My Name … Jose Jimenez
Bill Dana passed away on June 15. He was 92 years old.
Don’t know who Bill Dana was? Through his acting, his comedy and most probably, his writing, he touched millions and millions of people.
And made them laugh, laugh and laugh some more.
“My name … Jose Jimenez.”
People should remember him just from that phrase alone.
Dana created a character which could only have been created, and prospered, in the early 1960s.
Jose Jimenez was the supposedly slow-witted individual who took the world by storm in the early part of that decade, being featured first on “The Steve Allen Show” during the man in the street sketches and later on other TV shows and on comedy albums that sold millions.
Using broken English and not always answering questions posed to him as one would expect, Dana created a character who on the outside may have appeared out of his depth in many aspects of life, but who was actually wise way beyond his limitations.
You could make fun of everyone back then in a fun way, and every ethnic and racial and religious group was open to such patter, whether they were black, white, Jewish, Catholic or Hispanic.
Stiller and Meara plied their real-life Jewish/Catholic relationship to stardom; Joan Rivers made fun of her own femininity way back when, and Alan King took his suburban Jewishness to new heights during this period. And there were countless others who poked fun at one group or another, but it was harmless fun, no one got excited, and we all, as a country, laughed at them as we looked both inward and outward at our own backgrounds.
Some might say that Dana’s Jose Jimenez made fun of Hispanics, but he poked fun, not made fun, of that group.
Of course, Dana was not Hispanic—his family was Hungarian and Jewish–and this probably upset many people, but his character–whether on the ground, on the sea, or in space–hit the bull’s eye more often than not, and in doing so, didn’t offend Hispanics or anyone else.
Dana was mainly a comedy writer, and he wrote dozens and dozens of episodes of various sitcoms, including “All in the Family” and “The Golden Girls,” and this is where he found lasting fame long after Jose Jimenez became a matter of derision for people who just refused to get the character.
In fact, he wrote what was probably the funniest, and most remembered episode of “All in the Family,” where Sammy Davis Jr., through a set of strange circumstances, visits the Bunker household, and ends up giving Archie a kiss.
That was the work of pure comic genius, and that is what Dana was.
But back to Jose Jimenez … in this PC world, it is hard to believe that such a character existed, but people back then had thicker skins, and could accept such humor, as long as no one was being hurt by it, and Dana infused the character with enough inner fortitude that you could laugh at the character and think about what he said at the same time.
In fact, Jose Jimenez became an everyman, and yes, at one point, we were ALL Jose Jimenez.