George Shapiro, executive producer for the seminal Emmy-winning sitcom “Seinfeld” and well-respected Hollywood personal manager, died Thursday in his Beverly Hills home, according to multiple outlets. He was 91.
Along with his longtime collaborator and friend Howard West, Shapiro launched Shapiro/West Productions in 1973, which managed top comedians such as Andy Kaufman, “Welcome Back, Kotter” star Gabe Kaplan, Carl Reiner and Seinfeld.
Reps for Shapiro/West Productions did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for a statement.
“George was one of the sweetest guys on the planet,” Danny DeVito, who played Shapiro in the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon,” said in a statement on Saturday. “We got to see that smiling face every Friday night during the ‘Taxi’ days. He never missed a show. Peace brother.”
Norman Lear also sang Shapiro’s praises. “One of the dearest people I have ever known, George Shapiro, just passed. I bless our friendship and, at 99, I’m sure I’ll see him relatively soon,” he wrote on Twitter, sharing an image of himself with the late producer.
Shapiro, a Bronx native, graduated from New York University with a degree in advertising and marketing and served a stint in the Army, after which he took a job in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency. Soon afterward, he climbed the ranks to become an agent, where he assembled talent for shows like “The Steve Allen Show,” “That Girl” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” He also packaged specials for Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing.
After leaving the William Morris Agency, he set his sights on personal management and producing. His close partnership with client Kaufman — for whom he executive produced specials for ABC, NBC and Showtime — became the subject of 1999’s “Man on the Moon,” which starred Jim Carrey as Kaufman and DeVito as Shapiro. West and Shapiro also executive produced the film which featured cameos from West (as an ABC executive) and Shapiro (as a club owner).
The Emmy winner also produced features like 1987’s rom-com “Summer School,” directed by Reiner and starring Mark Harmon.
He and West followed that success with Seinfeld’s self-titled NBC sitcom, which ran for nine seasons from 1989-98 and became one of the biggest hits on the small screen.
Alongside producing specials and series, he also has production credits on docs such as the Emmy-nominated “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” with stars Tony Bennett, Norman Lear, Stan Lee, Dick Van Dyke, Betty White, Mel Brooks and Kirk Douglas.
Additional credits include “The Dick Van Dyke Show: Now in Living Color! A Special Tribute to Carl Reiner,” “The Bronx Boys,” Broadway’s “Colin Quinn: Long Story Short” and “Jerry Seinfeld: Stand-Up Confidential,” which was the influential comic’s first special.
More recently, Shapiro executive produced Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” and Seinfeld’s Netflix comedy standup specials “Jerry Before Seinfeld” and “23 Hours to Kill.” His final produced film was 2021’s “The Super Bob Einstein Movie” for HBO, about the life of the late actor and comedian Bob Einstein.
He is survived by Melody Shapiro, his lifelong friend and mother of his children; son Danny and his wife, Hester; daughter Carrie and her husband, Mark; and Stefanie, as well as grandchildren Adam, Nathan, Audrey, Skylar and Alana.