Coleman Jacobs was born on April 16, 1915, in Pittsburgh. After his mother died and his father abandoned the family, he was placed at the age of 7 in the ​​​Jewish Home for Babies and Children

He studied art at a settlement house near Pittsburgh and at 16 left for New York, where he painted murals on the walls of nightclubs and began writing jokes for stand-up comedians and Broadway press agents angling to get their clients, via a joke, into Walter Winchell’s column.

  1. Rehearsing with Art Carney & Jackie Gleason
    Rehearsing with Art Carney & Jackie Gleason
At the suggestion of the gossip columnist Earl Wilson, he changed his last name to Jacoby, which Wilson said had a pleasing ring to it. Mr. Jacoby broke into radio by writing jokes for Bob Hope and went on to write for Allen. In 1940 he married Violeta Velero, one half of the Velero Sisters, who appeared with Latin bands. The marriage ended in divorce. He later married the dancer Gaby Monet, who died in 2009.

Coleman, a former writer for Fred Allen’s radio show, also wrote more than 50 episodes for Phil Silvers’s Sergeant Bilko character. He found a foothold in the fledgling television industry in 1950 when he and Mr. Rosen were hired to write sketches for Gleason, the new host of the DuMont network’s​ Cavalcade of Stars

The partners created characters that became a permanent part of Gleason’s act over the years: "that devil-may-care playboy" Reginald Van Gleason III, the Poor Soul, Joe the Bartender, Charlie Bratton the Loud Mouth, the nebbishy Fenwick Babbitt and the stupendously inept Rudy the Repairman. Their first Reggie Van Gleason sketch called for Gleason to appear as the Man of Compunction, a swipe at Calvert whiskey’s Man of Distinction ads, in a photo session for a magazine liquor advertisement. The advertising agency’s photographer, trying to demonstrate the correct way to quaff a drink insouciantly — "I want you to toss a drink off with the élan of a polo player, heir to millions," he tells Gleason — unwittingly initiates a tit-for-tat boozefest that ends in chaos. 

For the role of the photographer the two men suggested Art Carney, a comic and impressionist they had worked with on Robert Q. Lewis’s CBS radio show. "We got to know Art pretty well when Arnie Rosen and I were working at CBS," Mr. Jacoby told Michael Seth Starr, the author of Art Carney: A Biography (1997). "He was brilliant, and we remembered him. We brought him in cold and pushed him down Gleason’s throat."

The two men clicked, and Carney became a regular, with Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Rosen writing him into as many sketches as they could, creating the characters Sedgwick Van Gleason (Reggie’s father) and the milquetoast Clem Finch (victim of the Loudmouth). 

Gleason and Carney went on to television immortality in the 1950s comedy The Honeymooners, Gleason as the bus driver Ralph Kramden and Carney as his friend and neighbor Ed Norton. 

In 1956 Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Rosen were hired to write for You’ll Never Get Rich, Nat Hiken’s service comedy starring Phil Silvers as Sergeant Ernie Bilko. Over the next four years they wrote dozens of episodes for the series, which was later known as The Phil Silvers Show.

After writing for Your Show of Shows, featuring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, he teamed up with Mr. Rosen. Following their work with Silvers, the partners wrote for The Garry Moore Show for five years. They split up when Mr. Rosen left for California in 1967 to produce The Carol Burnett Show. With his second wife, Mr. Jacoby formed Jacoby-Monet Productions, which made television specials, many of them for children. In his later years he worked on a memoir, unfinished at his death, titled Nobody Likes an Arrogant Orphan.

In it, Mr. Jacoby described working with Jackie Gleason as a painful learning experience. "From the very first show he is a problem," he wrote. "We know he is a talent and a boon to our efforts but it is a question of inhuman endurance. As I once said to Arnie, ‘We have a tiger by the tail — a fat, funny tiger.’"” 

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