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.