Comic managerJack Rollins

A business manager, Rollins had an unusual specialty: comedians. And he had to invent his job as he went along. “When I went into this business in 1946,” he said as he celebrated his 42nd year as a manager, “there weren’t managers. There was Milton Berle’s mother.” Rollins’ client roster was a who’s-who of 20th Century American comedy: Lenny Bruce, Jim Carrey, Dick Cavett, Billy Crystal, Diane Keaton, Robert Klein, Louise Lasser, David Letterman, Nichols and May, Paula Poundstone, Joan Rivers, Martin Short, Jimmy Tingle, Robin Williams, Steven Wright, and more. Rollins “could take a grain of sand and make it into an industry,” claimed Joan Rivers, and with one guy, he did. A nervous writer came to Rollins because he wanted to write for the comic duo Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Nope, Rollins said: they write their own material. But he liked the routines Woody Allen had come up with, and stood behind him for 18 months as Allen went from a shy performer with no stage presence to …an industry. “He got a smile, then a laugh, and then a cult,” Rollins once said. Allen paid the favor back: he included Rollins’ name as Executive Producer on every movie he made, even after Rollins retired. Why? “Because without Jack, I wouldn’t have a career,” Allen says. Rollins, Allen said after hearing of his death, “was one of the very few people in my life who lived up to the hype about him. All the stories about how great Jack Rollins was are true.” Rollins retired in 1992, and died at home on June 18. He was 100.

From This is True for 21 June 2015