Imogene Coca was born Emogeane Coca on November 18, 1908. Both her parents were performers and Imogene worked in vaudeville from an early age. She made her Broadway debut as a chorus girl in 1925. For the next fifteen years, she appeared in various stage revues, discovering and gradually honing her considerable gifts for music and comedy.
In the late 1930s, the comedienne began spending summers at Camp Taminent, a adult summer camp in the Pocono mountains, not far from New York. Tamiment was essentially an all-in-one resort and among its features was a professional theater where weekly variety shows were mounted under the leadership of the camp's social director, Max Liebman.
Liebman was a dynamic producer who managed to attract many up-and-coming young talents to Tamiment. (Over the years, the resort hosted such people as Danny Kaye, Neil Simon, Jerome Robbins, Carol Burnett and Woody Allen.) Ultimately, he and Coca found that mounting a brand new show each and every week was excellent practice for the rigors of weekly live TV: Liebman said in later years. “I was really preparing myself for television at Tamiment. I was doing what you might call television without cameras..."
Coca made her TV debut in 1948 but it was in '49 that Liebman-- now at NBC-- tapped her for an ambitious, pioneering variety series called the ADMIRAL BROADWAY REVUE (named after its sponsor, Admiral Televisions). It was on this program that Coca met and started working with fellow Broadway and club comic Sid Caesar.
The next year, Max Liebman re-united Caesar and Coca for NBC's YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, a weekly ninety-minute variety extravaganza The series ran for four years to great acclaim; Coca herself was accorded five Emmy award nominations (winning once) and a Peabody Award.
When the series ended in 1954, Imogene stepped into her own half-hour series which lasted only a year. Over the ensuing decades, she appeared again on Broadway, guested on innumerable television programs, made an occasional motion picture and toured the country in productions of shows ranging from BELLS ARE RINGING to THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE. There were also two failed sitcoms (GRINDL and IT'S ABOUT TIME). Coca also re-united with Sid Caesar in 1961, 1977 and 1991 for a series of stage appearances.
Imogene Coca was an acknowledged influence on such later performers as Lily Tomlin, Tracy Ullman and Carol Burnett. She died in Westport, Connecticut on June 2, 2001,