Joanne Worley: An Exotic Specimen

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Today is the birthday of Joanne Worley (b. 1937). How to explain this peculiar phenomenon of the sixties to the young ‘uns? Like many who were popular during that experimental decade, Worley was popular not for the substance of her comedy, but for the strange way she performed it. Flamboyant, theatrical (a sort of hippie era Auntie Mame), she was given to singing her lines, and then exuberantly laughing at herself. Sometimes, she wouldn’t need any lines to sing at all, she would just burst out in an operatic note for the sake of doing so, as though she could make a good time happen just by cuttin’ loose.

She began to gain attention in 1966 when Merv Griffin caught her Greenwich Village cabaret act and began to book her on his talk show (over three dozen appearances). She also appeared that year in Mad Magazine’s off-Broadway revue The Mad Show, from whence George Schlatter cast her for his new show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, of which she was one of the most distinctive breakout stars from 1968 to 1970. After this she starred on the kid’s show Hot Dog (which I wrote about here), and made guest shots on shows like Love, American Style and many others, including several Disney movies.

To learn more about the history of show business (including tv variety), consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

 

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