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Popular humorist returning to Gainesville for Arts Council series
Jeanne Robertson takes stage Jan. 18 at First Baptist Church
Jeanne Robertson.JPG
Jeanne Robertson

Jeanne Robertson, a humorist from North Carolina, will kick off The Arts Council Signature Series on Jan. 18.

This won’t be the first time Robertson has been to Gainesville. She was part of the Signature Series just two years ago. And with a sold-out show and a waiting list of about 400 people then, The Arts Council knew it had to invite her back.

“The last time we had her come, we had a guy fly in from Fairbanks, Alaska,” said Gladys Wyant, executive director of The Arts Council.

That performance took place at Brenau’s Pearce Auditorium, but this time Robertson will be at First Baptist Church, a location with much more seating. And for the crowd that was at Pearce Auditorium last time Robertson was in town, don’t worry. She said she keeps “little notes” to make sure she doesn’t repeat any jokes or stories.

Jeanne Robertson

What: Humorist performs as part of The Arts Council Signature Series

When: 7-9:30 p.m. Jan. 18

Where: First Baptist Church, 751 Green St., Gainesville

How much: $35-80

More info: 770-534-2787, 

“Of course you keep records, so when you come back you don’t tell the same stories,” Robertson said. “You wouldn’t dare tell the same stories.”

A humorist is different from a comedian, and that’s what sets Robertson apart.

She’s a speaker who has a purpose to the funny, everyday-life stories she tells. She wants to relate to people and have them leave feeling like they could sit around the table with each other. And while she said she enjoys going to comedy clubs, comedians don’t always come off that way.

“A comedian’s sole goal is to get the majority of the audience to laugh,” Robertson said. “They can do so at anyone’s expense.”

There are still some similarities, though.

“The humorist wants you to laugh just as much, but is probably weaving a slight point,” Robertson said.

She grew up in Graham, North Carolina, and went to college at Auburn University — the only place she applied. She graduated with a degree in physical education and taught at Judson College in Alabama for a while.

But her start in speaking actually came from her love of pageantry. During college, she took a year off to enter her first, and only, pageant. And just like that, Robertson was crowned Miss North Carolina in 1963. During that time, she said she wrote over 500 small speeches and realized she was pretty funny.

So she took that talent and ran with it while still teaching.

“Finally after I taught nine years, something had to give,” Robertson said. “I was going all of my summer days, weekend days, sometimes sick days to go around and go further and further and further.”

The Arts Council usually focuses on music, theater and dance. So, while Wyant admits it’s unusual to have a humorist perform at one of the events, they have found people simply love to laugh. 

And with that simple, one-ingredient recipe, The Arts Council is hoping for another sell-out crowd.

“It’s not just for a certain group of people,” Wyant said. “She has stories that will appeal to all ages.”

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