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October 5: “My Name José Jimenez”

October 5, 2013
Bill_Dana_Jose_Jimenez_astronaut_Bill_Dana_Show_1963Comedy writer and stand-up comedian Bill Dana (Szathmary) was born in Quincy, Massachusetts on this date in 1924. Between 1959 and 1970, after several years as a successful comedy writer for Steve Allen and several other stars, he gained stardom of his own by portraying a heavily accented Puerto Rican (some say Mexican) character named “José Jimenez,” whose manner of speaking, naiveté, sweetness, and awkwardness non-Hispanic America found simply hilarious. (Tasteless or not, the character was endorsed by the The National Hispanic Media Coalition, on whose advisory board Bill Dana still sits today.) Dana is also founder of the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College, where he and Jenni Matz have interviewed some 60 living comedians. In addition to creating several best-selling comedy albums, Dana was a writer for the famous Sammy Davis Jr. episode of All in the Family. His books include the first environmental humor book, Ecolojest, published in 1972. As embarrassing and even biased as his dialect routines may seem today, they offer a skewering of pretension, formality, and masculine power that seem very in keeping with Jewish humor traditions. To hear Dana’s skit as an astronaut, look below. “People of the United States of America: Please don’t let them do this to me.” —Bill Dana