Jack Black’s Mom Completed a Problem for NASA While Giving Birth to Him

You can call Jack Black a comedic genius, but he comes from a long line of actual geniuses. 

Even though the comedian’s credits include School of Rock, Nacho Libre, and Kung-Fu Panda, his family’s resumes include the Apollo mission and the Hubble spacecraft. 

Earlier this summer, the storied history of the 51-year-old actor’s birth made the internet meme rounds, detailing the great responsibility aerospace engineer Judith Love Cohen took on while in the delivery room. Fans questioned the legitimacy of the claim.

In Aug. 2021, Black and his older half-brother Neil Siegal, also an engineer, went on Gillian Jacobs and Diona Reasonover’s podcast Periodic Talks to chat about their extraordinary mother. 

 Actor Jack Black speaks onstage during CinemaCon 2018- Amazon Studios. His mom was an accomplished aerospace engineer.
Jack Black | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon

From poverty to Apollo missions, Judith Love Cohen conquered adversity

Judith Love Cohen grew up in Brooklyn. She danced with the New York Opera Ballet before getting married and moving to Los Angeles. Over 10 years, she had three kids and completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. When she was first accepted into UCLA’s engineering program, Cohen was only the eighth woman to do so. 

Cohen’s work helped create the Abort-Guidance System in the Apollo Lunar Module. She was responsible for the safe return of the Apollo 13 astronauts after an oxygen tank exploded. The mission launched one month before Black was born. Siegal explained her impact with the space program as such:

“They needed an engine to do some small course correction of rocket burns to get them home. And they needed a computer to guide those rocket burns, and the only engine they had was the engine that was supposed to do the actual moon landing. It was called the Lunar Descent Module and the Abort-Guidance computer, which our mother worked on. It was those two things that helped get the Apollo mission home.”

Judith Love Cohen was still calculating Apollo fallout equations while Jack Black was born

Black told Jacobs and Reasonover that being pregnant did not stop her from her life’s work.

“The space race all leads to that fateful day [in] ‘69 when the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon. And my mother was pregnant with me in the lead up to that lunar landing. And she was working all the way up until the delivery.”

His brother chimed in. “She literally showed up at work the day that you were born. She was working on some problem and when it was time to go to the hospital, she took the computer print out with her. Later that day, [her boss] called her and she was working on some problem. She said, ‘I solved the problem. Oh yeah, and by the way, the baby was born.’”

“That’s my mom!”

Jack Black’s childhood was not ‘traditional’ 

Black has admitted he had kind of a “chaotic” childhood. His mom couldn’t cook but did make a decent spaghetti, according to the brothers. Apparently, Cohen took pride in “not knowing how to run a vacuum cleaner or how to cook.”

Black’s parents divorced when he was 10. He told The Guardian in 2011, “There’s something about a divorce in that even if your parents still love you, the fact that they can’t live with each other makes you feel there’s something wrong with you. But aside from that, I had a good childhood.” 

Cohen died in 2016. She was 83. 

He mentioned his mother was very supportive of his career and went to every school play he was in. “I never understood what she did as an aerospace engineer. I did not follow in her footsteps in any way,” he said on Periodic Talks. 

“Aerospace engineer in the 50s and 60s — you know, she was a trailblazer. She was a bada–.”

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