Bill Jacobson, Comedy Writer From TV's Golden Era, Dies at 91

1:36 PM PST 08/05/2011 by Mike Barnes
Bill Jacobson, left, with Pat Boone

Scribe hired Woody Allen, wrote for Kate Smith and worked alongside Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart.

Bill Jacobson, a comedy writer who worked for such performers as Ed Wynn, Eddie Cantor, Pat Boone, Patti Page, Red Buttons, Maurice Chevalier, Victor Borge and Arthur Godfrey, died July 19 in Encinitas, Calif., after a long illness. He was 91.

As head writer of The Kate Smith Hour, he hired Woody Allen as a staff writer and provided valuable exposure for such entertainers as Johnny Mathis and Jackie Gleason as well as the musical theater team of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen.

Jacobson was a contemporary of and worked alongside Neil and Danny Simon, Larry Gelbart, Jerry Bach and Yip Harburg and was associated with a classic 1954 Max Liebman TV special, Babes in Toyland, starring Dave Garroway as Santa Claus.

After starting out as a journalist in New York, Jacobson began his writing career providing material for nightclub comics of the 1940s. From there, he progressed to scripting The Henry Morgan Show.

When Universal brought Jacobson to Los Angeles as a creator-writer-producer, he developed, wrote and produced the NBC comedy series 90 Bristol Court, an umbrella series with three sitcoms in a 90-minute block, and worked with the developers and pilot writers of The Munsters. He also wrote for Candid Camera.

In later years, Jacobson turned to acting, appearing in such shows as Charlie’s Angels, The Paper Chase, Quincy, M.E. and Lou Grant.

In his senior years, Jacobson remained active writing poetry, lyrics, newsletters, memoirs and commentary, winning a Harper's Magazine competition with his article “Machine Ascendant: The Progress of Progress."

Born in Utica, N.Y., Bill Jacobson eschewed a formal college education, preferring to take courses in subjects and at institutions that interested him. He attended the University of Buffalo, Oberlin, Harvard and Cornell.

He is survived by his wife of 43 years, actress Bobbi Jordan; daughter Jessie Jacobson; sister Mimi Brewis; brother Sol; stepson Jordan Roberts; and grandsons Brandon Jordan and Cameron Roberts.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Aug. 17 at Self-Realization Fellowship Temple in Encinitas, Calif.

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