Jeanne Robertson is teaching her grandkids to see the funny side of life
For 49 years Jeanne Robertson has made her living as a professional speaker and humorist. Not a comedian, a humorist. As she explains, a comedian’s goal is to get you to laugh at anyone’s expense, but a humorist weaves a longer story that leads to a point.
Jeannelives in Burlington, North Carolina, and has a Southern accent you could cut with a knife. She is 6-feet-2 but jokes that at age 68 she is looking forward to shrinking. At age 19, after winning the Miss North Carolina pageant in1963 and having to give more than 500 speeches, she discovered she could make people laugh. She loved it and has been sharing the laughs professionally ever since. A few years ago, after her YouTube video clips went viral, she started doing theater shows around the country. In our interview with Jeanne she said, “You can bring your grandmama or your grandchild to these programs and you will all laugh.” It’s true — as you’ll discover when you watch her hilarious videos.
Jeanne’s a long-distance grandmother of two boys, ages 17 and 13, who call her “Neenie.” When she asked her husband, whom she lovingly refers to as “LB” or “Left Brain” what name he wanted to be called by his grandkids, he labored long and hard and finally settled on a left-brained solution: “They can call me Jerry.”
She and husband LB don’t believe in being buddies with the grandkids pitted against the parents. Then again, if her grandsons need a haircut, she doesn’t nag them to get it cut. She lets the parents sweat the small stuff.
Jeanneis all about helping her grandsons see humor in everyday life situations and being able to tell those stories. When she talks with them, she doesn’t ask the standard questions like “Did you turn in your homework? What did you learn?” Instead she asks, “Did you see anything funny in school today?” When she discovered that one of her grandsons was telling a funny story about his Neenie trying to make a phone call, she wasn’t upset — she just reminded him to be sure he had a good punch line.
Hear the complete interview of Jeanne Robertson with Jeanne Robertson
Videos: Laugh Along with Jeanne Robertson
- “Don’t Send a Man to the Grocery Store!”
- “Don’t Bungee Jump Naked!”
- “Don’t Ask ‘Left Brain’ to Reserve Rooms”
- “The Trouble Between Mothers and Daughters”
And people ask where I find my speech material….
I was seated in a gate area waiting to board a flight when I became aware of a heated argument several rows behind me between a teenager and her mother. Having been a teenager, albeit years ago, and having had a teenager at one point, I recognized the tones immediately. Actually, I could have filled in for either of them and continued the argument without missing a beat and I thought about it. Just step over, tap one of them on the shoulder and say, “If you want to take a break, I can handle this for you for a few minutes.”
The situation was awkward. On purpose I looked in another direction and faked disinterest but from what I couldn’t help but hear, they were arguing over a boy. No surprise there.
Suddenly, the teenager spat out, “You can take me on this trip and you can take away my cell phone but when we get home, I am going out with him. You can’t stop me!”
I glanced around to see if anyone else was eavesdropping on this little scenario as I was and discovered that everyone in the gate area had become interested in anything in an opposite direction. People were gazing out the big windows, staring at books, looking at the ceiling, examining their fingernails. One man was untying and retying his shoes. Anything to avoid looking over at the ugly scene.
A few seconds later I discovered that we were all listening because we all burst out laughing at the same time. It was when the teenager hissed to her mother through gritted teeth, “He is too a nice boy! Why else would he be doing two hundred hours of community service?”
[Reprinted with permission from Alamance Magazine]
JeanneRobertson, professional speaker and author, can be reached through
www.JeanneRobertson.com. She has been recognized with every honor in her profession, including the Cavett Award, the top award in professional speaking. Recently, the National Speakers Association honoredJeanne with its 2012 Master of Influence Award.