BWW Reviews: Comedienne Jo Anne Worley Keeps on Makin' Us Laugh
Funny lady Jo Anne Worley brings her inimitable wacky, zany style of humor, that made her an overnight success in Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (1967-73), to Welk Resorts in Escondido this week June 26-30. Jo Anne has a warm winning way with her audience; they are the reason she's performing, as she tells us early on in the 90 minute autobiographical set entitled Keep Laughin', replete with clips from Laugh-In and accompanied by wonderful Ron Snyder at the piano. Worley makes a rare appearance at events like Bruce Kimmel's Kritzerland, but seldom does what she calls her 'one-man show'. So, this is a great big treat for all Worley fans. And...the show is oh so casual and up front personal that it's like seeing Worley hob nob with you in her own living room.
From Lowell, Indiana, Worley saved her pennies and was accepted as an apprentice with the Pickwick Players on the east coast and spent a summer there in the cast of Picnic and playing a sailor in Mr. Roberts. One of four siblings, she said her farmer parents exclaimed when they heard of her desire to leave Indiana, "Let her go! We've got others!" She put auditions together that included readings, impersonations and pantomime. She gives an example of lip-syncing to "That Old Black Magic" sung by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. Fun stuff! After two seasons at Pickwick she hit the road and ended up doing theatre, not in New York but in Hollywood LA before she actually landed in NYC. It was Billy Barnes, infamous for his clever revues, that gave her an audition song "Whatever Happened to the Kaiser Fraser?" that landed her in a New York show directed by Gower Champion. Spotted in a show in New York she got an audition for Laugh-In and the rest is history.
Worley peppers her comedic takes, for example, on what she considers 'haunted' at the Belasco Theatre and amusing dish-like salutes to her old reliable schoolteachers in Indiana singing delightful tunes including, ""Til There Was You" from The Music Man, in a Brooklyn accent, "Give My Regards to...", a parody of harsh New York critics, "If I Had a Rich Man", a takeoff from Fiddler..., "Somebody Loves Me" from Sweet Charity, "If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame, "I Want to Make the World Laugh" from Mack and Mabel, "Some People" and "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy, her own hilarious version of "Memory" from Cats and an original "Mammogram" ( to the strains of "My Mammy"), a cute "My Favorite Things" with hand puppets and a simply dynamic and gorgeous closing "I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles. She also provides a terrific story on taking a correspondence course in opera and sings snippets of selections in her own operatic vocal style that has been described as "a nightingale in June that had been in labor since May."
Worley loves props, and her sister was a clutter bug literally saving everything from her early days in Lowell, and so the stage is covered with them. She shares a letter of acceptance, a box of momentos, a humongous boa made especially for her by Henry Gibson, and stand-up cardboard cutouts of Stedman and Betty White. Then there are those great clips of outtakes from Laugh-In - the first time outtakes were used within a show as a gimmick for comedy, and those fab clips of various parts of the show, which also made Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzi stars and which hosted celebrity guests from all over the world.
Go see Jo Anne Worley in Keep Laughin' at Welk Resorts, Escondido. You have two more chances: Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. Her infectious laugh and how to keep your life moving with comedy make her an entertainer always worth seeing. She's worth the two hour drive...and there's a delicious buffet supper!