published Friday, February 17th, 2012

At 68, Jeanne Robertson finds a second vocation as a comedian

IF YOU GO

What: Humorist Jeanne Robertson.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

Admission: $34.50.

Phone: 642-TIXS.

Website: www.ChattanoogaOnStage.com.

For 46 years, Jeanne Robertson had made a living telling funny stories that usually had some sort of life lesson. She was booked at conventions, corporate gatherings and for the motorcoach crowd.

Three years ago, a video of one of her stories, a tale about sending her husband to the store to buy ingredients for spongecake, was posted on youtube.com, and it went viral.

A second video about taking her Baptist friend to Vegas and a third advising against bungee jumping naked also drew a lot of attention, including the interest of an agent in Nashville who contacted Robertson about touring as a stand-up comic.

For the last three years, Robertson has continued to do her convention gigs during the week, and then on the weekends, she alters the stories a bit and bills herself as a comedian.

For the 68-year-old former Miss North Carolina and college basketball star, it's been a wild ride she did not see coming.

"The clips went on YouTube, and our lives changed," she said with a thick Southern drawl.

"Now, I'm on Sirius on the family channels."

Her lifestyle might have changed, but she said her material is essentially the same.

"I use a lot of the same material, but if I'm up there and 35 Red Hatters walk in and you have a great Red Hatter story, you gotta use it.

"The big difference is when you speak at conventions, you can't just be funny. People can't walk out and say, 'Well that was funny, but why did we have a humorist?' With these [comedy] shows they say just be funny, but it is ingrained in me to have a point. It might be as simple as finding humor in things."

Many of her stories involve her friends and her husband, Jerry, whom she calls "Left Brain" because of his logical, linear way of thinking. She's adapted her stories as she's traveled through life. She doesn't think, for example, that stories about being a 6-foot-2 basketball player or Miss America contestant work anymore. Stories about her son that she used to tell have been taken off the shelf and retold with her grandson as the main character, however.

It was her experience as a beauty queen that led to her speaking career.

"The year I was Miss North Carolina, I gave over 500 speeches, and it took me a week to realize I could say things funny."

Her stories are easily recognizable and never mean-spirited.

"What you want is material everybody can identify with. I can talk about Jerry losing his hearing, and people of a certain age get it, but young people have a family member dealing with it, too. It just rolls on."

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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