Comedian and Comedy Store co-founder Sammy Shore has died. Shore, 92, passed away at his Las Vegas home on May 18, surrounded by family.
According to a Facebook post by The Comedy Store, Shore died of natural causes and leaves behind his wife Suzanne and three children, Scott, Peter and Pauly. Ex-wife Mitzi Shore and daughter Sandi Shore passed away in 2018.
A multifaceted artist, Shore performed stand-up comedy routines, one-man shows and wrote several books. Here’s what you need to know about the incredible life of Sammy Shore.
1.Shore Started as Part of the Comedy Team “Greene and Shore”
Shore started his comedy career in the early 1950s as one half of the comedy team “Greene and Shore” with fellow comedian Shecky Greene. The duo played resorts and clubs in Wisconsin and the New York Catskills. Shore recalled how some of their last shows were received by the audience. “We bombed. We closed out the first night. After that Shecky and I broke up.”
After their break-up, Shore made a name for himself as a warm-up act for more established performers. According to The Comedy Store’s Facebook page, Shore opened for singers such as Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tom Jones, Ann-Margaret, Connie Stevens, and Glen Campbell.
In 1984, Shore published The Warm-up, a book about his career as a stand-up comic. “It’s my life as a warm-up comedian and always being Number Two,” he revealed. Shore admitted in a 1986 interview that he never attained the fame that other comics had acquired but he was happy with what he’d accomplished. “I reached a certain point in my career where I became Number One, Number Two. I was the best at what I did.”
2. Shore Got His Big Break Opening for Elvis Presley
In 1969, Shore was working in Las Vegas as the opening act for crooner Tom Jones when Elvis Presley first saw him. According to Shore, Presley, and his Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, approached him with a job offer. Shore eagerly accepted their offer of employment and worked as Presley’s opening act until 1972.
But their business relationship soured when Shore accepted a spot as the lounge act on the days when Elvis wasn’t performing at the International Hotel. Presley’s manager Colonel Parker insisted he didn’t want a lounge act opening for Elvis, and quickly cut ties with Shore. Shore told ClassicBands.com that this firing was a blessing in disguise since he opened The Comedy Store soon after.
While their business relationship may have ended abruptly, Shore had nothing but fond memories of both Elvis and Colonel Parker. He went on to write the book The Man Who Made Elvis Laugh. “(Elvis) was just one of the guys. He was just the same as we all are…Everyone just had a good time. It was like being with the neighborhood gang,” Shore recalled.
3. Shore Co-Founded The Comedy Store in 1972
After getting pink-slipped by Elvis and Colonel Parker, Shore decided to open The Comedy Store with his wife Mitzi and writing partner Rudy DeLuca. Located on the famous Sunset Strip, the club opened in April 1972 and became a premier training ground for up-and-coming comedians. It was also a place where more established comedians could perfect their routines.
Alumni include George Carlin, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Richard Pryor, Jerry Seinfeld, and Robin Williams. Shore performed at the club when he wasn’t on the road while Mitzi stayed behind and managed The Comedy Stores day-to-day operations. The Comedy Store revolutionized comedy club operations, offering open mic nights and having a two-drink minimum policy.
In 1974, Sammy and Mitzi Shore divorced, and Mitzi acquired full ownership of the club. Insisting that it was more of a “comedy college” than a job, Mitzi Shore refused to pay performers. In 1979 the club’s comedians, with help from David Letterman and Jay Leno, went on strike and attempted to form a union. Shore eventually relented and paid each performer $15 a set.
While the strike was a bitter memory for some performers, most all of the comedians who worked with Mitzi saw her as a maternal presence in the club. When Mitzi died in April 2018 The Comedy Store’s website said, “she was also a loving mother not only to her own four children but to the myriad of comedians who adored her.”
4. Shore’s Son is Actor and Comedian Pauly Shore
Born in 1968, Pauly is the youngest of Sammy and Mitzi Shore’s four children. Pauly grew up around The Comedy Store and even recalled how comedian Sam Kinison used to babysit him. Pauly Shore said that it was his father who introduced him to performing stand-up comedy. He went on to open for some of the comics appearing at The Comedy Store, including Kinison. As a teen, he’d developed a persona he called “The Weasel” who spoke surfer slang that resonated with younger audiences. By 1989 Pauly Shore transitioned from a stage performer to an MTV VJ. He also had his own MTV show, Totally Pauly.
In 1992, Pauly Shore gained fame as a comedic actor in the hit movie Encino Man, where he starred as a typical California teen who inadvertently digs up a caveman. He went on to make several other films including In the Army Now and Son in Law, but eventually returned to the stage to perform stand-up.
Pauly and Sammy performed stand-up together. “Once I hit it big in the 1990s I took my dad on tour with me all over America doing shows. We toured together for more than 20 years. It was labeled “A Family Affair Tour.” Most of the audience would be like, “Pauly Shore’s dad’s opening for him?”
“He would say, “ladies and gentlemen, I’ve opened for Elvis Presley and Sammy Davis Jr, but tonight I’m opening for my favorite entertainer. Please give a round of applause for my son… Pauly Shore,” Shore’s son Pauly revealed.
Announcing his father’s death, Pauly posted a touching tribute to his father on social media. “Dad, you lived an amazing life and I’m so proud to say that you are my father. When you’re in heaven I’ll be killing the crowds night after night and carrying on your legacy. Love you Dad. Rest in peace.”
5. Shore & His Wife Suzanne Were Animal Advocates That Started the Fundraiser “Funnybones”
In later years, Shore, along with his second wife Suzanne, began to work on behalf of homeless animals in Nevada. The two created the “Funnybones” fundraiser for the Nevada SPCA. “A dog is better than humans because he wags his tail, not his tongue,” Shore said.
The Shore’s worked to raise funds to pay for critical care for animals who otherwise would not have been adoptable. “When Sammy called, every available entertainer donated their time and talent for free; and as a result, rather than being euthanized, countless animals found “forever homes,” The Comedy Store’s website said. Shore’s obituary included mention of his and Suzanne’s dogs JJ, Tallulah, and Matty.