It’s not often that ignorance yields new chapters in listening entertainment. Take for example, if you will, Jose Jimenez The Astronaut: The First Man in Space. Don’t actually take it, I’m still listening to it. Acquired for its early-60s-kitchy-spaceage cover (and for only $3), I was comfortable that whatever ear-food was pressed on either side of this record would be worth my time, worth exploring (as in, out in space), and certainly worth $3. What I found was a sliver of comic history that I never knew existed.
José Jiménez was a fictional character played by the comedian Bill Dana, who is neither Hispanic, nor an astronaut. First appearing on The Steve Allen Show back in 1959, José Jiménez, or rather Bill Dana portraying this character he’d invented, gained considerable popularity throughout the 60s, appearing on television (The Steve Allen Show and The Ed Sullivan Show) as well as releasing seven LPs and two singles.
Bill Dana would tread José Jiménez through various professions before landing (a little space humor) on his most popular role, the astronaut. This character’s popularity was so strong, that he was properly (and all official-like) made an honorary Mercury astronaut.
José Jiménez, the character, has been referenced in everything from Seinfeld to Mystery Science Theater 3000, to The Right Stuff, to The Wonder Years, to Get Smart, and even The Larry Sanders Show.
It’s amusing to discover hidden pockets of pop culture that date back over five decades. This record was released in 1960, and it traveled 53 years to reach my ears. Well done, Mr. Jiménez … well done indeed.