Jack Rollins was a manager and producer known for his long asociation with several top comedic talents, including Woody Allen, David Letterman, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.
Rollins, along with his longtime partner, Charles H. Joffe, was arguably the most influential handler of American comedy stars for several decades. Their other clients included Lenny Bruce and Mike Nichols and Elaine May.
Born Jacob Rabinowitz in Brooklyn in 1915, Rollins broke into show business after serving in World War II. While stationed in India, one of his commanding officers was the movie actor Melvyn Douglas, who helped Rollins get his start in entertainment after he returned to the U.S. He started out as a Broadway producer, and in the early 1950s he established his own management firm. Initially, he represented dramatic actors, writers and singers — an early client was actor-singer Harry Belafonte. But over time, after joining forces with Joffe, he focused on comedy.
A turning point came in the late ’50s, when the duo began working with Woody Allen. At the time, Allen was a successful television writer. but Rollins and Joffe saw greater potential in the hilarious but awkward young man and encouraged him to try his hand at stand-up comedy. Despite enormous anxiety, Allen agreed, and his success as a performer eventually led to his breakout as a filmmaker. Rollins received executive producer credit on all of Allen's films.
In the 1970s Rollins helped to guide the careers of Robin Williams and David Letterman, and from 1982 to 1992, he was executive producer of Late Night with David Letterman, the star's talk show on NBC. For his work on the show, Rollins was nominated for 12 Emmy Awards.
Rollins died on June 18, 2015, in New York City. He was 100.