Jeanne Robertson, will perform on Tuesday at the Albany Municipal Auditorium. Special photo
ALBANY — Jeanne Robertson tells the story over the telephone in the same “just-us-girls-talking” casual way she’s delivered the more-than-4,000 speeches she’s given in her 49 years as a humorist.
“I was at the airport in Little Rock last night, and I got into a conversation with the man in line in front of me,” Robertson said. “When we got to the front of the line, we found out all the flights out had been grounded. Well, I had to get to Memphis for a speech the next day, so I ran over to the rental car line. When I got there, I found out the man I’d been talking to in line had just rented the last car.
“I talked with him for a minute or two and convinced him to give me a ride to Memphis. My husband was floored, told me he couldn’t believe I’d gotten into a car with a stranger. ‘He could have killed you,’ my husband said. I told him I’d already talked with the guy and found out he had ties to Alabama, too. ‘He even told me he was a University of Alabama fan,’ I told him.
“When I told my assistant, who like me is an Auburn graduate, the story, she said, ‘I can’t believe you got into a car with an Alabama fan’.”
Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction, and little doses of Southern truths have kept the 6-foot-2 North Carolina beauty queen Robertson busy for a half-century. She’ll share a heaping helping of those truths with Southwest Georgians Tuesday when she is the featured speaker at the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s annual Comedy Night fundraiser benefiting the council’s Meals on Wheels program.
“Meals on Wheels is a vital program in our 14-county region,” Council on Aging Development Director Izzie Sadler said. “We serve 185,000 meals a year at $7 a meal, and we have a waiting list (of recipients). For a lot of the people we serve, this is their only opportunity for a hot lunchtime meal.
“We get some federal funding from Title III of the Older Americans Act, and we get some state funding and funding from the United Ways of Southwest Georgia and Moultrie. But the rest of the program money comes from donations and fundraisers.”
Robertson, whose sold-out show two years ago at another Council on Aging fundraiser led Comedy Night committee members to endorse a return, said she’s excited about coming back to Albany.
“I remember the last time I was there and we were at that beautiful (Albany Municipal) auditorium,” the humorist said. “I was a little distracted at first because gnats had gotten into the auditorium and were flying around me on the stage. But I noticed audience members were shooing them away, too, so I figured that’s just the way it is down there.”
Robertson was crowned Miss North Carolina in 1963, and her smooth delivery of the speeches she made while wearing that crown caught the attention of meeting planners. Soon she was in demand as a speaker, and for the past 49 years she’s entertained audiences all over America.
Her popularity spread when clips from her appearances started running on Sirius/XM’s comedy channels five years ago, and Internet clips of her comedy generated millions of viewings and spawned an entirely new income stream with DVD sales.
“I’m very fortunate that my hobby has become my work, but it can get hectic at times,” Robertson said. “When you’re shipping product around Christmas, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and other holidays, it can get stressful. But I can’t complain. It’s been wonderful for me to find this opportunity.”
Sadler said all 200 of the dinner — prepared by Cafe 230 owner Sarah Edmond and her staff — and show tickets for Comedy Night had sold out, but $30 general admission tickets are still available online at www.sowegacoa.org or at the council’s 1105 Palmyra Road offices. Local band P&W will play while ticketholders are being seated, and singer/songwriter Jodi Mann is also scheduled to perform.
“Meals on Wheels is a great cause, and the Council on Aging there in Albany puts in a lot of hard work,” Robertson said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to draw attention to what they’re doing with their programs. ... This sure beats bake sales.”