Bill Dana (1924-2017)
Many knew Bill Dana as "José Jimenéz", a classic character he created on The Steve Allen Show in the late 1950s and continued to perform throughout his career, but Dana was also a successful writer, author, cartoonist, producer, director, recording artist, inventor, and stand-up comedian.
After serving as a decorated combat infantryman in WWII, Bill graduated Emerson College in Boston and entered show business, beginning his career as an NBC page at 30 Rock. His career took a major turn when he began writing for Don Adams including the now-famous "Would you believe?" jokes. Hired by Steve Allen to write on the original Steve Allen Tonight Show, he eventually became the show's head writer. His creation of the José Jimenéz character in 1959 resulted in his own NBC show (The Bill Dana Show, 1963-1965).
His comedy albums, as both José and Bill Dana, were top-sellers. He helped launch the careers of comedy greats such as Don Adams, Jackie Mason, Don Knotts, and Jim Nabors. A major career highlight for him was writing the All in the Family episode featuring Sammy Davis, Jr., consistently rated in TV Guide's "Top 100 Television Episodes of All Time."
Adopted by the original seven Mercury astronauts, Dana became part of U.S space history on May 5, 1961 when the first words from planet Earth spoken to Alan Shepard (America's first man in space) were "O.K. José, you're on your way!" Bill and José are honored by their inclusion in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. He also serves on the board of the Astronaut Scholarship Fund. Bill's appearances at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, and the London Paladium were highlights on the way to an honored and show-stopping appearance at the John F. Kennedy Inaugural Gala in 1961.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition endorsed the José Jimenéz character and invited him to sit on their advisory board, which he continues to this day.
Bill has recently founded the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College where he and Jenni Matz interviewed over 60 living legends of comedy.
In 2006, Dana received a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, the Boston Comedy Festival, and Emerson College, among others.
For more information about Bill Dana, check out these links:
More about the Bill Dana documentary
Link to The Bill Dana Show on DVD
Link to The American Comedy Archives Interviews
Watch an Interview with Bill Dana
Read more about José Jiménez on Wikipedia
Bill Dana Resume PDF
For more information please contact:
The Dana Team