George Shapiro, ‘Seinfeld’ Producer, Dead at 91

by Joe Rutland

George Shapiro, who, along with Howard West, would play a vital role in bringing Seinfeld to the world of television, has died. Shapiro was 91 and he died on Thursday night of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills, a publicist announced. It was reported by The Hollywood Reporter. Shapiro and West became friends back in grammar school in the Bronx.

Both Shapiro and West, his late business partner, were important to the launch of Seinfeld, serving as executive producers. The show ran on NBC from 1989-98. Their relationship with Jerry Seinfeld started in Los Angeles comedy clubs. All three are among those who shared the Emmy for best comedy series in 1993. Shapiro and West also helped guide the careers of actors and comedians like Carl Reiner, Andy Kaufman, Peter Bonerz, Marty Feldman, and Gabe Kaplan. Also included in that group are Robert Wuhl, Bill Persky & Sam Denoff, Dick Clair & Jenna McMahon, Sam Bobrick, and Norman Barasch.

George Shapiro Would Remember Meeting Howard West at School

Shapiro and West also were involved in the Seinfeld project Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Born on May 18, 1931, Shapiro traced his love of laughter to his childhood days at P.S. 80 and a group of friends that included West. “Howie was the new kid at school as he just moved from another Bronx neighborhood,” he once recalled. “Howie was alone in the schoolyard, sitting on a step near one of the school entrances. I invited him to join me and my friends to play basketball, stickball, curb ball and touch football.”

Shapiro was Kaufman’s personal manager for many years. He would negotiate the contract to bring Kaufman to ABC’s Taxi and his character Latka. He also executive produced Andy’s Funhouse special for ABC in 1979 and the Andy Kaufman at Carnegie Hall special for Showtime in 1980.

Danny DeVito Recalls Shapiro As ‘One Of The Sweetest Guys On The Planet’

Shapiro and West also would be executive producers for the Milos Forman-directed Man on the Moon (1999), starring Jim Carrey as Kaufman. (Taxi star Danny DeVito played Shapiro in the movie, but the producer himself played a club owner who fired Kaufman early in his career and West portrayed a network executive.) “George was one of the sweetest guys on the planet,” DeVito said in a statement. “We got to see that smiling face every Friday night during the Taxi days. He never missed a show.”

Survivors include Melody Shapiro, his lifelong friend and mother of his children — son Danny and his wife, Hester; daughter Carrie and her husband, Mark; and Stefanie — and grandchildren Adam, Nathan, Audrey, Skylar, and Alana.