Jeanne Robertson was one of the funniest women I have ever met. Well, met is too strong a term as I listened to her first on the recommendation of a friend, and then I went to a couple of her shows when she was home in North Carolina.
I sent friends and family in other parts of the country to see her, and they felt the same way I did: Here was a beautiful, talented and funny gal who could spin a tale and never miss a beat of being a lady.
For those of you who heard her or saw her you know what I mean. Her homey stories were nothing short of hysterical. To be in her audience was to laugh until you thought you would need oxygen masks to drop from the ceiling.
Men and women alike basked in her talent, and we would all leave feeling that life was worth finding the humor in and that no matter the travail of the time there could be a way to find the joy and laughter.
Robertson was a devoted North Carolinian, Miss North Carolina in 1963 — the tallest ever at 6’2” — and a great basketball player in her youth. She and her husband Jerry, who predeceased her in June, were devoted to Elon University where she served as a trustee.
Jeanne — I will call her by her first name because when you hear her she becomes family — not only found the foibles of life, but unpacked a way to look at it all. She reminded me that every bad situation had a funny side somewhere, be it your son sneaking back into the house late, going on a rafting trip with Baptists, judging a pageant when a young lady had no talent or even breaking her leg, something or someone was humorous within it all.
If you have never seen Jeanne Robertson, you should go to YouTube and do yourself a favor. Sure we are still in a pandemic, sure life is tough, sure you miss the way life was 18 months ago, but lift that from your heart by her many funny, never risqué stories. I promise you that your day will feel lighter.
Jerry was known as Left Brain to all of us who listened to her tales, because he was so detail-oriented, but not always for thinking things through — from her point of view. For proof of that, watch her YouTube “Never Send Your Husband To The Grocery Store.” As much as she poked fun at Left Brain, it was clear that they loved each other and that Jerry embraced both the moniker and his wife’s very active speaking life. As did their son, whose nickname is Beaver. The tales of his youth are also extremely funny.
She was 77 years old when she left us, and my only thought was that happily she and Jerry were together. At her passing, which seems to have been unexpected, she was booked for 50 more speaking engagements.
When great humorists leave us physically, we are lucky enough to have their writings, or in this case her writings and her recorded performances, to sustain us for years to come. Robertson shared her life on stage, rewriting the script to reveal how we might turn our reactions to our tough times into a chance to find the joy, humor and compassion. She seemed to be unfailingly kind to family, friends and her legion of fans.
Jeanne Robertson was not a just a great comedienne, she was a teacher of how to get through life, how to relate to one another and how to be the best person you can be.
Jeanne Robertson made North Carolina proud and funny.
Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.