aka William Szathmary

Born in Quincy, Mass. on October 5, 1924. of Hungarian-Jewish ancestry.

William had served in the military during WW II, a time in which he became a decorated combat infantryman.

Following his military service William attended and graduated in 1950 from Emerson College, Boston, Mass., attending on the GI Bill.

William changed his name to Bill Dana and found employment with NBC as a page at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the network headquarters in New York City. He also worked with fellow Emerson alumnus Gene Wood in the comedy team Dana and Wood. While working at NBC Dana got a shot at writing, most notably for young comic Don Adams. It was Bill Dana who developed Adam's signature comedic riff "Would you believe...?". With that initial success he was invited in 1955 to become a writer for the highly popular Steve Allen Show.

In 1959 the Steve Allen Show made the move to NBC's new digs in Burbank, California. Dana made the jump and also became head writer for the show. It was during this period that he first introduced his character Jose Jimenez. The character became an immediate hit and gave Dana instant face recognition and a huge fan base.

The character Jose Jimenez was probably the first time a Mexican character was widely introduced in a comic medium. It was also a positive portrayal, with Jose's unfailing optimism and habitual looking for the best in his fellow man.

Jose Jimenez became a regular on The Danny Thomas Show in the role of an elevator operator. Dana also appeared on heavyweight programs of the period such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Martha Raye Show, and The Milton Berle Show and others. Following this exposure Bill Dana and his alter ego got their shot at fame via The Bill Dana Show, a comedy series which ran from 1963-1965. The show also featured future stars Jonathan Harris and Don Adams.

During this same time span Dana had a successful career through comedy albums which topped the comedy charts. One of these albums Jose the Astronaut so endeared the comic to the Mercuryastronauts they adopted him as their 8th (and honorary) astronaut. He has been a supporter and part of the NASA family ever since.

Dana was instrumental in launching the careers of several comics who have become household names, among them Don Adams (of Get Smart fame, Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show), Jackie Mason (well-known club comic), and Jim Nabors (also of The Andy Griffith Show fame).

Dana has been nominated several times for Emmy Awards for his comedy writing. He has written books as well: The Laughter Prescription, co-authored with Dr. Laurence Peter and its sequel The Laughter Prescription: Refill One.

Bill Dana continued to write and perform, appearing in guest slots in several comedy series. One of his favorites was as the character Uncle Angelo on the sit-com The Golden Girls, another Norman Lear production.

Some of Bill Dana's other achievements were writing for Norman Lear, especially an episode of All In The Family, guest starring Sammy Davis, Jr. This episode has been included in TV Guide's Top 100 TV episodes of all time. Dana also helped to create the American Comedy Archives at his alma mater Emerson College in Boston, Mass. He has served as an advisor on the Astronaut Scholarship Fund. Dana was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 by the Pacific Broadcast Pioneers of Radio and Television, a Los Angeles, Ca. organization.

Bill Dana is married, with his wife Evelyn Shular Dana working alongside as his business partner, and continues an active career.

Sources:

http://www.bill-dana.com/Bill_Dana_Biography.html
http://www.emerson.edu/comedy/histories/upload/co_xBILLDANA.pdf
http://www.emerson.edu/comedy/Bill-Dana.cfm
http://www.tv.com/bill-dana/person/4850/summary.html

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