefield about a Jerry Seinfeld series

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

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George Shapiro on casting Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Steve Martin

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George Shapiro on Steve Martin's clean comedy

Lorne Michaels

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George Shapiro on how Andy Kaufman got the role on Taxi and the gig on Saturday Night Live

Rosie O'Donnell

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George Shapiro on casting Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Rosie O'Donnell read for the part of "Elaine"

Bill Persky

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George Shapiro on clients Bill Persky and Sam Denoff getting hired by Bill Dana on The Steve Allen Show
George Shapiro on being proud of working with writers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff

Elvis Presley

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George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman's idol Elvis Presley

Richard Pryor

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George Shapiro on Richard Pryor turning pain into comedy

Carl Reiner

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George Shapiro on how Carl Reiner informed him of a new comedian named Andy Kaufman
George Shapiro on Carl Reiner's support of Jerry Seinfeld
George Shapiro on being proud of working with Carl Reiner

Rob Reiner

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George Shapiro on bringing in cousin Rob Reiner's production company for deficit spending on Seinfeld

Michael Richards

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George Shapiro on casting Michael Richards

Chris Rock

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George Shapiro on Chris Rock's comedy

George Schlatter

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George Shapiro and Bill Dana on Andy Kaufman at the first American Comedy Awards

Jerry Seinfeld

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George Shapiro on Jerry Seinfeld bombing in a live performance
George Shapiro on client Jerry Seinfeld's humor
George Shapiro on Jerry Seinfeld and packaging Seinfeld
George Shapiro on booking Jerry Seinfeld for his 100th birthday party in 2054
George Shapiro on the first time Jerry Seinfeld performed (and bombed)
George Shapiro on how Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David ran Seinfeld
George Shapiro on being proud of working with Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld
George Shapiro on Jerry Seinfeld

Mitzi Shore

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George Shapiro on The Comedy Store, an improv started by Mitzi Shore

Barbra Streisand

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George Shapiro on first seeing Barbra Streisand perform in East Side clubs

Brandon Tartikoff

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George Shapiro on telling Brandon Tartikoff that Jerry Seinfled should have his own series

Ed. Weinberger

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George Shapiro on how Andy Kaufman got the role on Taxi

Jack Welch

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George Shapiro on Jerry Seinfeld not wanting a 10th season of Seinfeld

Howard West

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George Shapiro on leaving William Morris to go into management with Howard West
George Shapiro on his business partnership with friend Howard West

Robin Williams

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George Shapiro on Andy Kaufman and Robin Williams performing at Carnegie Hall

Bob Wright

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George Shapiro on Jerry Seinfeld not wanting a 10th season of Seinfeld

Bob Zmuda

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George Shapiro on booking Tony Clifton at Harrod's, but this time Tony was played by Bob Zmuda

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