Bill Dana with Emerson College

Comedian / Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In part one of his two-part interview for the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College, Bill Dana (1924-2017) discusses the use of humor as a survival tool. He talks about his time at Emerson College, and early comedy partner Gene Wood. He recalls his time on The Steve Allen Show, as well as creating his most famous character, "Jose Jimenez." He details using "Jose" as the main character for The Bill Dana Show, and his eventual decision to kill him off due to cultural sensitivity concerns. He recounts writing the famous All in the Family episode “Sammy Visit,” featuring Sammy Davis, Jr., and addresses comedy’s role in society. Jenni Matz conducted part one of the interview on February 21, 2005 at the Cutler Majestic Theater at Emerson College in Boston, MA.

In part two, Bill Dana talks about comedians learning to deal with their environment and audiences. He describes first learning how to make people laugh, and later using comedy to disarm. He discusses evolving standards for subject matter and language in comedy, and his controversial character “Jose Jimenez” from The Bill Dana Show. Dana speaks of working with Norman Lear on writing the classic All in the Family episode “Sammy’s Visit,” featuring Sammy Davis, Jr., and outlines his own guest shot on The Golden Girls. He sums up by talking about the need for performers to pay their dues, and he answers the question, “Was it worth it?” Jenni Matz conducted part two of the interview on June 3, 2005 in Los Angeles, CA.

"There is nothing that comes close to the elixir of humor- the approbation, the applause. No narcotic comes close. To stand on a stage and have people stand up and clap and say, 'You done good, and now I can survive this day.' Yeah, oh it's worth it."

Highlights
Bill Dana on his earliest influences
04:59
Bill Dana on his involvement with the space program
05:51
Bill Dana on the character of "Jose Jimenez," which he played on The Bill Dana Show and others, and on the controversy surrounding the character
07:30
Bill Dana on his guest shot on The Golden Girls, where he got his biggest laugh
03:21
Bill Dana on working with Norman Lear on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit," featuring Sammy Davis, Jr.
09:18
Bill Dana on his answer to the question "Was it worth it?"
01:28
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On the power of humor as a survival tool, and on his background; on his earliest influences
08:22
On his time at Emerson College, on being on the Emerson radio station, and on getting into comedy; on realizing he was funny
13:31
On teaching a person to be funny; on his time as a page at NBC, and on Gene Wood and Don Adams; on writing and performing on The Steve Allen Show
16:48
On his role on The Steve Allen Show; on the creation of his character "Jose Jimenez" on The Steve Allen Show
15:32
On dealing with the controversy over his "Jose Jiminez" character on The Steve Allen Show and The Bill Dana Show; on dealing with fame and celebrity; on playing "Jose Jimenez" on The Bill Dana Show, and on the character appearing on The Danny Thomas Show
17:54
On the importance of having a good agent; on the difficulties comedians face; on the cancellation of The Bill Dana Show
10:37
On Don Knotts' Nice Clean Decent Wholesome Hour, and the "Bill Dana Brand New Old Traditional Hawaiian Revue"; on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit" for producer Norman Lear
12:01
On his involvement with the space program; on his book "Ecolo/jest"; on the role comedy plays in society
18:43
On comedy being a difficult job, and on the most important quality of a comic; on writing jokes and being funny later in life, and on the importance of political satire; on summing up his life and career
13:06

Chapter 2

On comedians using situations and constraints to their advantage, and on the impatience of audiences; on a live television mishap; on learning to use humor as a weapon to disarm
08:13
On when he first learned he could make people laugh, and on attending Emerson College; on hearing about the death of Howard Morris; on his early comedic influences
11:21
On evolving standards for subject matter and language in comedy; on the character of "Jose Jimenez," which he played on The Bill Dana Show and others, and on the controversy surrounding the character; on what he's learned about the business side of the entertainment/comedy industry
18:45
On working with Norman Lear on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit," featuring Sammy Davis, Jr.; on Don Adams' "Would you believe?" routine used on both Get Smart and The Bill Dana Show; on comedians stealing each other's material
14:23
On the source of his comedy, and his characters, and on Jonathan Harris as "Mr. Phillips" on The Bill Dana Show; on his answer to the question "What is funny?"; on his guest shot on The Golden Girls, where he got his biggest laugh
07:27
On the need for a performer to pay their dues; on his answer to the question "Was it worth it?"; on ethnic humor, and on the importance of good representation, and on telling "the jack joke"
12:05
Shows

All in the Family

View Show Page
Bill Dana on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit" for producer Norman Lear
07:43
Bill Dana on working with Norman Lear on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit," featuring Sammy Davis, Jr.
09:18

All in the Family: "Sammy's Visit"

View Show Page
Bill Dana on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit" for producer Norman Lear
07:43

Bill Dana Show, The

View Show Page
Bill Dana on playing "Jose Jimenez" on The Bill Dana Show, and on the character appearing on The Danny Thomas Show
06:07
Bill Dana on the cancellation of The Bill Dana Show
05:17
Bill Dana on the character of "Jose Jimenez," which he played on The Bill Dana Show and others, and on the controversy surrounding the character
07:30
Bill Dana on his decision to retire the character of "Jose Jimenez"
03:14
Bill Dana on Don Adams' "Would you believe?" routine used on both Get Smart and The Bill Dana Show
02:42
Bill Dana on the source of his comedy, and his characters, and on Jonathan Harris as "Mr. Phillips" on The Bill Dana Show
02:27

Don Knotts' Nice Clean Decent Wholesome Hour

View Show Page
Bill Dana on Don Knotts' Nice Clean Decent Wholesome Hour, and the "Bill Dana Brand New Old Traditional Hawaiian Revue"
04:18

Get Smart

View Show Page
Bill Dana on Don Adams' "Would you believe?" routine used on both Get Smart and The Bill Dana Show
02:42

Golden Girls, The

View Show Page
Bill Dana on his guest shot on The Golden Girls, where he got his biggest laugh
03:21

Steve Allen Show, The (1956-61)

View Show Page
Bill Dana on writing and performing on The Steve Allen Show
04:29
Bill Dana on his role on The Steve Allen Show
03:46
Bill Dana on the creation of his character "Jose Jimenez" on The Steve Allen Show
05:00
Bill Dana on the way he portrayed "Jose Jimenez" on The Steve Allen Show
06:46
Bill Dana on dealing with the controversy over his "Jose Jiminez" character on The Steve Allen Show and The Bill Dana Show
06:42
Topics

Bloopers

View Topic
Bill Dana on a live television mishap
01:59

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Bill Dana on evolving standards for subject matter and language in comedy
04:47

Fame and Celebrity

View Topic
Bill Dana on dealing with fame and celebrity
05:06

Pop Culture

View Topic
Bill Dana on dealing with fame and celebrity
05:06

Television Industry

View Topic
Bill Dana on evolving standards for subject matter and language in comedy
04:47
Professions

Comedian

View Profession
Bill Dana on the importance of having a good agent
02:38
Bill Dana on the difficulties comedians face
02:39
Bill Dana on comedy being a difficult job, and on the most important quality of a comic
02:27
Bill Dana on comedians using situations and constraints to their advantage, and on the impatience of audiences
04:39
Bill Dana on learning to use humor as a weapon to disarm
01:33
Bill Dana on when he first learned he could make people laugh, and on attending Emerson College
03:31
Bill Dana on his early comedic influences
05:24
Bill Dana on what he's learned about the business side of the entertainment/comedy industry
03:13
Bill Dana on comedians stealing each other's material
02:22
Bill Dana on the source of his comedy, and his characters, and on Jonathan Harris as "Mr. Phillips" on The Bill Dana Show
02:26
Bill Dana on his answer to the question "What is funny?"
01:40
Bill Dana on the need for a performer to pay their dues
01:42
Bill Dana on his answer to the question "Was it worth it?"
01:28
Bill Dana on ethnic humor, and on the importance of good representation
04:22

Performers

View Profession
Bill Dana on the importance of having a good agent
02:38
Bill Dana on the difficulties comedians face
02:39
Bill Dana on comedy being a difficult job, and on the most important quality of a comic
02:27
Bill Dana on comedians using situations and constraints to their advantage, and on the impatience of audiences
04:39
Bill Dana on learning to use humor as a weapon to disarm
01:33
Bill Dana on when he first learned he could make people laugh, and on attending Emerson College
03:31
Bill Dana on his early comedic influences
05:24
Bill Dana on what he's learned about the business side of the entertainment/comedy industry
03:13
Bill Dana on comedians stealing each other's material
02:22
Bill Dana on the source of his comedy, and his characters, and on Jonathan Harris as "Mr. Phillips" on The Bill Dana Show
02:26
Bill Dana on his answer to the question "What is funny?"
01:40
Bill Dana on the need for a performer to pay their dues
01:42
Bill Dana on his answer to the question "Was it worth it?"
01:28
Bill Dana on ethnic humor, and on the importance of good representation
04:22
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Bill Dana on playing "Jose Jimenez" on The Bill Dana Show
28:32
Bill Dana on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit" for producer Norman Lear
07:43
Bill Dana on the character of "Jose Jimenez," which he played on The Bill Dana Show and others, and on the controversy surrounding the character
10:44
Bill Dana on working with Norman Lear on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit," featuring Sammy Davis, Jr.
09:18
Bill Dana on Don Adams' "Would you believe?" routine used on both Get Smart and The Bill Dana Show
02:42
Bill Dana on his guest shot on The Golden Girls, where he got his biggest laugh
03:21

Talk Shows

View Genre
Bill Dana on writing and performing on The Steve Allen Show
20:01
People

Don Adams

View Person Page
Bill Dana on his time as a page at NBC, and on Gene Wood and Don Adams
09:27
Bill Dana on Don Adams' "Would you believe?" routine used on both Get Smart and The Bill Dana Show
02:42

Steve Allen

View Interview Page
Bill Dana on writing and performing on The Steve Allen Show
20:01

Sammy Davis, Jr.

View Person Page
Bill Dana on working with Norman Lear on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit," featuring Sammy Davis, Jr.
09:18

Jonathan Harris

View Interview Page
Bill Dana on the source of his comedy, and his characters, and on Jonathan Harris as "Mr. Phillips" on The Bill Dana Show
02:27

Norman Lear

View Interview Page
Bill Dana on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit" for producer Norman Lear
07:43
Bill Dana on working with Norman Lear on writing the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit," featuring Sammy Davis, Jr.
09:18

Howard Morris

View Interview Page
Bill Dana on hearing about the death of Howard Morris
02:25

Gene Wood

View Person Page
Bill Dana on his time as a page at NBC, and on Gene Wood and Don Adams
09:27

All Interviews

Q
S